The Borneo Post - Good English - - Short Story Section -

BEI­JING: The Chi­nese kinder­garten chil­dren gig­gled as they worked to solve puz­zles as­signed by their new teach­ing as­sis­tant: a roundish, short ed­u­ca­tor with a screen for a face.

Just un­der 60 cen­time­tres (two feet) high, the

au­ton­o­mous ro­bot named Keeko has been a hit in sev­eral kinder­gartens, telling sto­ries and chal­leng­ing chil­dren with logic prob­lems.

Round and white with a tubby body, the arm­less ro­bot zips around on tiny wheels, its in­built cam­eras dou­bling up both as nav­i­ga­tional sen­sors and a front-fac­ing cam­era al­low­ing users to record video jour­nals.

In China, ro­bots are be­ing de­vel­oped to de­liver

gro­ceries, pro­vide com­pan­ion­ship to the el­derly, dis­pense le­gal ad­vice and now, as Keeko’s cre­ators hope, join the ranks of ed­u­ca­tors.

At the Yiswind In­sti­tute of Mul­ti­cul­tural Ed­u­ca­tion on the out­skirts of Bei­jing, the chil­dren have been tasked to help a prince find his way through a desert — by putting to­gether square mats that rep­re­sent a path taken by the ro­bot — part sto­ry­telling and part prob­lem-solv­ing.

Each time they get an an­swer right, the de­vice re­acts with de­light, its face flash­ing heart-shaped eyes.

“Ed­u­ca­tion to­day is no longer a one-way street, where the teacher teaches and stu­dents just learn,” said Candy Xiong, a teacher trained in early child­hood ed­u­ca­tion who now works with Keeko Ro­bot Xi­a­men Tech­nol­ogy as a trainer.

“When chil­dren see Keeko with its round head and body, it looks adorable and chil­dren love it. So when they see Keeko, they al­most in­stantly take to it,” she added.

Keeko ro­bots have en­tered more than 600 kinder­gartens across the coun­try with its mak­ers hop­ing to ex­pand into Greater China and South­east Asia.

Bei­jing has in­vested money and man­power in de­vel­op­ing ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence as part of its “Made in China 2025” plan, with a Chi­nese firm last year un­veil­ing the coun­try’s first hu­man-like ro­bot that can hold sim­ple con­ver­sa­tions.

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