This is the Fluffy Robot that Only Speaks French: Language Use Between Preschoolers, their Families, and a Social Robot while Sharing Virtua

Freed, N. "This is the Fluffy Robot that Only Speaks French": Language Use Between Preschoolers, their Families, and a Social Robot While Sharing Virtual Toys"


This thesis proposes an approach to language learning for preschool aged children using social robots as conversation partners within a shared play context for children and their families. It addresses an underserved age for language learning, where early learning can greatly impact later educational success, but that cannot benefit from text-based interventions.

With the goal of establishing a shared physical context between multiple participants without absorbing all of the children's focus onto digital content, a hybrid physical and digital interface was iteratively designed and play-tested. This interface took the form of a "cafթ table" on which the child and robot could share food. A robot was programmed to introduce itself and name foods in French, eat some foods and express dislike towards others, respond with distress to a new object, show its focus of attention through gaze, and in one experimental condition, express feedback about its comprehension when spoken to in French or English.

The study found that some children as young as 3 years old would treat a social robot as an agent capable of understanding them and of perceiving a shared physical context, and would spontaneously modify their use of language and gesture in order to communicate with it " particularly when the robot communicated confusion. The study also found that parents tended to frame their scaffolding of the children's behavior with the robot in a social context, and without prompting aligned their guidance and reinforcement with language learning goals. After one exposure to the robot and new French vocabulary, children did not retain the robot's utterances, but engaged in communicative and social behaviors and language mimicry throughout the interaction. The system appeared to support multi-user social participation, including both caretakers and siblings of the participants.

Related Content