Kids in Japan will be able to send a robot to school if they're sick
A school for disabled children in Japan has launched a futuristic new initiative, which will grant sick or handicapped children the opportunity to attend classes remotely via a robot avatar.
According to a recent report by The Ashai Shimbun, the Tomobe-Higashi special support school in Kasama launched the innovative new project in October of 2019, using Ori Hime robots to make the children feel as though they are actually in the classroom.
The children use tablet computers to control their avatars, which are equipped with a microphone, a camera, and a set of speakers. The school's operator leased the robots from their Tokyo developer OyLaboratory, and will test the equipment for two months to determine their effectiveness.
Kanae Sudo, an 11-year-old who stays at the Ibaraki Children's Hospital in Mito, used the robot to 'attend' a fifth-year science class. She was able to use the robot's 'nod' function, and even clap when another classmate got an answer correct. Kanae allegedly enjoyed using her avatar, and stated: "It's fun to turn the robot in directions I want to look in."
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Commenting on the program, assistant principal Noboru Tachi stated: "The robot can easily be operated, and students feel like they are actually attending class. We will seriously consider introducing it on a full-scale basis."
According to OyLaboratory's official website: "Ori Hime’s face is inspired by a mask from traditional Japanese theatre show called 'Noh' which is a seemingly expressionless mask that is made to reflect any expressions from joy to sadness by interacting with people’s imagination."
It adds: "Surprisingly, although Ori Hime looks expressionless like a Noh mask, it is its face that allows them to see the controller’s face through it. All of the features are meant to create an experience that everyone, from the controller to people who were involved in the communication, feel like they have spent their precious times together."