Polish scientists built an emotional robot: Photon

Polish scientists have finally built an emotional robot called Photon. It teaches programming and helps to understand emotions.

An educational robot that supports the social and emotional development of children has been built by engineers from the Bialystok University of Technology in cooperation with psychologists from the University of Social Sciences and Humanities. In September the robot will appear in Polish schools.

“The times when young people were spending computer science lessons in front of a desktop computer are over. We wanted the application to help the children learn logical thinking and basic programming through play and competition. We used gameplay techniques to motivate children to perform new tasks and gain knowledge. In addition, we have used elements known from RPGs so that everyone can customize the robot” – explained Marcin Joka, who built the robot together with Krzysztof Dziemiańczak, Michał Bogucki and Michał Grześ, under the supervision of Maciej Kopczyński, academic teacher at the Bialystok University of Technology.

The task of psychologists was to adapt the narrative and content of tasks in such a way that in addition to learning the technical skills of programming, logical thinking and understanding of the virtual world, children would learn the basics of pro-social behaviour and interpersonal communication. Photon also helps learn to cope with emotions – not necessarily positive ones.

Photon combines new technologies with psychology.

While playing with it, children use the role-playing application developed jointly with psychologists from the University of Social Sciences and Humanities. In addition to cognitive training, we wanted the robot to have a positive effect on the psychosocial development of children. We wanted it to teach them to understand emotions, not always positive ones, make decisions and cooperate with the environment” – said Katarzyna Żukowska, psychologist at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities.

Users play with the robot in the real world, and tasks are performed not only on the tablet or smartphone screen. Some challenges require parental help. In the application, a team of psychologists also develops functions to monitor the progress of users and strengthen their cognitive skills such as short-term memory training.

Already in the design phase of the robot, scientists wanted to have control over how interacting with the robot will affect young people. “Since we are not able to avoid contact with modern technology, we should use it to our advantage with the help of psychological knowledge. Photon is specifically designed to be an educational robot that also supports the child’s proper social development” – concluded Krzysztof Rzeńca, psychologist at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities.

In January, the project of young engineers from the Białystok University of Technology accompanied President Andrzej Duda during a visit to Israel. In addition to Photon the president was also accompanied by the representatives of the young Polish companies that received the so-called “Presidential passport” during the “Startup” gala.

In 2015, the Photon startup won the national finals of the largest technology competition for students Microsoft Imagine Cup 2015 in the World Citizenship category. Previously, the Photon team also triumphed in the local competition Podlasie Innovation Accelerator. More on this topic in PAP – Science and Scholarship in Poland – here.

PAP – Science and Scholarship in Poland

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