The South Korean capital has started trialing pint-sized robots as teaching aids in kindergartens — a pilot project the Seoul City Government said would help prepare the next generation for a high-tech future.
The “Alpha Mini” robot is just 24.5cm tall and can dance, lead sing-a-longs, recite stories and even teach martial arts moves, as children mimic its pushups and one-legged balances.
“The robots help with the kids’ creativity,” teacher Byun Seo-yeon told Agence France-Presse during a visit to the bright and busy Maru nursery in Seoul.
The robot’s eyes wink and blink — and its pupils become heart-shaped during conversation.
With a camera on its helmet, it takes photographs that are instantly sent to a tablet for viewing.
“In the future, knowing how to manage AI [artificial intelligence] and related tools will be very important,” said Han Dong-seog, an official at the city government’s childcare division.
The robots are trialed in 300 Seoul nurseries and childcare centers, with the government recommending the program for children aged three to five.
“We believe having this experience in nursery schools will have a lasting effect throughout their youth and as adults,” Han said.
The Alpha Mini has been adopted as part of a daily schedule for the class of four to five-year-old students at Maru, with its ability to “fart” on command being a highlight during playtime.
“When I tell it to sing, it sings well. I tell it to dance and we dance together,” five-year-old Lee Ga-yoon said.
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