RAVE, Language Teacher for Deaf and Hearing Children

Tuesday, October 17, 2017 - 12:55

RAVE, Robot Avatar Thermal-Enhanced prototype, could someday hang above an infant’s crib, detect when they’re ready to learn, and then begin to communicate with them.

Based on the preliminary results, the robot is able to keep children's attention for up to six minutes at a time. Infants who are only six to eight months old began to gesture in a rhythm linked with sign language after only a few minutes during this early work, CNBC reports.

RAVE could be especially useful for children who are born deaf. Hearing parents of deaf or hard-of-hearing children face a choice. Getting the hang of that rhythm might indicate that a child is learning some important foundations of any language, like picking out the sounds or other basic units of a language.

"This is work in progress," emphasized Laura Ann Petitto, the lead researcher and an educational neuroscientist at Gallaudet University. She will present the preliminary results of her work with RAVE to a National Science Foundation committee on October 24. "It's evolving and will continue to evolve for another year," she said.

Many linguists accept that there is a critical period in an infant and young child's life that they're particularly sensitive to language. Without hearing or seeing some language when they are very young, children wouldn't be able to learn.

"There's no question that this work will have a direct impact on young, deaf infants and their academic trajectory through life," Petitto said. Gallaudet, located in Washington, D.C., is the only university in the world designed for students with hearing loss.

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