Education chiefs in Japan say a new hi-tech scheme will allow children to send a robot avatar to school instead of attending themselves.
The project, which is due to start in the city of Kumamoto, Kyushu island, in November, is aimed at anxious pupils who say they are too nervous to go to school in person.
Instead, says Kumamoto City Board of Education, they will be allowed to send in a robot avatar that will send back everything it sees and hears during a school day.
Stay-home students will even be able to talk to other pupils through microphones and speakers built into their three-foot high bot.
Officials hope that they will see there is nothing to be nervous about and decide to come to classes, according to local media.
City official Maki Yoshizato told local media: “Communicating through these robots is not completely real-life, but it can at least give a certain sense of reality to kids who are still unsure and afraid of interacting with others.
“We hope this undertaking will help alleviate their psychological fears.”
However, social media users have been horrified by the plan saying it seems to come straight from the Bruce Willis sci-fi horror movie ‘Surrogates’.
In the movie, people never leave home and live through computers that hook them up to their better-looking android avatars living their lives for them.
Kumamoto education officials said at a meeting to discuss the plan on 4th September that there was a rising number of children too scared for school.
The education board said: “There are some students who have trouble communicating but may well still be persuaded to come back into a physical presence in school.
“The robots will help to ease them back into participating in classes by giving them an intermediate stage which will hope will encourage them to then take the next step and attend in person themselves.”
Robot avatars are a development of an earlier project to create a virtual classroom.
It would allow children sitting at home to feel as if they’re sitting in a VR school room.
Kumamoto city has a population of 735,000 people and the latest figures show that 2,760 children are not attending school, twice as many as in 2018.
If the board agrees to the programme two robot bodies will be commissioned to launch in November, with more to follow if it is successful.
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