Avatar robot goes to school for sick German boys

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Joshua Martinangeli, 7, is too ill to go to school. But the German student can still interact with his teacher and classmates via an avatar robot that sits in his place in class and sends a blinking signal when he has something to say.

“The kids talk to him, laugh with him and sometimes even chat with him during class. Joshi is also quite good at it,” said Ute Winterberg, headmistress of the Pusteblume primary school in Berlin, in an interview with Reuters.

Joshua is unable to attend classes because he has a tube in his throat due to a serious lung condition, his mother Simone Martinangeli said.

The project is a private initiative of the community in the Berlin district of Marzahn-Hellersdorf.

“We are the only district in Berlin that has purchased four avatars for its schools. The impetus was COVID-19, but I think that will be the future far beyond the pandemic,” said District Education Councilor Torsten Kühne.

“There are times when a child is unable to attend class in person for a variety of reasons. Then the avatar can give the child the opportunity to remain part of the school community,” said Kühne.

He has already brought the project into the political discussions at the state level, he added.

“I like it either way because I like the avatar,” said student Noah Kuessner when asked if he was looking forward to seeing Joshua again.

“And I would prefer if Joshi could actually come to school,” said another classmate, Beritan Aslanglu.

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