Researchers from Naver Labs and Seoul National University in South Korea have presented a robot that aims to educate children that violence is a bad thing.
Shelly is a plastic-framed robot that plays games with children, helping them improve their communications skills. However, as soon as a youngster gets violent, by hitting it or abusing it in any other way, it recoils into its shell until the child shows compassion.
The researchers explained they want young people to understand the repercussions of their actions if they don’t treat robots with care.
Between five and seven young people can play with Shelly at any one time. Although it’s designed for children under 13, younger people would probably enjoy playing with the creature more.
LEDs light up its highly sensitive shell. It can identify between taps, hits and strokes, reacting accordingly. For example, if a child strokes the shell, it can display being happy. If they are hurtful, it can sulk. Shelly can also convey anger and being frightened – just like a human can.
If the tortoise gets scared – for example as a reaction to a child hitting it, kicking it or lifting its ‘shell’, the head and limbs will retract inside ints home for 14 seconds.
Naver Labs explained to the children before they were allowed to play with Shelly what would happen if they were nasty to it and rather than trying to deter them from showing abusive behaviour, the researchers hoped that the simple punishment of not being ale to play for 14 seconds was enough to teach them not to bully it. The company also tested increasing the amount of time the tortoise stayed in its shell, but most children got bored after 28 seconds and wandered off.
In the trials, Shelly proved a success and the children’s behaviour was positively affected as a result.