Robots in pre-schools, solar-powered Wi-Fi among Singapore’s plans

Robots in pre-schools, solar-powered Wi-Fi among Singapore’s plans

SoftBank's emotion-reading robot Pepper is seen before a photo session at the company's headquarters in Tokyo on May 19, 2016. The robot is being piloted at My First Skool Jurong Point in Singapore to complement pre-school learning. (Reuters photo)
SoftBank's emotion-reading robot Pepper is seen before a photo session at the company's headquarters in Tokyo on May 19, 2016. The robot is being piloted at My First Skool Jurong Point in Singapore to complement pre-school learning. (Reuters photo)

SINGAPORE — Telling stories and singing songs, robots could be your child’s next learning companion in pre-school if a pilot by the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) proves successful.

Two social robots named Pepper and NAO have been piloted at My First Skool Jurong Point and MY World @ Bukit Panjang since April, TODAY reported on Tuesday.

The pilot, which will run until October, will study the impact of social robots on early education, in the areas of collaborative play and interactive storytelling, as well as help teachers develop lesson plans to integrate social robots in pre-schools. Teachers will be trained to use robots in lessons during the trial period.

The IDA is partnering with SoftBank Telecom Singapore and the Nanyang Technological University Robotics Research Centre.

Speaking at the Infocomm Media Business eXchange opening ceremony on Tuesday, Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim stressed the need to “start with the young and help them learn skills for the future — computational thinking, coding, design thinking and also story-telling”.

In his speech, Yaacob shared on the progress of Infocomm Media 2025, the plan to build a globally competitive infocomm and media ecosystem in Singapore.

He announced that Wireless@SG will be extended across more outdoor spaces, such as through a new Green Wi-Fi pilot at Sentosa from this June to September next year. To be deployed along the Merlion Walk, the pilot will explore using solar energy to power outdoor Wi-Fi so as to save costs and be environmentally sustainable.

Sentosa now has more than 200 hotspots across various outdoor locations.

“If this pilot is successful, we could potentially expand Wireless@SG to reach more outdoor areas in a sustainable manner and bring the public Wifi coverage in Singapore to the next level,” said Yaacob, noting that deploying Wi-Fi outdoors is usually difficult and costly.

During his speech, Yaacob also said that the government will be forming a governing council comprising industry and government representatives and sector committees to coordinate the Tech Skills Accelerator, an initiative announced earlier this year to help Singaporeans acquire in-demand skills and place them in jobs.

The initiative will broadly cover two areas: Building foundational skills like cybersecurity and data analytics, and building specialised skill sets. Infocommunications Media Development Authority chief executive Gabriel Lim will oversee the initiative.




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