Upon returning to class after the Golden Week holidays, students at a Tokyo elementary school were delighted to find their teacher had been replaced by a robot. The talking humanoid, named "Saya," was originally developed as a receptionist robot in 2004 by professor Hiroshi Kobayashi of the Tokyo University of Science, but has recently begun taking on work as a substitute teacher.
Amused students poke Saya's soft face
The robot, which can speak multiple languages, uses facial expressions to facilitate communication. With an array of motors in her head that stretch the soft synthetic skin into various positions, Saya can display emotions ranging from happiness and surprise to sadness and anger.
However, Saya needs to work on improving her classroom management skills. At present, she can't do much more than call out names and shout orders like "Be quiet." But that does not make her any less popular with the kids.
"Robots that look human tend to be a big hit with young children and the elderly," Kobayashi recently told the Associated Press. "Children even start crying when they are scolded."