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Saya The Gynoid ~ Telepresence and Automated Teacher

Saya is an older gynoid from Japan. Developed in 2004, her initial role was as a robot receptionist; she sat in a chair in Ben Gurion University's reception area, and dealt with queries as they came in. At the time, the gynoid was only capable of very basic commands: Directions to places in the building, essentially.

However, in the five years since, this robotics project has not been idle, and her makers have been continually improving her. Like most gynoids, she is as realistically human as her creator, professor Hiroshi Kobayashi of the Tokyo University of Science can make her - which is to say, not much. Saya's skin is pulled taut over her robotic features in an attempt to make her more human-looking. Her skin is rubber, instead of the more advanced synthetic skins developed for later model gynoids, but the aspects that make her humanish, lay in her emotions, and facial movements, not her skin.

Saya can express six basic emotions - surprise, fear, disgust, anger, happiness, and sadness. The emotions are articulated through changes in her expression, as her skin is deformed by subsurface actuators.

"Robots that look human tend to be a big hit with young children and the elderly, ", Professor Hiroshi Kobayashi stated when demonstrating her educational capabilities in early 2009. "Children even start crying when they are scolded."

Saya's educational career started at the beginning of 2009, when she was placed in a classroom with a handful of children aged between 10 and 12 years old. Saya still cannot do very much: she can call out children's names, monitor the nose level, and tell the children to be quiet, even recognise individual children. However, that is about the limit of her capability. She sits at her desk, and does not walk around the room, although her head moves.

However, there is more to her than her AI. Upon command, Saya's eye-cameras are turned over to a remote operator, who can turn her head, engage her emotional routines and speak through her mouth, instructing the children on what to do next in the classroom. Very handy, if the teacher is unavoidably called away, and would like to continue to monitor their class, even if there is no sentient teacher to take over.

Kobayashi says Saya is just meant to help people and warns against getting hopes up too high for its possibilities.

"The robot has no intelligence. It has no ability to learn. It has no identity," he said. "It is just a tool."

Saya in action


Saya, Robot secretary

Japanese Elementary School Kids Now Being Taught by Saya the Robot

Robot teacher that can take the register and get angry

Professor Hiroshi Kobayashi & Saya

Staff Comments


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