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During my flight to Earth, my spacecraft crashed into an asteroid. Its parts scattered all over the world and now children help me find them. This is a story of Photon, an educational robot, developed by experts specializing in gaming and creation of user experience, in collaboration with psychologists from SWPS University. The robot has been designed to help children learn new technology skills, such as programming, and to stimulate their social and emotional development.

2 in 1: New Technologies and Psychology

The times when kids sat in front of desktop computers, during information technology classes, are the thing of the past. “Every parent knows that children love computer games”, explains Marcin Joka, CEO of Photon Entertainment. “We wanted to create an application that would help kids to develop logical thinking and basic programming skills through play and competition. We employed gaming techniques to motivate children to overcome challenges and to learn. We have also applied elements of Role Playing Games (RPG), so that everyone can customize their robot as they please.”

Photon combines psychology and new technologies. While playing with Photon, children follow a story developed in cooperation with psychologists from SWPS University. “We wanted the robot to not only improve kids’ learning skills, but also assist in their psycho-social development. The robot helps to recognize emotions (including negative feelings), make decisions, and connect with the surrounding environment”, says Katarzyna Żukowska, psychologist from SWPS University specilizing in new technologies.

The psychologists were tasked with adapting the story of Photon and the challenges of the game in such a way that they would help children to learn basic social behaviors and communication skills apart from developing their technical competencies, such as programming and logical thinking. The robot also helps to develop coping strategies for dealing with emotions, including negative feelings. Moreover, the psychologists have developed a system, which monitors the learning progress of each user. For example, the application measures improvement in the short term memory.

What is more, children interacting with the robot complete tasks not only in the virtual world, on the screen of a tablet, but also in the real environment. Some tasks require help from the parents.

Photon meets the needs of the fast changing social and economic environment, which requires logical thinking, good orienteering in the virtual reality, and programming skills. However, it is important to carefully design each human-robot interaction and take into consideration the potential influence machines may have on people. It is especially important in the case of toys designed for children, which should include development capabilities and educational elements. “Since we cannot avoid contact with new technologies, we should employ them to serve our purposes and we can use psychological knowledge to do this. Photon has been especially designed to combine education and social development components, both very important for children”, summarizes Krzysztof Rzeńca, psychologist from SWPS University.

Makers of Photon

Photon, the educational robot, has been created by Photon Entertainment in cooperation with SWPS University. The educational version of Photon will appear in schools in Poland, in September 2017, while the retail launch is planned for December 2017.

Photon Entertainment was founded by Marcin Joka, Krzysztof Dziemiańczuk, Michał Bogucki, Maciej Kopczyński, and Michał Grześ, four students and an academic teacher from the Bialystok University of Technology. The team has an extensive experience in the fields of robotics and information technology. They won numerous awards in national and international competitions, including contests organized by Microsoft and Phillips. They have been recognized in Generation of the Future, a program developed by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education, addressed to young inventors, constructors, programmers, scientists and innovators, studying at Polish universities and representing Poland at competitions and contests around the world. They are also members of the Top500Innovators and are on the New Europe 100 list that includes the top young innovators from the region. Michał Grześ worked as the coordinator of the Hyperion 2 Mars Rover, which won the University Rover Challenge 2014 and 2013. Marcin Joka, the CEO of Photon Entertainment, was nominated to the MIT Innovators under 35 list.

The team of psychologists and experts from SWPS University’s Business Engagement Center and StressLab, who have helped to develop the application, includes Katarzyna Żukowska, Krzysztof Rzeńca and Natalia Michalak.

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