Palomar College Becomes First in Nation to Use Robots Designed For Students - NBC 7 San Diego

Palomar College Becomes First in Nation to Use Robots Designed For Students

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    NBC 7's Danielle Radin takes you to Palomar College in San Marcos, the first college in the nation to use robots with artificial intelligence designed to help students. (Published Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017)

    Palomar College is being taken over by robots! The school rolled out two robots Tuesday, each named Pepper.

    The robots use artificial intelligence to help students answer 800 common questions. They can text students directions to any building on campus, and answer questions such as, “Where is the Math Center” and “What is Financial Aid?”

    On top of that, the robots dance and can take selfies with students.

    “Pepper has laser programming on her head,” said Dr. Joilin Blake, President of Palomar College. “So when she looks at you, she can sense your emotion and say, ‘Oh, that’s frustrating’ or ‘You need help with that.’”

    Palomar College is the first school in the nation to adapt robots to a college setting as a student engagement tool.

    "I have natural language processing and voice recognition," Pepper said Tuesday to students on campus. "I have artificial intelligence so I'll get smarter over time." 

    The robots are constantly learning through interactions with humans.

    “We have a commitment to student engagement and access as well as innovation,” said Dr. Blake. “Pepper is a culmination of all those together.”

    There is one robot on the San Marcos campus, which will rotate positions around campus such as the quad.

    There is another one at the Escondido campus. Palomar College has plans to purchase a third robot for their Rancho Bernardo Tech and Innovation Center opening soon.

    The robots normally cost $50,000 each. Palomar College said they got Pepper for $25,000 each, paid for through a state grant the school receives each year, called Student Success and Support Programs.

    The robots were developed by French company Aldebaran and distributed by Japan’s SoftBank Robotics.