Even the most conscientious student sometimes drifts off in class. Some literally fall asleep, but more often, their thoughts just carry them away from the classroom. Good teachers learn to observe the signs that indicate a student is zoning out and know how to get them to focus by recapturing their attention. But is it possible to get a student to stay focused when a teacher cannot respond in a personalized way? That is becoming a very practical concern when classroom sizes expand and as online courses remove the teacher from the classroom altogether.
A study proved robots can be programmed to regain students attention. Children who had the robot intervention performed better in answering question on what they heard than children in the control group. I wrote about it for EducationalIT.
Of related interest: http://mashable.com/2012/07/15/human-robot/ and http://www.cnn.com/2012/07/11/health/uncanny-valley-robots/index.html