Children at a primary school in a Kerala village have successfully learned hygiene lessons and the importance of washing their hands effectively and consistently — from their teachers of course but primarily from ‘Pepe the robot.’
The novel, hand-shaped speaking robot also taught the 100-odd SC and ST students of the Wayanad Government Primary School how to wash their hands in accordance with WHO standards, researchers announced on Global Handwashing Day on Tuesday. Pepe costs around Rs 7,000 and was developed by researchers from the University of Glasgow in Scotland in collaboration with the Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham University in Tamil Nadu.
Deshmukh and Amrita University’s Unnikrishnan R presented Pepe — introduced in the school in March this year — at the 28TH IEEE International Conference on Robot and Human Interactive Communication.
Pepe is mounted on a wall above a handwashing station at the school.
A small video screen mounted behind Pepe’s green plastic exterior acts as a ‘mouth,’ allowing researchers to tele-operate the robot to speak to the pupils and draw their attention to a poster outlining the steps of effective handwashing. A set of moving ‘eyes’ helps bolster the illusion that Pepe is paying attention to the children’s actions.