In China, robots are being developed to deliver groceries, provide companionship to the elderly, dispense legal advice and now they have joined the ranks of educators in kindergartens.
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.
In one 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.
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.
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 and make facial expressions.
According to the International Federation of Robots, China has the world’s top industrial robot stock, with some 340,000 units in factories across the country engaged in manufacturing and the automotive industry.
The service robot market — which includes devices ranging from specialised medical equipment to automated vacuum cleaners –- is estimated to be worth $1.32 billion last year.
It is expected to grow to $4.9 billion by 2022, said market research firm Research In China.
Last week, Beijing hosted the World Robot Conference, featuring machines that can diagnose diseases, play badminton and wow audiences with their musical skills.
Last year, a group of monks in Beijing created a two-foot-high robot monk dispensing mantras and advice to attaining nirvana.
The iPal — a companion of sorts for children — is the latest humanoid robot to be marketed for family use, following in the footsteps of the diminutive, wisecracking “Pepper” companion released by Japan’s SoftBank in 2015.
The Keeko robots cost about 10,000 yuan ($1,500) — roughly equivalent to the monthly salary of a Chinese kindergarten teacher
But Xie Yi, principal of the kindergarten where Keeko has been put on trial, believes that it will be a long while before robots can completely replace humans in the classroom.
“To teach you must be able to interact, have a human touch, eye contact and facial expressions. These are the things that make an education,” Xie said.
“It’s not just the language or the content, it’s everything.”
She said the Keeko robots, which cost about 10,000 yuan ($1,500), or about the monthly salary of a kindergarten teacher, may have some advantages over a flesh-and-blood educator.
“The best thing about robots? They’re more stable (than humans),” she said with a laugh.
Visa Extends Contract With CAF For 4 Years
Visa, a global leader in payment transactions, has extended its contract with the Confederation of African Football (CAF), as a sponsor of the Total Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) for another four years. This means Visa will sponsor the 2019 and 2021 tournaments.
The sponsorship deal will make Visa the exclusive payment services provider at all venues during the Total AFCON tournaments in 2019 and 2021, and will be the preferred payment option for tickets bought both in-person and online. In addition, Visa will be the official partner of the player escort program, giving over 1,100 children the opportunity to lead their football heroes out at the Total AFCON matches.
CAF President, Ahmad Ahmad, said: “The benefits of investing in African football are clear to see, and with football being the number one passion of consumers across the continent we’re delighted to welcome Visa as a sponsor of the Total AFCON tournament. Through this partnership with CAF, Visa will be able to connect further with its customers and leverage CAF as an innovative marketing platform. Africa is now more connected than ever before, and Visa’s payment network will play a vital role in reaching and rewarding fans across the region. I’m certain that together we will take African football to the next level.”
“Football is the most popular sport in the world with an estimated 4 billion fans and the sport intrinsically aligns with Visa’s values of acceptance and inclusion. The Total Africa Cup of Nations tournament is arguably the most important football event in our region where the best of African football comes together.
We are very proud to begin our association with CAF, Lagardère Sports and the Total AFCON tournament to support the growth of football in our key markets,” said Andrew Torre, Regional President, Central & Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa (CEMEA), Visa,” said Torre.
EFCC Detains University Students Over Cyber Crime
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in Ibadan has arrested 36 suspected internet fraudsters in Ogun State.
The commission’s acting Head, Media and Publicity, Mr Tony Orilade, said this in a statement in Abuja on Thursday.
Orilade stated that the suspects, who were between 19 and 37 years of age, included 23 university students, out of which, nine were ladies who allegedly claimed to be girlfriends and or neighbours of some of the suspects.
He said, “the suspects carry out their activities by sending emails to unsuspecting victims mostly in the United States of America, while others were engaged in romance scam on several dating sites.”
Orilade said other items recovered from the suspects included different models and brands of exotic cars, 18 laptops, 50 cell phones, 300 sim cards and two bags of fetish objects.
The media and publicity acting head said that the suspects would be charged to court after investigation.
Teleology Takes Over 9Mobile
After about eight months when it made the initial $50 million non refundable deposit to acquire 9Mobile, Teleology holdings has been given final approval by the board of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to own the Telecommunications company.
The company has also immediately constituted a new board of directors to manage 9Mobile’s affairs.
One of the new board members, Mohammed Edewor, said Teleology is pleased with all out-going members of the board for helping to shepherd 9Mobile through the critical transition phase it has gone through since July last year.
Teleology was also granted a twenty-day extension to tidy up the payment process and take over 9Mobile. NCC also hinted that even with the final payment, the technical capability of teleology to manage 9Mobile successfully must be put into serious forensic test before operating license could be transferred to it.
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