The pilot project began Monday at 21 schools in the southeastern city of Daegu, Agence France-Presse reported. The robots are controlled by English teachers in the Philippines, whose facial images are displayed on screens atop the 3-1/2-foot-tall, egg-shaped device developed by the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST).
"The kids seemed to love it since the robots look, well, cute and interesting," said Daegu education official Kim Mi-Young, The Daily Mail reported. "But some adults also expressed interest, saying they may feel less nervous talking to robots than a real person."
Third-grader Sim Geun-hae declared the experiment "awesome and interesting," the South Korean JoonAng Daily reported. "I felt I could learn English better," he told the newspaper. Daegu education officials said that if the students take a liking to the robots, more will be introduced to other schools.
While the verdict is still out as to what parents think of the cyber-instructors, one of the developers thinks the robots already have an advantage. "They won't complain about health insurance, sick leave and severance package, or leave in three months for a better-paying job in Japan," KIST senior scientist Sagong Seong-Dae told The Daily Mail. "All you need is a repair and upgrade every once in a while."