North Korea seeks to boost education with toy-like robots
SEOUL — A toy-like robot with scowling blue eyes and a North Korean flag across its chest roams around a classroom at a university in Pyongyang in a recent demonstration of tools aimed at helping children learn basic maths, music, and English.
The footage, broadcast by North Korean state television KRT, also showed two other larger plastic robots, each with a vaguely humanoid appearance.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been pushing for education reform in recent years by spurring technological and scientific innovation.
“I help teach educational technology that enhances children’s intelligence,” said the 80-centimeter (31.5 inches) tall robot in a female voice, waving its arms.
A second robot featured a smiley face on a screen embedded inside a white round head, while another wore a blue plastic suit and white-rimmed glasses, the KRT footage showed.
Park Kum Hee, a professor at a university in Pyongyang, told KRT that the development of the educational robots had its challenges initially, with the robots often shaking their heads when asked questions in both Korean and foreign languages.
“Upgrading this robot’s intelligence was difficult for me as someone who majored in psychology,” said Park.
“It was the words of our respected Comrade General Secretary (Kim Jong Un) on adopting artificial intelligence technology in education that has always guided me on the right track.”
The KRT footage showed primary school students wearing masks repeating after the robot in music, math, and English class.
“Hello? Nice to meet you. Nice to meet you, too. What’s your name?” said two children in English at the front of the class.
North Korea reopened schools in June of last year but made it mandatory for children to wear masks in classes and washing stations were installed.
The reclusive country has not officially reported a single coronavirus case, but it has imposed strict anti-virus measures, including border closures and domestic travel curbs, and experts have said an outbreak there cannot be ruled out.