Robot teachers have been given the thumbs up in South Korea, with a government report saying they have been a hit with pupils during a pilot project

The scheme saw robotic English teachers taking lessons in three elementary schools for eight weeks from last December, as well as robot-like machines teaching maths, science and art classes in ten Seoul schools from last November.

The teaching-bots were a combination of fully autonomous robots, which used voice-recognition software to understand what children are saying, and ‘telepresence’ robots, which are controlled remotely by a teacher who monitors the children via video cameras and microphones.

The government report said that the robot trials were a success. ‘The machines spurred creativity and had a positive influence on the attitude of students,’ one Ministry of Knowledge Economy official told the Yonhap news agency.

‘At present there is little market for such machines but with more research conducted on their effectiveness, classroom demand may rise and that can help build up the industry,’ the official added. The project leaders now plan to use what they learned in the study to fix glitches and improve the quality of the robot teaching before expanding the scope of the project.

The plans could eventually see South Korea spending around £30million on rolling out 8,000 robot teachers to pre-schools across the country by 2013, reports suggest. South Korea hopes that the project will both make it a leader in robot teaching technology, and address a shortage of teachers, especially in rural areas.

The robots were mostly manufactured by the Korea Institute of Science and Technology, with ‘Sil-bot’ – a robot originally developed by KIST’s Centre For Intelligent Robotics to take care of the elderly – taking centre stage, as well as their ROTI telepresence robot and FRi face robot.

There have also been trials of robot teachers in Japan, where a humanoid robot named Saya – originally developed to be a robot receptionist – taught a science and technology class in Tokyo elementary school last month.