An Iranian schoolteacher has developed and assembled an innovative robot designed to teach young Muslim children how to say their daily prayers. Twenty-seven-year old Akbar Rezaie built the robot at home, but it has since garnered global interest.
The robot shows the youngsters how to undertake Shiite prayers – which are obligatory three times a day.
Rezaie said that he got the idea after seeing a small girl captivated by a singing and dancing toy doll at a family event.
“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 making a device that can be used for both religious and entertainment purposes,” Rezaie stated in the interview with AP.
His attempt to amuse and educate seems to have worked.
“It was so exciting to me to see a robot pray. I have decided to always say my prayers too,” said Narges Tajik, a third grader at Alborz School - in Varamin, 35 kilometers southeast of Tehran.
While Rezaie used an educational robot tool kit form a Korean manufacturer, Robotis Bioloid, he made modifications to it, which programmed the machine to make praying movements and say the phrases used in prayer.
Mohammad Baqeri, a young Quran chanter, provided the voice for the ‘praying robot’, which Rezaie gave the name ‘Veldan’. ‘Veldan’ is a phrase mentioned in the Koran, which means “Youth of Heaven”.
“The main application of the Shiite praying robot is as a supplementary educational tool that makes teaching prayers to children appealing and fun,” Rezaie said. He noticed how the children responded to Veldan and reported that several of them had been inspired to pray more frequently. He said that he aims to build more robots of a similar kind, to keep teaching different variations of prayers.
“As you see from the reaction in the children's faces, you realize how interesting it is for them to see how the science of robotics has been appealingly put to use for a religious purpose and I am sure it will be very effective in teaching them how to pray,” he said.
The humanoid-machine has garnered the interest of top Iranian clerics and a variety of national organizations which aim to ensure youngsters are aware of their religious duties.