Murray Bridge High School inclusive education unit's Christine Roberts-Yates uses Pepper robot to teach students with autism, disability | VIDEO

The arrival of a robot named Pepper has added a bit of extra flavour to classes in Murray Bridge High School's inclusive education centre.

Under director Christine Roberts-Yates, the centre had already been at the cutting edge of technological advancement in terms of teaching students with autism or a disability.

But Pepper - a humanoid 120 centimetres tall, capable of recognising faces and emotions - will unlock previously unheard-of possibilities for the students.

Only a day after starting at the school, he had a room full of students dancing with cheerful abandon.

"You can see some (students) are more confident than others; by the time you do this a few more times they'll be more confident," Dr Roberts-Yates said.

"But if you put a DVD on and said 'dance to this', they wouldn't."

She said she had wanted Pepper, the first of his kind in a South Australian school, for a couple of years.

He would help students learn about etiquette and interact with each other, and would mentor and teach them the skills they could use to live more independently.

"It's all about opening educational opportunities for students with an intellectual disability or autism," she said.

Pepper can identify and lock onto to the face of someone speaking with him, understand speech, recognise sadness or hostility and respond with concern.

He can answer a few dozen simple questions - such as "how are you?", "are you alive?" and "will robots replace humans?" - in 15 different languages, or communicate via the touch screen on his chest.

Dr Roberts-Yates and her colleagues will download updates and write their own programs for him as well, giving him a wider range of movements, phrases and functions.

Eventually, she hoped, senior students in the school's mainstream might learn how to program him, too.

"We're quite excited," she said.

"We know we're very lucky we've been able to get him."

Pepper is something of an older brother to the unit's 58-centimetre Nao robots, who have been part of the unit since 2015.

Ms Roberts-Yates has since won international recognition, including a Global Teacher Prize nomination, for her work using robots in inclusive education, and her academic papers on the subject.

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