Each android teacher is equipped with a screen displaying the face of a human avatar, and is controlled remotely by an actual instructor in the Philippines. It’s a way of outsourcing a job (educating children) that one would have thought had to be done in person. The Daily Mail reports:
Pupils often assume their teachers don’t really exist outside the school gates, now robot classroom assistants could make this a reality. Almost 30 egg-shaped robots have started teaching English at primary schools in South Korea.
The 3.3ft high machines have a TV panel that displays a female Caucasian face and can wheel around the classroom while speaking to the students. The robots are also able to read books and dance to music moving their head and arms.
But despite appearances the robots, developed the Korea Institute of Science of Technology, are not autonomous beings. They are actually controlled remotely by English teachers living in the Philippines, who can see and hear the children via a remote control system. Cameras then detect the teachers’ facial expressions and reflect them on the avatar’s face.
‘Well-educated, experienced Filipino teachers are far cheaper than their counterparts elsewhere, including South Korea,’ Sagong Seong-Dae, a senior scientist at KIST.
The robots will teach after-school classes at 21 schools in the south-eastern city of Daegu.
Apart from reading books, the robots use pre-programmed software to sing songs and play alphabet games with the children. Education official Kim Mi-Young, said: ‘The kids seemed to love it since the robots look, well, cute and interesting. But some adults also expressed interest, saying they may feel less nervous talking to robots than a real person.’
She said the robots are still being tested. But officials might consider hiring them full time if scientists upgrade them and make them easier to handle and more affordable. ‘Having robots in the classroom makes the students more active in participating, especially shy ones afraid of speaking out to human teachers,’ she said.
She stressed the robots, which cost £5,600 each, will provide extra support for teachers but not replace them.
Mr Seong-Dae added: ‘They won’t complain about health insurance, sick leave and severance package, or leave in three months for a better-paying job in Japan… all you need is a repair and upgrade every once in a while.’