A company called Flash Robotics designed a robot named Emys that’s supposed to teach kids another language. While plenty of apps, TV shows, and games attempt to ingrain language into kids’ sponge brains through repetition, Emys might be more successful because of its built-in tablet and unique, expressive face, which relies on three moving disks and two smartwatch displays. It was inspired by emoticons :).
After demoing Emys at The Verge’s office, I don’t think it’ll turn your kids into baby geniuses. But with that said, I do think Flash Robotics approaches language instruction slightly differently than those TV shows and games in an effort to minimize screen time. Emys relies on RFID tags to teach. If a child holds a tag picturing a dog up to Emys’ display, for example, the robot will know to say “perro,” and attempt to teach that word. You can see it in action here:
I appreciate that kids aren’t forced to stare at another display, although I don’t know if teaching them an expansive vocabulary is a successful strategy. It’ll likely accomplish as much as Dora The Explorer.
For me, the robotics and design of Emys is what’s truly impressive. It’s touch sensitive, so if you rub the right side of it, it’ll react negatively, whereas if you pet the top of its head, it’ll coo and look up. Emys also has a camera on its face that’ll track kids’ faces so it looks at them as it talks. Its eyes open and close, and its disks move all around, mimicking how humans constantly fidget. We’re bad at staying still, and so is Emys. I’ve never seen a robot that looks like Emys before.
Emys might be best served as a platform for developers. It has potential with its sensors, camera, eyes, moving discs, and microphone to become a really interesting product. I just don’t think it’s best served as launching as an expensive children’s toy. Still, backers will receive access to its software development kit, and people who back the Developer Edition package will also receive technical support from the Flash Robotics team. I’d love to see some Emys concepts.
The robot starts at $399 on Kickstarter with a goal of shipping by June 2018.