An Iranian teacher has come up with an innovative way of encouraging young children to say their daily prayers – by designing a robot to present religious practice to his students in the classroom.
Akbar Rezaie now teaches the Koran to boys and girls at the Alborz elementary school in the town of Varamin with the help of his humanoid robot Veldan.
The robot has been introduced into classes to provide a visual example of prayer that is more likely to capture the attention of children.
He told The Associated Press a Western dancing and singing doll was the inspiration behind his device.
"Once I was at a family gathering where there was a little girl playing with a doll that could dance and sing. I saw her watching the doll passionately and it made me contemplate on a making a device that can be used for both religious and entertaining purposes," he said.
Mr Rezaie attended private robotics classes to learn how to develop and assemble customised humanoid robots.
He managed to let the robot perform praying movements, such as prostration, more easily by applying some mechanical modifications, such as adding two extra engines.
He built the robot at home with basic tools and named it “Veldan,” meaning “Youth of Heaven”.
Veldan is a humanoid robot constructed using an educational kit from the Korean robot manufacturer Robotis Bioloid.
By applying some mechanical modifications such as adding two extra engines, Mr Rezaie managed to let the robot perform praying movements, such as prostration, more easily.
He describes the robot as an educational assistance to teachers and believes that it has so far been successful in attracting students and should be mass-produced.
"As you see the children's reaction in their faces, you realise how interesting it is to them to see how the science of robotics has been beautifully used for a religious purpose and I am sure it will be greatly effective in teaching them how to pray," he said.
He has formally registered the robot's invention patent and its intellectual rights at Iran's State Organisation for Registration of Deeds and Properties, a body in charge of recognizing inventions.
Additional reporting by Associated Press