A school in Kumamoto, southwest Japan, has implemented a new approach to combat rising truancy rates by using telepresence robots. The initiative aims to encourage absent students to participate remotely in classroom activities and ultimately motivate them to return to school.
The pilot program, set to commence in the coming months, will involve two robots equipped with microphones, speakers, cameras, and a tablet for two-way communication. Students who are absent will control the one-meter-tall robots from home via a computer. The robots will have the ability to maneuver within the school environment, although they may require assistance with navigating obstacles such as stairs.
The increasing number of absenteeism cases in Kumamoto, as well as other areas in Japan, has been attributed to physical and mental health challenges arising from the pandemic. To address this issue, the city has previously introduced virtual classrooms for remote learning. While this has alleviated some anxiety among students hesitant to attend in-person classes, the telepresence robots aim to foster better interaction between students at home and those present in the classroom. This increased engagement is expected to create a more natural and confidence-building experience, potentially leading to a greater likelihood of students returning to school.
An education board representative expressed optimism about the robots’ impact, stating, “Aside from letting them view the classes, the robots allow students to move freely in space and communicate with others at their own will. Hopefully, this can help lower the mental hurdles for truant students.” The trial program is expected to run until March, providing officials with sufficient data to determine its effectiveness and suitability for wider implementation.
Although telepresence robots have been in existence for some time, their widespread adoption has been limited. However, major companies like Honda continue to explore and develop this technology, exhibiting a perpetual interest in its potential applications.
– Mainichi newspaper