While some students may relish the idea of a day off from school, many are forced to miss extended periods due to being too sick to attend. This greatly sets the student back in their studies and could make the child feel isolated. One school district in Japan is experimenting with a solution by allowing sick children to attend school by way of robot.
At the Tomobe-Higashi special support school in Kasama, students who are too sick to attend in person are using a robot to take their place. The bot’s name is Ori Hime and it comes from Tokyo based Ory Laboratory.
The pilot program, which started on Oct 31, is aimed at expanding the “scope of learning” by allowing sick children to make them feel like they are actually in the classroom. Tomobe-Higashi has 22 students on-site and 40 pupils who take lessons from five in-hospital classrooms. The school is about 60 miles north of Tokyo.
Ori Hime Robot Can Interact with Teachers and Fellow Students
The remote student controls Ori Hime, who delivers a live video feed, via a tablet. Students can interact with the class by speaking through a mic. The robot can acknowledge teachers and other students by nodding and rotating its head to look around the room. These movements allow the remote students to express how they feel.
As far as size goes, Ori Hime is only about 9 inches high and weighs 1.5 pounds meaning the bot can easily be transported and set up on a school desk.
Robot Avatar Allows Sick Student to Take Science Class
11-year-old Kanae Sudo, who stays at the Ibaraki Children’s Hospital in Mito, used the robot on Oct. 31 to attend a science class for fifth-year elementary school pupils. Ori Hime was set on a desk next to that of another classmate so Kanae could learn about river functions and other topics presented by the teacher.
When spoken to by the teacher, Kanae used the device’s nod function, and when students figured out a correct answer, the robot turned to the classmate and clapped.
“It’s fun to turn the robot in directions I want to look in,” said Sudo.
Ori Hime Was Inspired by CEO’s Own Experience
Ori Hime was partially inspired by Ory Laboratory CEO Kentaro Yoshifuji’s own experience. Between the ages of ten and fourteen, he was unable to attend school due to illness. This inspired him to experiment with ways robots could help people with health issues.
“The robot can easily be operated, and students feel like they are actually attending class,” said Noboru Tachi, the assistant principal of the school. “We will seriously consider introducing it on a full-scale basis.”