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  (Source: cnet.com)

  (Source: Daily Mail)
Government invests 1.58 billion won (1.37 million dollars)into the test program.

Twenty-nine egg-shaped teachers are the wave of the future in South Korea.  As part of a four-month pilot program sponsored by the South Korean government, 3-feet high telepresence bots have started teaching English to elementary school children in the country.

Developed by the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST), the Engkey robots are handled remotely by English-speaking teachers in the Philippines.  The robots sport an avatar face on a TV display panel and are wheeled around each classroom as they speak, read books, dance and interact with the children.

According to KIST senior scientist Sagong Seong-Dae, cameras detect the facial expressions of the English speaking teachers in the Philippines, who can see and hear the students via remote, which then reflect them on the face of the avatar.    

"Well-educated, experienced Filipino teachers are far cheaper than their counterparts elsewhere, including South Korea," said Sagong.

Kim Mi-Young, an official at the Daegu city education office said that some robots may be sent to remote rural areas of South Korea shunned by foreign English teachers. Both Kim and Sagong indicate that the robots will be used as reinforcements. Kim added that the experiment was not about replacing human teachers with robots.

"We are helping upgrade a key, strategic industry and all the while giving children more interest in what they learn."

Kim also noted that having robots in the classroom makes the students, especially shy ones,  more active in participating.

"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," said Kim.

The South Korean government plans to expand the program in all 8,400 kindergarten classrooms by 2013.



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I don't get it
By Parhel on 12/29/2010 2:16:31 PM , Rating: 2
I don't understand the point of this. I could see that it might be more effective and even cheaper to have American or British people teach English via teleconference, but what's with the weird looking robot? It gives me the creeps. No way I'd send my kids to class with that thing.




RE: I don't get it
By ClownPuncher on 12/29/2010 2:24:53 PM , Rating: 5
Kids like robots, it may keep their interest.

This thing isn't nearly as creepy as Teddy Ruxpin from when I was a kid.


RE: I don't get it
By Jedi2155 on 12/29/2010 4:06:38 PM , Rating: 3
Barney still gives me nightmares.


RE: I don't get it
By Alexvrb on 12/29/2010 7:47:03 PM , Rating: 2
Was it the Michael Jackson-esque behavior?


RE: I don't get it
By Anoxanmore on 12/29/2010 5:32:56 PM , Rating: 2
I had a "My Buddy" back in the day... after watching Chuckie that thing never came near me again.


RE: I don't get it
By wordsworm on 12/30/2010 8:38:21 AM , Rating: 2
They're talking about Filipinos, not Westerners.

Unless they arm these buggers, I can't see them working all that well. I also wonder about the legality of these devices, since it's illegal for Filipinos (unless they're married to Koreans) to teach in Korea.


RE: I don't get it
By cjohnson2136 on 12/30/2010 2:06:43 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
They're talking about Filipinos, not Westerners


I does not say they are Filipinos just English teachers from the Philopines (can't spell) but you could have a Westerner in the Philoines and also teach as a robot in Korea.


RE: I don't get it
By HoundRogerson on 1/3/2011 7:48:07 PM , Rating: 2
"Well-educated, experienced Filipino teachers are far cheaper than their counterparts elsewhere, including South Korea," said Sagong.

Nuff said.


RE: I don't get it
By EricMartello on 1/1/2011 6:01:27 PM , Rating: 2
Most sensible people wouldn't want a flip in the same room as their kids...last time I checked the philippine education system involves a cheap hotel, a few camcorders and a few white guys. I guess this robot limits the potential that something in the classroom ends up on a raunchy website.


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