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Kibot: South Korean Robot Teaches Toddlers English

JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images(SEOUL, South Korea) -- A robot designed to teach kids to speak another language won't take no for an answer in any language. If left alone, it starts moving around the house looking for the kids and bugs them to play.

The Kibot is designed to be part-tutor and part-babysitter for South Korea's hard-working parents who are intent on making sure their children grow up bilingual in a country where English has become a prerequisite for admission at prominent private schools.

The Kibot, built by Korean telecom giant KT Corp., is perfect for Gina Kim, 36, a working mom who puts in 12 hours a day and sometimes on Saturday. The grueling work schedule makes it hard for her to spend time with her two toddlers Joey, 4 and Juwon, 1.

For many Korean parents in Gina's tech-savvy generation, a new intelligent robot for toddlers is worth the hefty price of $450.

"We've tried all interactive educational toys, but this one actually initiates interaction both in Korean and in English," said husband Ryun Chung, 38, who prides himself as an early adaptor of new technologies.

The foot-tall monkey-faced Kibot reads, sings, and teaches in multiple languages. When left alone for some time it strolls around the house by itself searching for the children and starts conversations with them, and asks to be played with.

Kibot's big breakthrough is that the robot is a wired communicating device, connected through Wi-Fi at home at all times. Its face-to-face video phone function is designed to make it easy enough for toddlers to operate and from the parents' side, the robot could be controlled from a smartphone by calling in.

Unlike other webcams or CCTVs on where the cameras are installed in a fixed place, Kim calls into her Kibot and uses her smartphone as a remote control. She then can move the robot around the house to actually go search for the kids.

When she has a few spare moments at the office, Kim can remotely download new interactive games and play with the kids.

Joey can also video call her mother by simply tapping a "mommy" card on Kibot's nose. The cards include data filled with words, books and songs.

They are equipped with intelligent barcodes which makes it possible for the robot to instantly recognize the message and take action.

Plenty of educational programs are wirelessly downloadable and there's no synchronizing involved.

All this is possible because 98 percent of Korean homes have broadband access, which puts South Korea on top of the world's most wired countries list.

The cutting-edge robot is priced at 485,000 won (US $450) with a monthly service fee of 7,000 won (USD $6.50).

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio