Joshua Martinangeli (7) is too sick to go to school. But the German student can still communicate with his teacher and classmates through an avatar robot that sits in place in the classroom and flashes when he has something to say.
“The kids talk to him, laugh with him and sometimes even chat with him during class. Joshi is very good at that too,” Ute Winterberg, director of the Pusteblume-Grundschule in Berlin, told Reuters in an interview.
Joshua is unable to attend classes because he wears a tube on his neck due to a serious lung disease, his mother, Simone Martinangeli, said.
The project is a private initiative funded by the municipality in the Berlin district of Marzahn-Hellersdorf.
“We are the only district in Berlin to have bought four avatars for its schools. The impetus was COVID-19, but I think this will be the future that will be well beyond the pandemic,” said district councilor Torsten Kuehne.
“It happens from time to time, for various reasons, that a child cannot go to class in person. Then the avatar can give that child a chance to be part of the school community,” Kuehne said.
He added that he had already brought the project up in state-level political discussions.
“I like it anyway because I like the avatar,” student Noah Kuessner said when asked if he was looking forward to seeing Joshua again.
“And I’d like it better if Joshi could actually come to school,” said another classmate, Beritan Alanglu.
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