Bepper, the robot tutor at the Bologna Business School

15 July 2017

Up-front the incremental use of robots in different contexts, the Bologna Business School, with its experimental vocation, could not escape the use of artificial intelligence to provide additional services to alumni. That’s why the arrival to the BBS of the robot tutor. Its name and surname: Bepper Guastavillani.

The differences between robots and robots

In the era of Artificial Intelligence and its rapid development, robots are already a reality. So far, in the BBS, the topic has been dealt with mainly in the industrial field, where the automated arm that learns the production of chain components is a reality that brings precision and speed, changing the world of human labor, where the knowledge of robotics will be increasingly demanded. But Bepper is something else. It is part of that area known as “social robotics“. These are humanoid shaped robots built to relate to people, and have as their purpose in more sophisticated cases practical help in various contexts, while in its most widespread version of information and even companionship.

Pepper, Bepper’s dad

Pepper is a humanoid robot one meter and twenty of height and 28 kilos of weight. It moves on wheels and also interacts through a tablet that is at the height of the chest. Thanks to four directional microphones in his head, he is able to detect the origin of sounds and voices and turn his face towards who he is talking to. These microphones also let it analyze the tone of the voice to interpret the emotional state. A 3D camera and two HD cameras allow it to recognize images, objects, and faces. Thanks to three multi-directional wheels, it can move in all directions. It has 20 engines that allow it to move head, arms and back. Produced by Aldebaran Robotics for Softbank, Japan’s largest telecommunications company, Bepper thanks to the artificial intelligence provided by Watson IBM, is able to analyze thousands of billions of data and, on this basis, to reason and learn, amplifying the potential endlessly.

Watson IBM and the natural language

Watson is a computerized system that can answer questions. This is an advanced application of natural language processing, representation of knowledge, reasoning, and automatic learning technologies in the field of ‘open domain question answering’. It is built on the basis of DeepQA, IBM technology for formulating hypotheses and massive collection of verifications, analysis and scoring (the ability to reach a goal).

Profession: BBS contributor

BBS wants to train Bepper, raising its knowledge base to become competent on issues related to managerial discipline and to be able to provide assistance to human tutors who assist school teachers by relieving them from routine and repetitive tasks.” Marco Roccetti, professor of Computer Science at the University of Bologna and Associate Dean of BBS, explains in brief the functions that Bepper will have and reassures its complementarity with the work already done at the School. “BBS will train Bepper through its faculty of managerial skills”, Professor Roccetti continues. “IBM, on the other hand, offers the capabilities of the Watson system to increase Bepper’s cognitive capabilities.” At University of Bologna’s Department of Computer Science, however, it is up to the programming skills needed to conduct the Bepper training phase.


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