Home Government Pepper the Robot Questioned in UK Parliament

Pepper the Robot Questioned in UK Parliament

Male humanoid Pepper was recently asked about the fundamental role that artificial intelligence (AI) technology may play in the future classrooms.

The education committee is currently evaluating the “fourth industrial revolution”, that refers to the technological fields, particularly in other fields.

Pepper forms a section of a three-year global research initiative dubbed Caress. This project is behind the development of the first culturally aware robots in the world, which is intended for giving care to elder people.

The robot also works well with students situated at Middlesex University, which involves a project for teaching children in primary school-level.

The Chairperson of the committee Robert Halfon joked and welcomed the select committee by saying: “this is not the House of Commons education committee auditioning for the sequel to The Matrix.”

MPs are normally used to getting robotic responses at committee meetings. However, they were recently treated to what appears to be never –seen before happening to be witnessed by a parliamentary committee.

When introducing itself, Pepper not only bowed but also said: “Good morning, chair. Thank you for inviting me to give evidence today. The robot added: “My name is Pepper and I am a resident robot at Middlesex University.”

James Frith, a member of the committee, queried Pepper on how robots would help with learning in schools. Speaking in a high-pitched but clear tone, the humanoid claimed: “At Middlesex University I work closely on projects with final year students from robotics, psychology, biomedicine, and education. Students program me to engage with audiences and a range of environments and social settings. For example, Joanna and I are working together to adapt my interfaces to work with primary school children with, or without special needs, to develop their numeracy skills.”

Earlier on, Mr. Frith had queried the robot about the function of human beings in the fourth industrial revolution.

The male humanoid Pepper responded: “Robots will have an important role to play, but we will always need the soft skills that are unique to humans to sense, make and drive value from technology. As technologies fuse and are used in the ways that were not envisaged before, a new way of thinking is needed for tomorrow’s workers. We will need people that can spot ideas, and think across traditional sector divides to drive value from technological innovation.” After the question session, Pepper received a round of applause for contributing to the session.

While giving evidence, Pepper’s head and arms shifted while it delivered pre-programming responses that had been sent in advance.

Also, the male humanoid told MPs that the students studying at Middlesex have programmed its interfaces not only to work with primary school-level children but also those boasting special needs to create their skills.

Pepper not only received appreciation from the members of the committee present but Labour MP Lucy Powell said: “You’re better than some of the ministers we’ve had before.”

The select committee also got information about what undertaking boosted robotics and automation may play in the future classrooms and workplace.


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KC Cheung
KC Cheung has over 18 years experience in the technology industry including media, payments, and software and has a keen interest in artificial intelligence, machine learning, deep learning, neural networks and its applications in business. Over the years he has worked with some of the leading technology companies, building and growing dynamic teams in a fast moving international environment.
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