A Japanese company claims to have invented the first robots that can chat with people.

Specifically designed for English language learners, the “chatbots” are accessed online. The online characters use high-speed speech recognition technology which allows them to interact in real time with students. Students can also participate in the chatbots’ virtual world.
Interestingly, the level of conversation can be adjusted depending on the student’s needs, and dialogue also appears on screen in English.

According to the Telegraph:

The “chatbots” are currently targeting Japanese students learning English however the company is planning to expand internationally.
The concept was inspired by the lack of opportunity for many Japanese students unable to afford costly lessons to practice speaking native English, according to SpeakGlobal.

“The percentage of Japanese who can actually speak English freely is in the low single digits,” added the company.

“This is due to the lack of opportunities to practice speaking with native English speakers. While many English conversation schools and online schools exist, some simply cannot afford this luxury.” (Source: Telegraph)

I’m not sure how I’d feel about interacting with a “chatbot”, but I suppose it is less scary than practicing your language skills with a live person – robots can’t judge you after all (yet!).