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Childcare robots start work in Japanese nurseries

12-Sep-17
Article By: Angeline Albert

Robots are being tested out at nurseries in Japan to plug the country’s early years recruitment crisis, which has seen demand for childcare places outstrip supply.

Vevo the robot greets children Credit: Social Solutions

Artificial intelligence that can recognise and welcome children when they arrive at nursery, monitor their movements, sleep, heart rate and even body temperature is being trialled at a nursery in Tokyo.

Under the watchful eye of academics at Gunma University, Vevo the robot is being put to work in one of 27 childcare settings run by Global Bridge Holdings, while a second nursery will test out the robot from October.

“We believe that by supporting childcare education with this robot, we can contribute to resolving the shortage of nursery teacher and improving the quality of education,” said Yuji Takashima, a spokesperson for Social Solutions, a subsidiary of the childcare operator Global Bridge Holdings.

More than 26,000 children were waiting for childcare places in the country last April, according to government figures but low wages and long hours in the job meant finding people to work at nurseries has been tricky. So, Vevo the robot has stepped in to give the sector a hand.

Vevo works under the watchful eye of Gunma University academics Credit Social Solutions Vevo is equipped with facial recognition technology which means it can identify each child.

The robot is embedded with sensors that allow it to monitor a child’s sleep patterns and raise the alarm if it suspects the child is unwell by detecting changes in body temperature using a thermograph.

With a view to selling Vevo to nurseries as a childcare solution, there are plans for the robot to be brought to market to sell for £28,000 (4 million yen) from April 2018.

KASPAR the robot Credit: University of Hertfordshire

Three years ago, UniFa Co. introduced Meebo, a kindergarten robot that takes photos and dances with children.

Robotic innovations aimed at the early years sector are also being used in nurseries in the UK.

KASPAR the robot has - since his artificial birth at the University of Hertfordshire in 2015 - been teaching autistic toddlers in the UK about human emotions and feelings.

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