The 1-meter (3.28 feet) egg-shaped robot, named “Engkey” (an abbreviation of English key), spoke, asked questions and conversed in English with students, and even entertained the crowd by dancing to music.
(From here - it seems there was more than one.)
Of course it danced. If there's no dancing, it's not English education.
Within each of them, in a sense, is a real human teacher controlling the machine by remote from the Philippines. The teachers in the Philippines have cameras to record their faces - which show up on a flat panel screen that forms the robo-teacher’s face - and they can also see the Korean students through a camera installed in the robot. Basically, the robot is a rolling Internet link between students and teacher, although the human teacher can also command the robot to make human gestures with its arms and wheels.Rolling forwards, backwards and from side to side is what separates humans from other animals, that's for sure.
Were's then told that “The robots will teach students in after-school programs, not in regular classes,” Kim Mi-yong, an official at the education office, said. “The robot can handle only a small number of students per class, about eight students.” How useful! No wonder they are being considered helpful for children living in rural areas where "foreigners [or anyone else, for that matter] are reluctant to live." Those kinds of schools would be the only ones with class sizes small enough for the robots to be effective. We're also told that
The English-speaking robot has already made headlines in the foreign media. Time magazine dubbed it one of the 50 best inventions of 2010.Time also declared, back in 2006, that then Seoul Mayor Lee Myung-bak was a green warrior dedicated to the environment, and is responsible for this poorly written article, so I don't know how far Koreans should go in listening to Time (the latter article has already gotten attention here).
According to the Korean language version of the article, Lee Eun-suk, who is in charge of after school education, said that, "There are no significant differences between this and direct instruction by a native speaking teacher." She also noted that their correct pronunciation would be a big help for English education for children.
The English language article ends by saying that, “We will continue to study to improve its teaching ability until it’s very close to that of real human teachers.”
Golly, I wonder if that means Korean teachers' jobs will soon disappear?