A city in southwest Japan plans to let robots attend classes in place of students who miss them due to anxiety, stress and other mental health issues.
How it will work: Equipped with cameras, microphones and speakers, the one-meter-tall robots will let students view and hear lectures, participate in discussions and work with their classmates.
The bots, which are controlled remotely, can also be piloted around the campus, allowing students to participate in extracurricular activities and school-wide events.
Why this matters: The plan was conceived by the Board of Education of the city of Kumamoto in Kyushu Island. According to their data, around 2,760 students in elementary and middle school did not show up to school in the last academic year, doubling figures from 2018, according to The Mainichi Shimbun.
The educators believe that anxiety issues, particularly difficulty in social interactions, may be responsible for the truancy.
“There are some students who have trouble communicating, but have not rejected it entirely,” a spokesperson from Kumamoto’s Board of Education said, as per SoraNews24. “These robots provide a way to lower the hurdle to participating in quasi-experiences [with their classmates], and we hope that will then encourage them to take the next step [towards returning to attending class in person].”
What’s next: If the plan is approved, the robots could be deployed as early as November. The city eyes starting off with two robots, which will be delivered to schools that request them on specific days.