These personal robots can explain emotions in many languages

Personal robots, machines that are designed to assist in a variety of aspects of an individual's life, continue to support an increasing number of applications. Cynthia Breazeal, MIT dean for digital learning, which oversees the Abdul Latif Jameel World Education Lab (J-WEL), developed a robot named Jibo, which is capable of detecting human emotions in several languages, including English and Arabic.

Under Breazeal's supervision, research assistant Sharifa Alghowinem is now training Jibo to provide mental health and educational support. According to a recent study, Jibo is capable of modifying its approach with patients according to a variety of verbal and non-verbal cues, interpreting human emotion through actions such as pauses in speech and physical self-soothing. The robot also demonstrates empathy, asking subjects who exhibit reluctance to share: 'Can you tell me more?'

Alghowinem's current focus is exploring the Jibo's applications as an educational tool and source of emotional support for Syrian refugee children. "We’ve laid the groundwork by making sure Jibo can speak Arabic as well as several other languages," she explains. “Now I hope we can learn how to make Jibo really useful to kids like me who need some support as they learn how to interact with the world around them.”

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