I am currently in a dispute with my children’s grammar school over its inability to coordinate the testing schedule. When I approached the administration, their answer was almost robotic in nature by referring me to the assessment policy. This made me wonder if robots could do a better job educating our kids.
My search brought me to Tokyo, the capital of robotics. In this emerald city, scientists have begun testing a robotic teacher named Saya. Amazingly, she is capable of expressing six emotions, including: surprise, fear, disgust, anger, happiness, and sadness, by moving the motors and wires behind her rubber skin. According to Saya’s creator, Hiroshi Kobayashi, “Robots that look human tend to be a big hit with young children and the elderly… Children even start crying when they are scolded.” I do not know if classroom cries are the best way to achieve higher education. However, it appeared from the video that the kids were thoroughly enjoying Saya’s lesson.
The UN reported today that the world’s population grew to 7 billion, which means that there will be a big strain on education and finding quality teachers to inspire young minds. The cost of Saya is the equivalent to a teacher’s starting salary in the USA, with the added bonus of no tenure, health plan, or union strikes. Kobayashi insists that Saya is not a replacement (at least not yet), but rather a teacher’s aid. While I am frustrated at times with the educational standard of some of my kids’ teachers, I do not think a robot could ever fulfill the role of nurturing our youth. I still recall fondly my sixth grade teacher pushing me to strive harder. Somehow Saya, or even Hal, could not have the same effect, but that could mean robots have a promising future as school administrators.