Earlier this winter, one of the big two Japanese Eikaiwa (English conversation school) chains launched bacteria- and pollen-free teaching and learning booths with a loud speaker and pane of glass between the student and teacher, apparently inspired by prison interview rooms in Hollywood police movies. This was widely welcomed at the time as a sensible way of tackling the problem of students and long-term teachers with masks over the mouths making classroom communication difficult or impossible for at least half the year.
However, it was later revealed that the pane of glass was actually a screen with a computer-generated image on the students’ side that made all teachers appear like 23-year old males with blond hair and blue eyes, and with the voice coming out of the speaker being manipulated to sound like Hugh Grant. Some teachers who had got dates out of it (presumably ones who were too polite – this being Japan – to comment on the shockingly different appearance of the teacher in person) campaigned for the new system to continue, but it was scrapped. A replacement technology, rumoured to be face masks with oxygen tanks and loudspeakers, is expected in the next few weeks.