The Best Inventions of 2020
Jessica Pettway for TIME; Prop styling by Stephanie L. Yeh
November 19, 2020 8:56 AM EST

Robots fascinate Van Robotics CEO Laura Boccanfuso. But while getting her Ph.D. in computer science, she felt most were too expensive and technical for real-life applications. So she developed ABii, a robot tutor aimed at closing the math and reading proficiency gap for K-5 students. This is no mere toy: the 16-by-8-in. Device is designed to work with teachers—and, increasingly, parents now that so many children are learning from home—with a curriculum created by certified educators. Its edge: using a camera to detect changes in student attention and optimizing its tutoring approach to resonate with individual learners. “Schools more than ever need individualized learning help,” Boccanfuso says. “[They] don’t have enough teachers in the classroom.” Schools that buy ABii for $999 receive 30 student licenses that come with lesson plans that are updated regularly to meet national standards; the home version ($599) offers the same features with just three licenses. —Nadia Suleman

Buy now: Van Robotics ABii

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