Posted by: robotnews | March 26, 2007

PEBBELS – Bringing the classroom to the hospital bed

Being hospitalized can have a severe impact on children’s education as they are cut of from school. Missing out on just a couple of months classes can make a big difference, and cannot always be replaced with home tutoring. But now there is a solution called PEBBELS (Providing Education By Bringing Learning Environments to Students). It is essentially a robot thats takes your place in the classroom, relaying the images and sound of the teacher and the class to your bed at the hospital. When the first class is over it moves on to the next classroom or stays at the lockers giving you an opportunity to chat with your friends.

The system works with two robots, one in the school and one at the hospital. The school one is remote controlled by the child, making it look and walk around and even raise its arm to answer questions. As for interface, one 15-inch monitor is placed on each robot, showing what the other robot is looking at making two way communication possible. This makes both the student and the teacher feel like the student is present in classroom. The robot also has ability of scanning and printing documents making paperwork not only staying in the classroom.

This is something that have proven to have a good effect on students ability to keep up with school while being in the hospital and the robots have even been accepted as the students themselves by fellow classmates. These new types of learning aids are an improvement for all sick children and is going to increase in popularity as they get cheaper.

References:

PEBBLES Project

Ryerson University

Telebotics

PEBBLES in Wired News

Stefan Wester, NT0601492M

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Responses

  1. Filip Wistrand
    NT061734A

    This is actully a quite good idea. Only problem I see direct is the demands of a Wireless network access and the school must be built for wheelchairs so that the robot can move freely. Can it open doors and use Elevators? Not 100% sure that it could work really well here in Singapore (Don’t know how well developed the accessibility is for wheelchairs). Back home (Sweden) it would work good since all public buildings are designed for wheelchairs. The network link to the hospital robot could be ensured with the hi-speed 3g network covering all populated areas in Sweden. The operators provide internet access at a fixed price. Then the robot could travel home with the child’s classmates.

    Just wondering if the robot comes with Play station.

  2. Foo Jit Soon U059592R

    WOW! Super expensive technology for the new generation! I thought of some potential problems:
    (i)That would mean that stress(of studies) will follow the children no matter where they go. The SG government and parents would definitely love this if such technology is cheap but not the children!

    (ii)Children, being playful, would most probably love this and treat this as some sort of game machine rather then utilise it for studies I guess. Instead of having someone to ensure that the child is studying, why not have a private tutor to teach him in the hospital and save costs?

    (iii) Fully agree with Filip Wistrand that most places in SG aren’t wheelchair-friendly, I also feel that the messy environment in SG might also pose a problem for the robot- human traffic, tall buildings etc.

  3. U045926H Wong Jia Hui

    PEBBELS is an interesting and novel robot. I think that it is a novel idea that can take flight, but probably not in a very wide-scale form.

    Besides the constrains Filip and Jit Soon pointed out wrt PEBBELS’ movement and connectivity, PEBBELS comes across rather expensive. It is a pair of robots (one home/hospital, one at school), which will double the cost. Maybe instead of having a robot at home/hospital, there can be just a pc with webcam and a suitable computer interface/program? Using the PC instead of another robot, the student can control the robot at school etc, cutting down the cost of PEBBELS by half.

  4. Lim Jun Ming Kelvin U036328m u0303229@nus.edu.sg

    The first thing that came to my mind was that this is the next thing after webcast lecture! Haha! Anyway, I think this would be very useful. The robot could also be used in other areas where it is dangerous for humans to be in. For example, chemical chambers. This could also be useful to researchers who need to run long experiments where they change a few variables and then wait a few hours for the experiment to run before coming back again to change another few variables and then wait for another few hours. With this robot, they could stay in the comforts of their home.. perform the experiments at the labs using this robot and then continue to do things at their home while they wait for the experiment to finish running and den key in the next set of inputs.

  5. Cheong Wen Li, Ronald U036405J

    “Cool” was the first word that came to my mind when I read this article. Wireless interaction between students and teachers is an in-thing nowadays. However, I was wondering if this is something good to implement on a large-scale, such as in Singapore, like what some of our colleagues mentioned.

    1. How many people will do that in Singapore? Given the costs involved, not many people can afford it.

    2. Students tend to get distracted by something different in the classroom (I am saying this based on own experience). Imagine having a robot moving around or even static, in a classroom, filled with people. All eyes will be at the robot.

    3. The wireless operation of the robots may be contributing electromagnetic radiation to hospital equipment, which may be detrimental to patients using them in the long run.

    I think the idea of this robot is application-specific to hospital usage. Therefore, the robot will be designed to cater for such needs, should there be another similar design.

  6. Cheong Wen Li, Ronald U036405J

    I forgot to quote the “such needs” in my previous comment. Here it is now. They are those mentioned in earlier comments, such as public places.

    Cheers,
    WL

  7. oh man.. I beg to differ.
    I think it will only work well in Singapore leh.

    Who in the world will want to attend school (besides exam) when he/she is hospitalized?
    The answer is Singaporeans..

    Given the competitive environment, it is not suprising to see parents paying the exorbitant price, fending off the hassle in bringing the robots to school and maintaining the robots so that their children will not miss a math lesson.

    I feel this PEBBELS isnt such a good idea after all. Reading magazine in the hospital can be educative as well!

    Tan Xie Xing U046240M

  8. Wu Ronghua U036423A

    Though this robot seems useful, i disagree with the motive behind its invention. If someone goes to hospital, it is probably because the person is seriously sick and need more medical attention and more rest. To make ther person study in hospital seems to contradict the point of staying in hospital. If a child is sick, i think just let the child rest. It is over stressing the child to bring the classroom right in front of the child even when the child is in hospital.


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