How would you feel about your child receiving their education from a robot? Your probably thinking yeah right, maybe in a million years! Well, as bizarre as it sounds, it may become a reality sooner than you and I may think, because Kudan Elementary school, in Tokyo, Japan has done just that! They have introduced a life-like humanoid robot into one of their classrooms, and her name is Saya.
In 2004, after fifteen years of extensive research and studies, professor Hiroshi Kobayashi, at Tokyo University of Science, finished his “creation”. Saya’s original purpose was to work as a receptionist and secretary. Employed by Japanese businesses, to replace existing human workers of their current secretarial and office positions. By having a human-like android do these types of jobs, it would save these companies a lot of time and money and the robots could eventually help the ever growing and aging Japanese population.
Mr. Kobayashi realized that technology was also on the rise and that some Japanese children did not have the opportunity or means to explore what today’s technology had to offer. He also thought that it would benefit the Japanese schools who did not have an adequate amount of teachers, to teach the tougher subjects. So after a few tweaks and some reprogramming, Saya has taken on the new job of a “part-time” substitute science and technology teacher. She even comes fully equipped with hair, makeup, and casual business attire. Saya is programmed to show six different emotions while in the classroom. They include, sadness, surprise, happiness, disgust, fear, and anger. She has a series of pneumatic actuators installed in her head and face, that allow her to move her mouth, blink her eyes, and have “natural” looking mobility in her head and neck like a human being does. But her capabilities do not stop there. She can also read off the class roster in the mornings, (and in many different languages too!) ,organize simple tasks for the students, and like her human counterparts she even gets upset with the children when they misbehave.
In a brief statement, professor Kobayashi, said… “that while building a robot that resembles a human is not the hard part, the difficulties lie in in creating a software program that can mimic the human mind.” Currently, the Japanese government has spent over $35M in “robotic intelligence”, with hopes that every household will have their very own robot by 2015. There are many more androids working everyday jobs in Japan and all over the world as we speak. They work as traffic guides, police officers, and there is even one programmed to encourages students to sign up for classes at local universities! Scientists are also in the works of creating an android that would provide companionship to patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Technology has come a long way since the invention of the cell phone, and the very first computers, but has it reached a level that could solve the problems our world is currently facing or could this be start of something more drastic and end the human race as know it?
Alastair Jamieson, Robot teacher that can take the register and get angry, Telegraph.co.uk.
Danielle Demetriou, Robot teacher conducts first class in Tokyo school, Telegraph.co.uk.
The Anatomy of Japanese Folk Monsters, Saya Does Takashimaya, http://pinktentacle.com/2009/10/saya-does-takashimaya/