A is for Artificial Intelligence: The Impact of Artificial Intelligence Activities on Young Children’s Perceptions of Robots

Randi Williams

Randi Williams, Hae Won Park, and Cynthia Breazeal. 2019. A is for Artificial Intelligence. In Proceedings of the 2019 Conference on Human Factors in Computing (CHI ’19). ACM, New York, NY, USA.


We developed a novel early childhood artificial intelligence (AI) platform, PopBots, where preschool children train and interact with social robots to learn three AI concepts: knowledge-based systems, supervised machine learning, and generative AI. We evaluated (1) how much children learned by using AI assessments developed for each activity and (2) what impact these activities had on children's perceptions of robots. We found that children could understand a lot of the AI content; the median score on the cumulative assessment was 70%. We also saw differences between older and younger children's perceptions of robots. Younger children came to see robots as toys that were smarter than them, but their older counterparts saw robots as people that were not as smart as them. There was a relationship between how much children learned on the AI assessments and their perceptions of robots. Children who performed worse on the AI assessments believed that robots were like toys that were not as smart as them, however children who did better on the assessments saw robots as people who were smarter than them. We believe early AI education can empower children to understand the AI devices that are increasingly in their lives.

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