“When designing a robot buddy for students, you’d think the more realistic looking the robot, the more appealing, right? Not so, says academic-turned-entrepreneur Laura Boccanfuso.
Boccanfuso, whose startup Van Robotics produces robot tutors for children, says that in that in the course of researching robot designs, she learned that younger children preferred a “retro” look. “As part of our testing, when we told kids that they were getting a robot, they expected something that matched their impressions of what a ‘robot’ should look like—and something humanoid was not it,” she says. “There was a total mismanagement of expectations and I used the lesson as a learning experience.”
The current version of Boccanfuso’s robot, named Abii, is a modernized throwback to the tin wind-up robots of old and features big circular purple eyes set in a white oval head and claws for hands. Boccanfuso first dreamed him up as part of her quest to help educators figure out a way to provide all students in a classroom the same amount of educational stimulation and help.”