Saya: A $50,000 robot teacher for the future classrooms of Japan

The dream of robots taking over most of our tasks is no longer a vision. Japan has developed a robot teacher named Saya who calls roll, smiles and scolds the children in her classroom. Developed by Hiroshi Kobayashi, a Tokyo University of Science professor, Saya is definitely an interesting robot. Because it has a rubber skin which gets pulled from the back with motors and wiring around the eyes and the mouth, the robot can express six different human emotions – surprise, fear, disgust, anger, happiness, sadness.

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First developed as a receptionist robot in 2004, Saya was tested in a real Tokyo classroom earlier this year with a handful of fifth and sixth graders. However the robot can’t do anything other than take roll call so there is still no hope of her replacing human instructors. The robot also has no intelligence or the ability to develop any human skills. But when asked if the professor would ever create a robot in human form with movie star looks, he aptly replied: “Sure, if you’re willing to pay.” And the price for this special robot according to him would be a whopping 5 million yen ($49,800)!
Hence Kobayashi signs off with a warning- Saya is just meant to help people and warns against getting hopes up too high for its possibilities. But looking at Saya I can’t help but think that somewhere another Japanese guy is working on creating Saya 2 who will take over the classroom soon.

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