Indigenous Language Robots for community-led revitalisation
Opie Robots bring digital language resources to life and excite children about Indigenous culture.
They provide language activities in the form of interactive stories, words games and pronunciation practice. It’s a new technology for the world’s oldest languages, supporting language revival, and growing digital literacy around cultural knowledge.
At the Social Robotics Lab
, we work with Indigenous communities to co-design social robots for language revitalisation. We have worked with the Ngukurr Language Centre
to design an Opie Robot that has language activities in four local heritage languages. We are now proposing to co-design further robots with additional language centres. Our goal is to develop culturally appropriate social robots and language tools to bring digital language resources to life, in ways that are in reach for every Indigenous language community.
Members of the Ngukurr Language Centre with University of Queensland Social Robot Lab engineers. Photo by Shaina Russell.
Opie Robots provide a new form of access to digital material that is driven from the ground up, culturally embedded, with elders involved, and digitally and culturally sustainable. Opie is a social robot that provides language activities in the form of interactive stories, word games and pronunciation practice. Opie has two tablets, one with expressive eyes for social engagement and another for interactive activities. The robot is safe and robust for preschool children, lightweight for easy transport by plane or car, and easy to assemble. It does not need an internet connection for its activities with children, but can use wifi to update its software when available.
Robots can’t teach language alone, they support people teaching their own languages. Robots can lighten the burden on language custodians and teachers through engaging access to digital material and recording language learners’ progress. They can also give learners lots of practice in listening and speaking in situations that reduce shyness. Opie Robots can provide excitement and motivation to record new language content and start multi-generational conversations about language in communities.