Design Engineering

Teaching assistant robot can help students with learning disabilities

Humanoid robot Nao is composed of cameras, sensors and microphones and can see and hear.

May 7, 2018   The Canadian Press

Thierry Karsenti brings his teaching assistant robot, NAO, to a group of students. Photo courtesy of Universite de Montreal.

MONTREAL — This isn’t your average teacher assistant.

Nao is a little robot which held its own news conference in Montreal on Thursday to outline its own accomplishments, particularly in dealing with students with autism spectrum disorder or those with learning difficulties.

Universite de Montreal professor Thierry Karsenti, Canada Research Chair in Technologies in Education, came up with the idea of using Nao to help students learn.

The humanoid robot, which has visited elementary and secondary schools in Quebec this year, is composed of cameras, sensors and microphones and can see and hear. It can also recognize humans and interact with them.


Nao, measuring in at 58 centimetres tall and with an autonomy range of approximately 2 hours, is driven by artificial intelligence and is described as humanoid because it spontaneously answers questions and recognizes certain human emotions.

According to the Universite de Montreal, the android “understands” about 3000 words in French and can even recognize certain feelings. With cameras, sensors and microphones, the robot can interact with surrounding people.

Karsenti asked students in disadvantaged neighbourhoods to program Nao with different degrees of difficulty.

He says the robot has given them much needed skills for the 21st century as well as self-confidence.

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