Professor Robot: Bina48 Co-Teaches Class at West Point

Bina48 lifelike robot head in front of blue background

Lately, it seems robots are being used everywhere: construction sites, material handling applications, and now — classrooms?

Bina48, the first robot to complete a college course, recently also became the first robot to co-teach a university-level course. This occurred at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where they were seeking to determine whether a robot could effectively “support a liberal education model,” said William Barry, a professor at the school who has been making use of Bina48’s teaching capabilities for several years.

Recently, Bina48 — one of the most advanced social robots in the world — co-taught two classes in an introduction to ethics philosophy course covering topics like the utilization of artificial intelligence (AI) in society. Bina48 successfully co-taught a room of nearly 100 students and teachers at the school determined that the robot was able to effectively engage the class.

To prepare Bina48 for the class, AI developers fed the robot a range of data on war theory and political philosophy, and also included Barry’s overarching lesson plan. They purposefully did not connect her to the internet so that she would have only the algorithm to work with and could not simply fall back on internet sources.

Bina48 is even able to answer students’ questions in a meaningful way, and the response from the class was overwhelmingly positive. Many came into the experiment expecting more entertainment than a thoughtful, nuanced learning experience, but found themselves impressed by the robot’s depth of knowledge and ability to respond to questions.

Ultimately, though, the team behind Bina48 concluded that the robot was unable to keep pace with the class, which may mean the robot would be better suited for areas with low literacy rates. But the implications of this experiment are quite promising, and as the field of advanced robotics grows and evolves, it’s fair to assume that the use of co-bots in the classroom will continue to develop around the world.


Image credit: Bina48

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