Tyler Suiters                     

Hey everybody. I'm Tyler Suiters with the Consumer Technology Association. We are the owners and producers of CES, the largest, the most influential tech event on the planet. We are here to get you CES ready. So the dates for the next big show. Ready to jot this down? January 7th through the 10th, 2020, in Las Vegas as always.

Tyler Suiters                    

And today, a look at how technology is changing our lives for the better. And this is not just helping us be happier and healthier or making our lives more convenient. This is in many ways either making us smarter or helping us prepare to learn more as we progress in life. We are talking education technology.

Tyler Suiters                     

First of all, the cutting-edge startup called Roybi. We are speaking with founder and CEO of this investor-backed robotics company that has a clear focus on early childhood education. And it's an interesting approach, which yes, technology is helping our children learn. The part of that methodology is using technology that kids find so cool, right? Robotics. That conversation is coming up.

Tyler Suiters                   

Also, a deep dive into new research from the Consumer Technology Association about ed tech. That is all on this edition of CES Tech Talk.

Tyler Suiters                    

Elnaz Sarraf is CEO and founder of Roybi, a company that combines robotics but also the education sector. Very interesting concept, and Elnaz, it's great to have you with us today.

Elnaz Sarraf                      

Thank you. It's amazing to be speaking with you today. Thank you.

Tyler Suiters                     

So a bit of an odd combination there. Robotics and education. But your business premise and your goals bring it all together in such smart, sharp synergy. Take us through that story about the development of the company.

Elnaz Sarraf                      

Thank you. It's always very, very interesting when you want to create a new concept and to see how you can really help your audience. And that's how we started Roybi. A little over two years ago, my team and I came together and decided to make a difference, a change in the education sector. Not because education is very personal to me, but also when you look at the educational system and the way our children are being taught at school or even at home, you see that still there is a huge gap when it comes to early childhood education.

Elnaz Sarraf                      

There's a lot of attention, different sorts of products and technologies in higher education. But it seems like that early childhood education is missing a lot of attention. And it is a very, very critical time for all children to get their skills as they grow up, because spatially children learn through natural conversations at early age. It is important that they get relevant and really good education when they're still there.

Elnaz Sarraf                      

So after a lot of back and forth, we realized that we can have a huge impact in this category. It is time to bring all of the technology advancements that we have available today to this sector. And that's how we started Roybi. And the reason we have a combination of education and robotics is that we want to personalize education. And to do that, we wanted to create a special platform, a tool for kids to have fun and interact with our product. And we realized that putting our technology in a fun, cute, and interactive robot can create a lot of traction.

Elnaz Sarraf                      

As we know, kids really liked to play with robots, and also one other mission that we have is to really take kids off of large displays because it's really not good for them.

Tyler Suiters                     

Mm-hmm (affirmative). So it's interesting that one aspect is the educational benefit, and that theoretically we or perhaps our parents when we're of that young, young age, want to do what's good for us. But Roybi also incorporates robotics aspect it sounds like because it is such a potential appeal to children, that they'll want to do this because it's fun, right? Isn't that a critical value add here?

Elnaz Sarraf                      

Yes, absolutely. We've done a lot of research and we can see that kids really like, when it comes to robots, they love to interact with it and theythink it's not a human, it's a toy. It's like a companion, like your friend. And based on the research and the surveys that we've got, we've seen 10%, about 10% increase in the interaction and learning care when kids actually interacted with the robots.

Tyler Suiters                     

Mm-hmm (affirmative). How did you come up with this particular application of the technology? Is it more from an educational aspect or is it more about understanding the capabilities and potential robotics can offer in this field?

Elnaz Sarraf                      

It is more of a combination. When we wanted to create Roybi as a very advanced robot, we realized that there are still a lot of limitations. To give you an example is Roybi has voice recognition. It detects what kids say, but at the same time, AI is not mature enough for the age range, three to seven that we are focusing at. And we had to make sure, when we are creating the educational content for Roybi and using the advancements in technology, we had to make sure these matches.

Elnaz Sarraf                    

So even now, even though we are using available technology in, for example, voice recognition, we still need to work on our own algorithm to collect enough data to recognize what kids say. Because there are a lot of variations. For example, "yellow," "bellow," "rabbit," "labbit." They say things differently. And we have a lot of fun.

Tyler Suiters                     

Yeah. Only a percentage of kids that age, I'm sure, can even pronounce their R's. Yeah, there are variables there. What about your perspective on, as a CEO and founder, on the educational technology sector in general right now? I mean you're right there at the bleeding edge of what's happening right now. Give us a bit of a forecast or your vision for the next five to 10 years in this sector.

Elnaz Sarraf                      

What we can see today is of course the education sector really needs a huge change. And the way we want this change to happen is that we want to make sure, with the mission that we have, we would be able to, within the five years or so, we would be able to really help children to get personalized education.

Elnaz Sarraf                     

Because right now, there are kids get educated in pretty much the same way. Everybody gets the same sort of assessments through standards, norms and we really want to change that with Roybi. And that's a big mission. It's going to be a lot of work, but step by step, we want to start this change at home because changing the whole education system is going to take much longer. And we are starting at homes, providing this personalized education, and in the next five years or so, we really want to have a global impact on the education system, giving children the chance they deserve to get educated based on their own ability.

Elnaz Sarraf                     

So basically even kids that may be labeled as having disabilities, maybe that doesn't even exist because every child has unique sets of abilities. And that's what we want to do.

Tyler Suiters                    

So what is the biggest challenge to that growth, to that element of the sector of fulfilling its potential as tech changing our lives for the better, Elnaz?

Elnaz Sarraf                      

I would say different sorts of challenges. Some would relate to technology. Still, again, we have some limitations when it comes to resource, data, and then capabilities of the technology today, which I'm sure everything is going to get better and better over time.

Elnaz Sarraf                    

Then other challenge would be a lot on, on the privacy factor. We collect data. We are in the business of changing the experience, the educational experience. But when it comes to collecting data, everybody is so sensitive, including government, parents, and a lot of different people. And we hope to change this by getting more trust to our users and then gradually even teachers and government entities to know that our mission is to impact education. And of course when you are in the stage of growth as we are, we have limited resource and we need to move things really fast. And hopefully, I always joke that I wish I didn't even have to sleep because there is a lot of great things we can do but the time is limited, the resources limited. So it's going to take some time to expand.

Tyler Suiters                     

Yeah. Spoken like a true founder, Elnaz, that is spot on message. That also sounds a bit like how you feel, the excitement, the anticipation, around CES. What is your approach, the experience you've had as a founder going to the stage at CES and interacting with so many potential partners when you're trying to grow your company exponentially?

Elnaz Sarraf                    

I think CES is absolutely amazing. I've been going to CES for the past six years. So I've been pretty involved. And what I see, CES has become like an event that you can meet so many people. Even for us, especially, a lot of our partners and the people we've worked with, they are all over the globe, and gives us the opportunity to meet with our partners, potential customers, get a lot of press coverage.

Elnaz Sarraf                     

We also have a lot of benefits of being the member of CTA. So for example, last year we were able to go to the meeting rooms, have private meetings, because CES is crazy in terms of amount of people that come, talk with you. So CES, and in general CTA, has given us really good opportunity to talk more and create brand awareness in regards to Roybi.

Tyler Suiters                     

Mm-hmm (affirmative). What about 2020, when you're looking ahead, and without giving away any particulars about your strategy, the general strategic approach, how you make the most of your time, the most of your opportunity? Therefore over the course of a week in Las Vegas in January.

Elnaz Sarraf                      

Oh, when we go to CES this year, this coming year, our primary focus would be first of all to have a really big announcement about Roybi, because it's the time that truly Roybi launches to the market. And the best, best way of doing it would be CES. We are already working on having press conferences before and after and during that CES time. And also focusing on finding the right partners who can help us to grow Roybi in many different regions. So that would be our next step as we are at a stage to grow our technology into different places.

Tyler Suiters                     

Mm-hmm (affirmative). What has you most excited for the year ahead, or heck, we can make that the six months ahead, Elnaz? What is it in tech that—

Elnaz Sarraf                      

At Roybi, we go day by day. Everyday something new happens, something exciting. It doesn't matter how little or big it is, it's just anything that happens is so exciting.

Tyler Suiters                    

Well, take us through the end of the year, then. What is it about education technology that really has your eye and attention right now?

Elnaz Sarraf                   

Right now, our big focus is to launch Roybi this year, to bring it to the market. And we want to have a small batch and terms of piloting, especially with kindergartens. And one of the reasons you want to do that is gradually we want to have our impact in the education system through the schools. And the best way to do it is to start a small scale, like a pilot test, and being able to actually work side by side with teachers. Getting their feedback to see how we can make our technology better. And that's the focus we're going to have this year, to lunch in the market, but also pilot the schools.

Tyler Suiters                     

You can hear the passion, the enthusiasm, maybe the fatigue of founder and CEO, Elnaz Sarraf, of Roybi Robot. Elnaz, a pleasure to have you with us. I know your time is very much in demand right now, but congratulations on your success so far and we'll see you in just a few months in Las Vegas at CES.

Elnaz Sarraf                      

Thank you so much. It is really exciting to speak with you and the opportunity. Thank you.

Tyler Suiters                     

Joining me now in the CTA studio is CTA's own Director of Research, Lesley Rohrbaugh. Lesley, great to have you with us.

Lesley Rohrbaugh        

Thanks for having me.

Tyler Suiters                     

I know you do a lot of road trips for work, so I'm glad to have you at home in DC for at least a few minutes.

Lesley Rohrbaugh         

Yeah, I'm liking it too, actually.

Tyler Suiters                     

So education and technology going hand in hand more and more—frequently in the classroom, but it sounds like more and more in the minds of parents and educators as well based on CTA's latest research.

Lesley Rohrbaugh         

Yeah, that's right. So recently CTA Research conducted a study that looked at both how educators and parents of children who have children in preschool through 12th grade are using technology in an educational sense. And we found that both educators and parents agree that tech is allowing students anytime, anywhere access to education.

Tyler Suiters                     

And so it's really changing the way our kids are not just learning in these exponential leaps that technology can offer, but, and I'm speaking as a parent here of a student, that it is to some degree about the accessibility, right? That if you have that connectivity regardless of device, you can get in touch with your class notes, the presentation in class itself. Also your teacher and your classmates, right? That school and the interactions, at least education-wise, let alone social, those don't end at the end of class. You can get them anytime, anywhere. And it seems like all these stakeholders have a benefit there.

Lesley Rohrbaugh          

Yeah, that's correct. And we find, when we're looking at what types of technology parents and educators are using, it's very similar. And it's all about being able to access the content on the go. But it's also about the content. We found that the number one technology that parents are using is video content, in fact. So it's taking it past just the device itself, but actually what content they're using. So things like YouTube educational videos, they're using those at home, but also teachers are using them in the classroom as well.

Tyler Suiters                    

Do you talk much about the devices that parents and teachers are using most frequently or find the most helpful?

Lesley Rohrbaugh         

Yeah, and they're pretty similar as well. So we're finding things like smart phones, tablets, laptops being most prominent across both groups. And we're also finding, although we kind of think that these might be distractions in the classroom, we're actually finding that two out of three, both parents and educators, do not agree that having technology is a distraction to students.

Tyler Suiters                    

That's great. It's probably on a student by student basis, at least. Again, interjecting my own role as a parent and my own experience. Let's go down that road a little bit, Lesley, with the idea of how parents, how teachers, how these educators view technology from a value proposition. The why. Why have technology and why have it at a student's fingertips throughout the process?

Lesley Rohrbaugh          

Right. So what we found is that nearly nine in 10 parents, around 86% surveyed, and four in five, around 79% of educators surveyed agree that tech products are becoming a crucial part of classroom education at every level. More importantly, we're finding that seven in 10, or 71% of educators, and two in three, 67% of parents, indicate that STEM-specific products are important in encouraging student learning and education.

Lesley Rohrbaugh          

And what's interesting there is that when we looked at educators, there isn't a difference between those teachers that are teaching STEM-specific courses versus non-STEM courses. We're finding that there's a blend of non-STEM teachers also using these products in the classroom. There's a really interesting product example I'd like to highlight, it's one of our CTA members. The product's called Itty-Bitty Buggy, and it teaches—

Tyler Suiters                     

This is for kids, yeah, I'd assume.

Lesley Rohrbaugh         

It's a great name. Yeah. And they have all different types. There's even a sloth that you can create.

Tyler Suiters                     

Okay, I like it.

Lesley Rohrbaugh          

So it's very fun for children. And also adults too. But it teaches children not only how to build the toy but also the why or the logic behind each step from structure to functionality. So basically it has the child build the product and then code various functions so the toy can add capabilities like remote control functions and voice control. So you see it from this architectural building point of view all the way through the coding and more technological focus.

Tyler Suiters                    

Yeah, great point there Lesley in that it seems like fewer and fewer STEM graduates, US STEM graduates, are staying in that field. So part of the lifelong learning and lifelong love of learning process, it seems, that technology can enable that as well at those critical junctures.

Tyler Suiters                    

You also look forward a lot in your job in terms of what's next, what's to come. Any particular technology sectors, product sectors or categories is what I'm referring to, that have you excited for their potential with education and technology? You mentioned a preponderance of smartphones, and honestly that's the first place I turn when my daughter has a question about school or work. She also is quick to turn to her tablet, right? The access, the screen size, the typeability, right? Anything else come to mind for you that you see as having either definite potential or something that you're thinking yourself, "Hm, this could be important moving forward to education"?

Lesley Rohrbaugh         

I think the intersection of all of these technologies is really interesting. You think about the smartphone at how far along it's come with being able to access content on the go, but also now we have voice integration within smartphones. So I think the blending of these technologies is really exciting. And we're finding that, even in the survey, we found that educators and teachers find that technology helps students develop technological skills for the future regardless of it's in a STEM area or not. So I think, again, just the intersection of these technologies is really exciting.

Tyler Suiters                   

What do you see? See the verb I'm using here? For AR/VR moving forward, right? Yeah. Either inside or outside the classroom. But the educational experience that, where a textbook that we would've read gives you a picture of the Galapagos Islands and maybe of a monitor lizard or the blue footed booby. I'm going deep into my Darwin history here. VR could potentially take you to the islands and walk you around.

Lesley Rohrbaugh         

Yeah, that's right. You know, AR/VR, the beauty of it is it's actually bringing these textbooks to life. So instead of just reading about a museum or a certain piece of artwork, you can actually visit it through virtual reality and see it in a life size functionality. Or you can use AR to overlay data in your everyday world. So you can be walking through that museum and you'll see certain statistics pop up or certain pieces or nuggets of history pop-up as you're walking through the museum.

Tyler Suiters                     

Mm-hmm (affirmative). What about the potential, and I'll say also importance, of 5G technology? Because of the lightning fast connectivity, we get the download speeds, the interaction. I assume that you see that as a platform for all that the potential that education technology holds?

Lesley Rohrbaugh          

Oh absolutely. It's just bringing it in faster speeds, lower latency, and you're just able to access so much more content and so much more data at a faster pace.

Tyler Suiters                     

I personally, and this sounds different, I'm sure this is a bit off beat, but self-driving vehicles. That's what I think of as a high school student going back to my days, if I can save those, even if it's 15 minutes each way to and from school where I'm not driving or I can focus on doing something like the last minute cramming before a test. I know that's not within the study, Lesley, as traditional education technology, but there are all kinds of little incremental efficiency improvements we can make through technologies moving forward.

Lesley Rohrbaugh          

Yeah, that's right. And self-driving is really interesting. You think about all the things you'll be able to do in the car or vehicle since you won't be able to drive, but also thinking specifically about high school students and parents' fear of their kids on the roads, if you will.

Tyler Suiters                    

I'm there. Yeah.

Lesley Rohrbaugh          

There's a lot of safety features built into these vehicles that aren't in traditional cars. And additionally you'll be able to maybe track your child on the go because it is a connected car.

Tyler Suiters                     

And monitor those speeds. Yes, I'm very much down with that. One of the cool aspects of the research you consistently put together at CTA, Lesley, is that yes, you have the data, and it's crunched to make sense and paint a picture. But you also have often pretty firm takeaways, like the recommendations. What are your main takeaways that you find coming out of this education technology study?

Lesley Rohrbaugh         

So I think something that would be an ongoing goal of most people would be establishing partnerships or even grant opportunities between tech companies and schools. We found that both parents and teachers agree that tech is becoming a crucial part of education at every level. So by establishing these partnerships or other agreements between the companies and schools, it's going to create new opportunities for children to get hands-on with these various technologies at younger ages. We found that 58% of educators agree with the statement that they see value in incorporating technology in everyday curriculum. However, they can't because of budget constraints.

Tyler Suiters                     

Critical. I'm going to call out your Alma Mater, which I can't imagine you mind because you are such a raging proud, screaming Virginia Tech fan.

Lesley Rohrbaugh        

Go Hokies!

Tyler Suiters                    

Without getting into football prognostications for the coming year, Virginia Tech seems like a great example of these public-private partnerships, right? Where either through your esteemed fellow alums who go into the tech sector or some of the companies that have homes in the state of Virginia, these partnerships really can make a difference for an educational system.

Lesley Rohrbaugh          

First of all, I'm really excited to be a Virginia Tech Hokie and really excited for football season, too.

Tyler Suiters                    

Touche. Understood.

Lesley Rohrbaugh          

'Tis the season they say. But there are a lot of different partnerships that Virginia Tech is doing with the local communities as well as manufacturers. So for example, right now undergraduate students are actually testing out drone delivery in real time in Blacksburg. So things like delivering your Chipotle to your dorm or to your apartment, they're testing out these functionalities to be able to apply those in everyday situations.

Lesley Rohrbaugh          

And additionally, taking that a step further, when we think back to education, a lot of people think that learning just stops right at when you graduate. But Virginia Tech just started a new mentorship program where those who have graduated from the school can also mentor undergraduate and graduate students so they can be involved more in the tech sector or in any other ongoing education program.

Tyler Suiters                    

All right. Hokie Hokie Hi! Noted. Perfectly. Back to the study, Lesley, one more question. That is the potential gap between what kids do in the classroom with technology and what they're doing at home. Because part of the benefit, and this is where we started this conversation, of conductivity, is that you can access not just technology. But through technology, educational content, anytime, anywhere. What's the study's insight on that?

Lesley Rohrbaugh         

Well, we found that 47% of parents report their children are using STEM-specific products at home for education and learning while 62%, so quite a bit more, of educators are using these same STEM-specific products in the classroom. So if children are exposed to STEM products both inside and outside the classroom, it's going to strengthen their engagement and familiarity with the products and will more deeply ingrain the lessons learned from the products themselves.

Tyler Suiters                    

Yeah, I get the feeling this is the first of many conversations about technology in education we'll have. Lesley Rohrbaugh is Director of Research at the Consumer Technology Association. Lesley, always a blast. Thanks for your time.

Lesley Rohrbaugh          

Yeah, thanks for having me.

Tyler Suiters                     

All right. Coming up next time on CES Tech Talk. Come on. You hear us say it all the time. Every company today is or needs to be a tech company, right? Well, we're talking with a company, you know this name, about digital health. And this is an insurance/wellness company that is very much getting into the technology space and is banking on essentially one key emerging technology.

Speaker 4                          

If you were to ask me what is my number one priority, how about AI, AI, AI? So artificial intelligence.

Tyler Suiters                   

All right, that is coming up on the next edition of CES Tech Talk. Now we are here to help you get CES ready, so do yourself a favor. If you haven't already, subscribe to this podcast. That way you won't miss a single episode as we're gearing up for the big show in January.

Tyler Suiters                    

Speaking of, CES 2020 is January 7th through the 10th in Las Vegas. The information you need is at ces.tech. Now, none of this is even remotely possible without the true stars of this podcast. Executive producer, Tina Anthony, and senior studio engineer, John Lindsey. You two are the very best in the business. I'm Tyler Suiters. Let's talk tech again soon.

WEB-IIS70