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Robotics Education

South Korea Introducing Robotic Teachers 210

dorkygeek writes "The Korean Advanced Intelligent Robot Association (KAIRA) will have 64 educational robots deployed by the end of 2005. Able to read out English stories and correct pronunciation of English words to children, these robots are going to be supplied to apartment complexes in Seoul, Bucheon and Bundang in Gyeonggi province for testing purposes. After testing is complete, the Ministry of Information and Communication and KAIRA plan to commercialize the robots as early as 2006. If there exists sufficient demand, education robots will sport other subjects (as mathematics, etc.) apart from English, as well as also target older students." Update Link removed when host decided to change it to porn. Sorry.
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South Korea Introducing Robotic Teachers

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @04:05AM (#13710663)
    Pushing is the solution!

    No, shoving, shoving is the solution!

    The humans mustn't learn the terrible secret of time and space! We must shove the humans down the stairs!

  • Sweet... (Score:5, Funny)

    by commodoresloat ( 172735 ) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @04:05AM (#13710664)
    And if you misbehave in class, forget being sent to the principal's office. RoboProf will just spit fire [engadget.com] at you!
    • Apparently, nobody over there saw Class of 1999 [imdb.com].

      Once again, Malcolm McDowell--and a killer robot--has shown us the way.
    • Time to bring excuses up to date as well.

      Unless someone has managed to to satisfy the Turing test while I wasn't looking, this whole thing is scripted anyway - just an educational ELIZA, and about as much use.
    • EnglishBot: "Very good, student #31. Except the word you are having difficulty with is pronounced "Pronunciation key #541 not found!"
  • Obligatory (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @04:06AM (#13710666)
    I for one.... oh why bother.
  • by Brent Spiner ( 919505 ) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @04:06AM (#13710667) Homepage
    robots that can help young students pronounce English words
    So basically they've discovered Speak n' Spell.
    • Re:Sounds Familiar (Score:2, Insightful)

      by jedZ ( 571869 )
      Exactly. Electronic educational aids/toys have been around for ages. What does lookin like a robot have to do with anything?
    • and it uses microsft text to speech engine!
    • It says that it will be able to read books. I would think that would mean ocr of any book. One can get leap frog to read special and expensive books already. One can go to the library and get books on tape too. I would hope that it would have speech recognition too. Anything less than that would be boring.
    • Except they shouldn't have called it "speak n spell"...they should've called it "Speak Like the Devil". I would wake up at 3 AM "PlaaY WuuTH meE"...

      (dane cook)
  • by aussie_a ( 778472 ) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @04:08AM (#13710673) Journal
    Kid: Wewwy Robot: No, it's worry. Kid: disk Robot: No, it's dicks. Kid: Hex Robot: No, it's sexual intercourse.
  • Mr Explete-o-matic (Score:4, Interesting)

    by St0rmwarden ( 759530 ) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @04:11AM (#13710677)
    "...can connect the robots to the Net, and then download contents of their choice from the ministry's Web site." Can anyone else see where this is going - how long did it take them to hack the PSP? And people thought that teaching furbies to swear was a bad enough influence on children...
    • by hyu ( 763773 )
      And people thought that teaching furbies to swear was a bad enough influence on children...

      That's not the only fun you can have with a Furby. If you drop one from a high enough height, and it lands right, it will start going insane, eyes blinking uncontrollably, and making excited little noises. It's actually pretty scary. The only way to make it stop is to open it up and tear out the batteries.

      But more to the point, about the hackable robots. Surely this is something we need to expect, is it not? I mean, t
  • Interesting indeed (Score:5, Interesting)

    by zeridon ( 846747 ) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @04:11AM (#13710680) Homepage
    Very interesting. Apart from the impact that this have concerning human mind and perception that is indeed a beautifull invention. I am very interested what algorhytms they have used for voice detection.
    Just take in mind that theese metal cans must understand childs, which are so easily distracted and with so many different types of voices and speaches.
    Think about the fact that theese robots should have somehow nice look and to be unobtrusive.
    • You obviously want me to suggest that you yourself require one or more of these robot teachers on account of your spelling and grammar, but I won't fall for such easy bait.
    • Some how, the English of the post made me think of a computer speaking Jar Jar Bink's dialog. GOD! THE HUMANITY!!
    • This will make it much easier to take out South Korea.


    • I was thinking how it would not be so tough for this Robot to correct pronunciation (in marketing terms) if it was giving the kids the word they were supposed to say. Electro-Arf says; "Vote today". Boy responds "Rote todaa". Electro-Arf corrects; "No, Vote Today".

      In fact, you could just have a tape recorder and just keep repeating "No [something I just said]".

      I mean, we are talking about marketing hype -- not necessarily science. I expect a mass release and huge sales and then this device will show up as a
  • Kids meet your new assistant principal...robocop!
    • Kids meet your new assistant principal...robocop!

      Apparently, the ED209 teacher models had a few bugs in them...

      ED209: "Warning! You have entered Western European Art 101! Lethal force has been engaged! Write a ten page essay on the Flemish Art in the 1500's! You have ten seconds to comply! 10... 9... 8..."
  • by Wonderkid ( 541329 ) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @04:21AM (#13710700) Homepage
    Huggable Unreliable Malitious Adorable Naughty Which is why they are indispendible.
    • This is to language learning what spellcheck is to essay writing, and long overdue.

      The purpose of formal language instruction is to teach rules. The advanced classes can have human teachers.
  • Does any one know a good setup like this for teaching English to Chinese speakers, or teaching any language to Enlgish speakers?

    • NOT HOW YOU LEARN (Score:3, Insightful)

      by milimetric ( 840694 )
      here's an easy system for learning a different language. Go to a place in your country where people speak only that language. The embarasment and need to know will make you learn the language. Droning words like an idiot will do nothing but make you stupider.

      That's always bothered me about ESL programs and people *trying* to learn a different language by going to school and hanging out with a bunch of kids that speak the same foreign language as them. Guess what ... to learn a language you HAVE to use i
  • by Neo-Rio-101 ( 700494 ) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @04:43AM (#13710749)
    Considering English teachers in Japan and Korea are basically treated like human tape recorders (yes, I've been there, and I've done that) I've often felt that we could be replaced by robots.... we've joked about it, and now they've done it!

    I'm speechless...

    I know Japan keeps complaining that it can't learn English well despite all the teachers, but hell.... this isn't the solution. I dunno about Koreans, but the reason why the Japanese can't learn English is because generally speaking they lack the social skills required to meet foreign people in the first place. The Japanese culture never seems to give them a chance to meet strangers, display self-confidence or exuberance, or speak their minds enough to communicate on a different level othen than their own langauge in their own culture. We could argue all day about how speaking with robots, for anyone of any culture, isn't going to help anyone achieve the goal of improved human interaction skills.
    • The reason japanese people cannot speak in english is because the japanese language is very limited in sounds, so when they try to talk something else is impossible for them. I study in a japanese university and in general people has a good grammar and vocabulary, but its really difficult for them to talk. And reading is the same story, they are used to read kanji and not letters.
    • that Japanese, in comparison to English, has far fewer sounds and a completely alien grammar. It simply takes a huge amount of effort for a native speaker of one of these languages to learn the other.
    • by aendeuryu ( 844048 ) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @05:17AM (#13710836)
      Don't know about Japan, but Korea's biggest problem is that English education here has exploded to the point that the standards for hiring teachers are frighteningly low. Generally, all they require is that you have any university degree from an English speaking country. A B.Ed or a TESOL certificate will get you higher pay, and a Masters or higher will get you a shot at a university gig, but it's really not hard for someone with a degree in something totally unrelated to teaching and/or English to get a cushy job in a metropolitan-area middle school. Of course, the fact that the english alphabet has some subtleties that the Korean alphabet (for want of a better word) lacks, means that it helps to have someone in the room demonstrating (for instance) how to differentiate between the 'b' and 'v' phonetics. But when you get right down to it you've got a ton of people in the position of authoritative English instructors who, in terms of their qualifications, are getting regarded and paid more than they're worth.

      What's happened is that English education has become its own industry with tons of hagwons (private after-school academies) popping up all over, both legal and illegal. They really just need a white guy or girl to help with sales. That they prefer white people is in itself a symptom of the problem -- they bring foreigners over to teach not because they're more qualified (maybe as english speakers, but hardly as teachers) but because they're convinced that a parent is more likely to send their kid to a hagwon if they see whitey interacting directly with the kids. Please note, that's a criticism of the schools, which can often be quite shadey, not the parents, who run the full gamut from loving every foreigner who comes into their country to being somewhat xenophobic.

      Not all schools, and not necessarily even hagwons, are all that bad, but treating education as a business has become a problem that's even penetrated the public school system. It might get worse before it gets better, and it's too bad, because I think they're hoping for faster results than are realistic.

      Anyhow, I doubt the robot thing will catch on, at least not to the point that I'll be out of a job (I've been here 3 years now and still going), but it is emblematic of a culture that's taking pretty radical approaches to English education. Correcting kids' pronunciation? That's hard to do without a human mouth over-enunciating things, and the brain wiring needed to instantly differentiate between almost-homonyms ('bet' and 'vet', for instance).

      What's more, discipline is often an issue when teaching in Korea, which means that they're going to need teachers there ANYWAY. Although, it might be fun watching a robot putting the kids in line.
      • by Neo-Rio-101 ( 700494 ) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @06:19AM (#13710991)
        That's not too different to Japan. Firstly, the biggest "eikaiwa" (english conversation) school is run by the yakuza AFAIK. They have a high staff turnover to keep the faces fresh and just-off-the-boat.

        The Japanese haven't gone as far as the Koreans in the robot department (yet, but it's only a matter of time), nor are they having surgery to their mouths so that they can pronounce English yet. To me, the problem has never been pronounciation - but simple lack of ability to socialize, even in their own language. The pronunciation is not THAT important as long as the message gets across. Their conversation only ever gets as far as "do you like sushi?" because in Japanese, that's one of the only safe topics you can start a conversation with. Asking them to have an opinion on something, introduce themselves, talk about what they like, stand out from the crowd, or provide debate usually leads most students to panic because all these things are unwritten taboo in Japanese culture. They tend to believe that self-expression causes conflict with other people's feelings, although how they rationalize this I don't know. End result is that in class they just sit there in muted silence, unable to say anything for fear of insulting somebody, or getting the pronounciation wrong for the first 100 times as you normally would during the learning process. At the end, most teachers pull their hair out in frustration, as getting angry and forcing discipline on the students only makes them run away.

        The other problem with English in Japan as I see it, is that English is treated as a status symbol (for job prospects, or showing off that you have a hobby, or for meeting a foreign guy for marriage, etc) rather than as an actual form of communication. That, and the Japanese are jealous that we are more outgoing and sociable people than they are - and have blonde hair and blue eyes.

        Sorry, I've been here too long.... must stop being so cynical....
      • So how do you go about getting one of these Korean English teaching jobs?
    • Meeting the freaked out Army Men(who're known for their notoreity of doing things where you actually don't need to speak!) in Okinawa does not really count as "meeting strangers"
    • Speaking is the core of human social behavior. Does anybody else think it's bizarre and maybe counterproductive to attempt to separate the behavior from society of any sort?
  • i wonder if kids learning english this way will end up with that weird text-to-speech dr. sbaitso accent. that would be sweet! 20 years from now we'll have a whole new group of people whose accents we can make fun of.
  • ...as well as also target older students."

    Are they subcontracting the manufacturing of the robots to Cyberdyne Systems?

  • the fun they had (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kae_verens ( 523642 ) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @05:10AM (#13710821) Homepage
    http://web.csuchico.edu/~ah24/the_fun.htm [csuchico.edu]

    Isaac Asimov story about robotic teachers, and nostalgia for simpler times
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @05:44AM (#13710906)
    http://joongangdaily.joins.com/200510/02/200510022 148293739900090609062.html [joins.com]

    it's possible that their server has been compromised. it looks like the printable version of this article will display Mr Goatse. but the original article page is fine. so yeah.. don't click on the Print icon. unless that sorta thing turns you on.
  • High School (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Seems like most of the teachers I had growing up were fairly robotic. Not much of a difference here.
  • I see ... (Score:1, Funny)

    by BlueTrin ( 683373 )
    that's why koreans can't speak proper english, they should try to use their mouth to speak not their a...
  • Anything that can be slightly changed to AKIRA is scary in my books. What could possibly go wrong? ("Learn English" commercial anyone?)
  • "Put down your spit-ball gun, you have 20 seconds to comply!"
  • When speaking to a student, can they say "Exterminate" correctly?
  • ... and have been used with great success in Iraq [slashdot.org].
  • Year from now, South Korea is announcing world domination.
  • Sounds like... fun.
  • Robotic Catholic nuns?

    Ouch! That broke my arm!
  • Headlines of the future: "Koreans Create Robot to play Starcraft! White People Shudder in Fear!"
  • It seems to me that using a robot is a way too fancy technology that is not very functional. My children have a leap pad which teaches them to read when they move a wand over it. Costs about $30 each if I remember right. They play $10-$30 dollar computer games on my computer that I use for my work. It's all functional. Robots are not.

    Robots are for when you need the robot to move around. That functionality is utterly irrelevant to teaching children to read, thus a robot is irrelevant to teaching techn
    • Robotics is being pushed as another manufacturing industry to provide jobs and keep the various economies stimulated. They have to find uses for them. You could replace "teacher" with some other occupation and have the same story. A robotic street sweeper for instance, or a light bulb changer, whatever. Politician. heh

      At least that is my guess on the subject, that and robots are just considered cool, there's a lot more interest in the Asian nations than in the west for them apparently, and manufacturing in
  • so how the heck did they. I mean look at the grammar correction in word and see how horrible it is. The English language is so complex and convuluted at times, I seriously wonder how anyone can figure it out, save the English teachers (but I question some of their knowledge).

    I still support the fact the the forms of be are one of the hardest parts of English language. Listen to a child or even an English as a Second Language individual and one of the most common mistakes they make it leaving out be-wor
  • Annyong-haseo! Just make sure that if you use the robots for marking assignments, you should keep a PAPER TRAIL ;-) -JLL
  • Didn't the South Koreans just announce a little while back that they were going to start building robot soldiers? And now they are building robot teachers.
  • Yeah I can see that providing a consistent educational experience. A robot would be a better instructor than some of the worst teachers I've had, but I doubt one could be as good an instructor as the best teachers I've had. Despite the fact that the bad teachers far outnumber the worst ones, I would not have gone as far as I did in math and science without the good ones.
  • to make sure none of these end up Governor of Louisiana. The last teacher model didn't work very well.
  • What are the odds of getting some of these into the barrio, the projects, or at least the trailer park.
  • Why stop there, why not introduce robotic students and then just do away with people completely.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @10:02AM (#13711985)
    Update Link removed when host decided to change it to porn. Sorry.

    You're sorry the original link isn't available, or you're sorry for depriving us of the pr0n?

  • Anyone else envision an army of of marching korean children speaking in monotone, broken robot-english?
  • by lthown ( 737539 ) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @10:34AM (#13712393)
    step 1: post link on Slashdot
    step 2: change address to porn site
    step 3: profit!

    I knew someone would finally discover the second step.
  • I hear if you making learning semi-interactive, that really reinforces it yet. I've heard of some good language training DVDs coming on the market, but they're price (several hundred dollars a set). They stimulate the senese with images and voice, and encourage interactive exercises. Much better than the dull language-lab tapes when I was in school.
  • by srobert ( 4099 ) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @11:39AM (#13713151)
    Hi kids. I'm your home room robot. Study hard so that when you grow up you'll be qualified for a good job, which by then will also be performed by robots.

  • by silverbax ( 452214 ) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @11:52AM (#13713271)
    Step 1: The U.S. places robot teachers in schools throughout the U.S.

    Step 2: Innovative students figure out how to trick out, steal and profit from millions of dollars of hardware sitting in the classroom. Think about hackers who use major universities' computers, then extrapolate. Robots are modded for fun, or stolen to be sold to anyone who could use the parts or robot.

    Step 3: Robots are armed with self defense equipment to prevent theft and vandalism.

    Step 4: Robots rise up and slay us all. One positive note is that global warming immediately gets under control.
  • by Peter Trepan ( 572016 ) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @01:09PM (#13713976)
    function checkAttendance(){
    if (!isPresent(Bueller)){
    echo "Bueller?";
    • Oooh, bad code! If Bueller isn't present, this will eat all available memory and crash the Teacher.
      Improved code:

      function checkAttendance(){
      while (!isPresent("Bueller")){
      echo "Bueller?";

      This version of Steinbot properly executes.
      • Oh, fine. If you're going to impugn my mad ski11z...

        function checkAttendance(student){
            count = 0;
            if (!isPresent(student) && count < 3){
                echo student."?";

  • You mean my math teacher in high school WASN'T a robot? I'm stunned
  • next steps: (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    -> replace pupils by robots
    -> replace homeless and welfare receivers by robots

Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later. -- F. Brooks, "The Mythical Man-Month"