The Japanese public has been shocked recently by a number of incidents involving violence close to schools. So, why not recruit a new employee to stand guard at the school entrance. . . and if the new employee also happens to be child size, always on the alert, and already dressed in school bus yellow, so much the better. . .
Wakamaru, the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries robot usually promoted as "My Home Robot" is being put to work, at least initially on an experimental basis, as an elementary school security guard in the Setagaya district of Tokyo.
The robot will position itself near the school entrance to greet students, staff, and visitors. When an individual comes within 4 meters, it asks them to hold an IC identification card up to a contactless card reader installed in its hand. If a person doesn't have one of the IC cards, then it gives them instructions and directions. It can also capture their image using a built-in digital camera.
Wakamaru is exceedingly "cute"
which helps a lot to get robot
applications like this easily accepted
by parents and students.
Wakamaru can also greet the children by name, welcoming them back to school as they enter the school yard. An additional side benefit is that the staff will be able to monitor the students coming and going more closely - and potentially decrease truancy. There are plans to interface the system to the internet so that parents can check the times their children entered and left the school grounds.
Robot Guards Tokyo Elementary School via Asahi.com (Japanese)