AI in eLearning – Why Virtual Tutors with a Webcam Are the Better Coach

virtual tutor2017 has been called the year of Chatbots, futurists tell us how chatbots will revolutionise Learning & Development and your grandma probably started using Alexa in your living room. AI is being predicted by experts to become the leading driver of education by the 2020s. We know FAQ chatbots on websites and we are talking more to bots on our phones than people. But how can we use those virtual assistants and even AI in our next online course, micro-training session or MOOC?

Enter Intelligent Tutoring Systems. Finally, the tech is maturing above chatbots.

We are not talking about a pre-produced talking Avatar guiding you through your average online course. Nor are we talking about a voice assistant like Siri, Alexa or Cortana who searches Google on your command for knowledge from Wikipedia (and storing our data who-knows-where). We are talking about a virtual assistant, a chatbot, who is your interface to artificial intelligence, has a live animated face and body when needed (in Skype or virtual worlds) and is the best coach, trainer or teacher you can wish for. Yes, I am talking about an ideal world, but we are getting there!

Intelligent Tutoring Systems are the CUI for eLearning & Training

Conversational User Interfaces (CUI) are already starting to replace our good old Graphical UI (buttons, touch and click). We have known this for decades – Captain Kirk and his crew always talked to the Enterprise,  and that was in the nineteen sixties! These sophisticated chatbots are certainly an interesting addition to the toolbox of online learning designers. The tech is advancing fast: Botanic Technologies, for example, has already developed multimodal Avatars (text, voice and video) who act as an advisor to medical personnel or as your personal job interview coach on Skype. One digital coach — an animated character named Andi — actually does a sentiment and emotional analysis. During a Skype video chat, it processes via webcam your facial expressions, your tonality and your use of words in order to prepare you for a successful job interview. Here’s an example:

Watch Andi, the job interview coach in more detail on Vimeo.
Or rather: Let Andi watch and analyse how you are doing …

Your Personal Virtual Tutor: 24/7:
Never Tired, Never out of Office

That’s why the virtual all-knowing assistant is a better tutor. Think „personal mobile virtual coach“: Your personal learning tutor who lives in the net and assists your learning wherever you are – as a chatbot or voice assistant on your phone or as a 3D character in your favourite virtual learning environment. But the best thing is, those tutors don’t have office hours and thousands of students could benefit from on well-designed conversational bots. MOOC providers know what I am talking about – they’d give anything to clone good tutors for a 24/7 service.

But who can actually develop a chatbot for eLearning environments?

How does that even work? Most of the non-coding chatbot creation platforms (Chatfuel, Botsify) are offering marketing, faq and customer service templates. I’ve created my first virtual teachers with tiny avatars and synthetic voices more than 10 years ago (with Pikkubot in Second Life, sitepal and presenters with Mediasemantics) and unfortunately, I don’t see a lot of advancement in the educational area. To integrate a virtual tutor like the example in the video above you’d need to hire a company that creates your sophisticated coach – which is out of the question in most L&D projects. Or you did deeper and try to create your own dialogue flow in Flow.ai or with IBM Watson. But you already have a profession and who has time to build virtual tutors from scratch?

What to do? Well, I have chosen to take it one step at a time and I joined forces with an interesting company called SEED Vault. They want to make the world a better place by building a massive open-source bot economy based on the blockchain. Independent developers and learning designers need to have access to AI-powered virtual assistants with a variety of ready-to-go templates as well as to open, shared standards we can all use. It doesn’t make sense for a few companies to own the entire AI & CUI market (like Facebook, Alexa, Microsoft, Google, Apple … ). Also, educators need to be very aware of data privacy – which you don’t get from these big corporations. They store every word your students would utter in a black box in exchange for their services. Bots and AI need to be transparent and verified — and that is where blockchain technology comes in.

SEED: A Garden Eden for Bot Builders, Designers, Deployers and Educators on Blockchain

SEED actually emanated from Botanic (the creators of Andi the interview coach) and other global bot communities are joining them as we speak. I’ve been working with Mark Stephen Meadows, founder of Botanic, years ago and have been following his work ever since. Now I’m excited to work with SEED to democratise AI, keeping my focus on education, eLearning and virtual training. I am responsible for managing Bot Community Initiatives – if you are a bot developer, dialogue designer or author please let me know – the SEED community needs you to speed up the evolution of conversational user interfaces so we can finally have ourselves a couple of wise-cracking charming virtual tutors in our next online course 🙂

SEED Token on Telegram  and on Twitter

Contact me on LinkedIn

XING

 

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„Carpe Diem“ MOOC für Pädagogen lehrt kollaboratives Kursdesign für eLearning

MOOC ist nicht gleich MOOC (Massive Open Online Course): Professor Gilly Salmon von der Swinburne University of Technology Melbourne, Australien, startet am 10. März 2014 einen massiven Onlinekurs der „konnektivistischen“ Art (cMOOC): „Carpe Diem – Learning Design“ für Trainer, Lehrer und eLearning Experten soll mehr bieten als Online-Videokonserven von Vorlesungen.

carpe diem MOOC participants on world map

Shon mehr als 900 1200 Teilnehmer aus der ganzen Welt haben sich für diesen kostenlosen Onlinekurs der Swinburne Univerity in Melbourne angemeldet. Jeder kann sich die Farbe seiner Stecknadel aussuchen und die Menge an Kontaktinformationen bis hin zu vollkommener Anonymität festlegen. Aus Deutschland hat bisher nur einer außer mir sein Fähnchen gesteckt.

Der weltweit zugängliche, kostenlose Onlinekurs nutzt die Plattform Coursesites um den Teilnehmern ein erprobtes Grundgerüst für das Konzept von aktivierenden Blended Learning Maßnahmen und Online-Kursen an die Hand zu geben. Dabei wird auf kollaboratives Lernen und Interaktion in Form von „e-tivities“ in Gruppen mit max. 28 Kommilitonen Wert gelegt. Eine informelle private Facebook-Gruppe begleitet das Ganze schon im Vorfeld. Gamification-Elemente wie Badges – das sind diese lustigen Abzeichen, die man früher als Pfadfinder bekommen hat – lassen die Lehrtätigen am eigenen Leib spüren, wie modernes Online-Lernen idealerweise funktioniert. Der gesamte Kurs hat eine Dauer von 6 Wochen, wobei man 3-4 Stunden pro Woche einplanen sollte. Die Methode „Carpe Diem Learning Design“ kommt seit mehr als zehn Jahren an Lehrinstitutionen weltweit zum Einsatz. Das 5-Stage-Model von Prof. Gilly Salmon findet man in den Standardwerken im Bereich eLearning. Bis heute haben sich bereits über 900 1200 Menschen aus allen Teilen der Erde registriert (siehe Weltkarte). Ich übrigens auch 🙂

Hier kostenlos einschreiben: Carpe Diem MOOC | Swinburne University.

 

The Cause of Death of Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable by Clay Shirky

„When a 14-year-old kid can blow up your business in his spare time, not because he hates you but because he loves you [by copying and sharing your content], then you got a problem.”

The American intellectual, writer and NYU professor for new media Clay Shirky explains matter-of-factly what’s happening in publishing houses worldwide (ignorance; panic), why it’s happening (the world changes) and what they can do about it (nothing but adapt and get on with their lives, doing something else).

Some parts in this article especially resonate with me because some of my clients are the very large publishers who are caught in the middle of this revolution.

I’ll copy and share huge parts of his article here because that’s what people do nowadays and the author is cool with it (over 130 people worldwide have done the same so far and therefore spread his word, drawing attention to him and his work).

Shirky’s following observation made me laugh and sigh at the same time because part of my job over the last 8 years was to „bring innovation“ to old media structures and particularly to set up Innovation Departments for the news media:

„Leadership becomes faith-based, while employees who have the temerity to suggest that what seems to be happening is in fact happening are herded into Innovation Departments, where they can be ignored en masse.“

Here’s his post:

Clay Shirky: „(…) The unthinkable scenario unfolded something like this: The ability to share content wouldn’t shrink, it would grow. Walled gardens would prove unpopular. Digital advertising would reduce inefficiencies, and therefore profits. Dislike of micropayments would prevent widespread use. People would resist being educated to act against their own desires. Old habits of advertisers and readers would not transfer online. Even ferocious litigation would be inadequate to constrain massive, sustained law-breaking. (Prohibition redux.) Hardware and software vendors would not regard copyright holders as allies, nor would they regard customers as enemies. (…)  And, per Thompson, suing people who love something so much they want to share it would piss them off.

Revolutions create a curious inversion of perception. In ordinary times, people who do no more than describing the world around them are seen as pragmatists, while those who imagine fabulous alternative futures are viewed as radicals. The last couple of decades haven’t been ordinary, however. Inside the papers, the pragmatists were the ones simply looking out the window and noticing that the real world was increasingly resembling the unthinkable scenario. These people were treated as if they were barking mad. Meanwhile, the people spinning visions of popular walled gardens and enthusiastic micropayment adoption, visions unsupported by reality, were regarded not as charlatans but saviours.

When reality is labeled unthinkable, it creates a kind of sickness in an industry. Leadership becomes faith-based, while employees who have the temerity to suggest that what seems to be happening is in fact happening are herded into Innovation Departments, where they can be ignored en masse. This shunting aside of the realists in favor of the fabulists has different effects on different industries at different times. One of the effects on the newspapers is that many of their most passionate defenders are unable, even now, to plan for a world in which the industry they knew is visibly going away.

The curious thing about the various plans hatched in the ’90s is that they were, at the base, all the same plan: “Here’s how we’re going to preserve the old forms of organization in a world of cheap perfect copies!” The details differed, but the core assumption behind all imagined outcomes (save the unthinkable one) was that the organizational form of the newspaper, as a general-purpose vehicle for publishing a variety of news and opinion, was basically sound, and only needed a digital facelift. As a result, the conversation has degenerated into the enthusiastic grasping at straws, pursued by sceptical responses.

Round and round this goes, with the people committed to saving newspapers demanding to know “If the old model is broken, what will work in its place?” To which the answer is: Nothing. Nothing will work. There is no general model for newspapers to replace the one the internet just broke.

With the old economics destroyed, organizational forms perfected for industrial production have to be replaced with structures optimized for digital data. It makes increasingly less sense even to talk about a publishing industry because the core problem publishing solves — the incredible difficulty, complexity, and expense of making something available to the public — has stopped being a problem.

(…)

That is what real revolutions are like. The old stuff gets broken faster than the new stuff is put in its place. The importance of any given experiment isn’t apparent at the moment it appears; big changes stall, small changes spread. Even the revolutionaries can’t predict what will happen. Agreements on all sides that core institutions must be protected are rendered meaningless by the very people doing the agreeing. (Luther and the Church both insisted, for years, that whatever else happened, no one was talking about a schism.) Ancient social bargains, once disrupted, can neither be mended nor quickly replaced, since any such bargain takes decades to solidify.

And so it is today. When someone demands to know how we are going to replace newspapers, they are really demanding to be told that we are not living through a revolution. They are demanding to be told that old systems won’t break before new systems are in place.

They are demanding to be told that ancient social bargains aren’t in peril, core institutions will be spared, new methods of spreading information will improve previous practice rather than ending it. They are demanding to be lied to.

There are fewer and fewer people who can convincingly tell such a lie.

If you want to know why newspapers are in such trouble, the most salient fact is this: Printing presses are terrifically expensive to set up and to run. (…)

The old difficulties and costs of printing forced everyone doing it into a similar set of organizational models; it was this similarity that made us regard Daily Racing Form and L’Osservatore Romano as being in the same business. That the relationship between advertisers, publishers, and journalists has been ratified by a century of cultural practice doesn’t make it any less accidental.

Society doesn’t need newspapers. What we need is journalism. For a century, the imperatives to strengthen journalism and to strengthen newspapers have been so tightly wound as to be indistinguishable.

That’s been a fine accident to have, but when that accident stops, as it is stopping before our eyes, we’re going to need lots of other ways to strengthen journalism instead.

When we shift our attention from ’save newspapers’ to ’save society’, the imperative changes from ‘preserve the current institutions’ to ‘do whatever works.’ And what works today isn’t the same as what used to work.

We don’t know who the Aldus Manutius of the current age is. It could be Craig Newmark or Caterina Fake. It could be Martin Nisenholtz or Emily Bell. It could be some 19-year-old kid few of us have heard of, working on something we won’t recognize as vital until a decade hence.

Any experiment, though, designed to provide new models for journalism is going to be an improvement over hiding from the real, especially in a year when, for many papers, the unthinkable future is already in the past.

For the next few decades, journalism will be made up of overlapping special cases. Many of these models will rely on amateurs as researchers and writers. Many of these models will rely on sponsorship or grants or endowments instead of revenues. Many of these models will rely on excitable 14-year-olds distributing the results. Many of these models will fail. No one experiment is going to replace what we are now losing with the demise of news on paper, but over time, the collection of new experiments that do work might give us the reporting we need.“

Read the whole article here: Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable

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Augmented Reality is all over the place – is that a good thing?

GE Superbowl ad with Augmented Reality


Wikitude: Very useful application, available for G1 Android phones:

Sony’s virtual EyePet, living in your living room (coming soon)

UPDATE: I forgot another great business example: Ray-Ban offers Augmented Reality to sell sunglasses online

Mixed Reality makes sense for Ford Ka and saves big bucks

Many might still ponder about he usefulness outside geek-world of Augmented Reality applications if they watch videos about cute virtual pets or  cartoony Japanese girls invading your desktop. In the middle of this video however even the biggest skeptics will see at least one (if not more) down-to-earth useful scenario which makes not only sense but also saves lots of money for automobile companies (Ford obviously digged it): With AR you only need ONE sales room in order to present endless models and all thinkable customized versions of the cars you’re seling. It looks like it’s real, rotating gravefully before your eyes and the sales person is right next to it. Way to go, Ford!

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about „Mixed Reality makes sense for Ford Ka…„, posted with vodpod

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One blog is enough

I decided recently that it was just too much of a hassle to maintain this blog, since blogging is just my way to keep track of my research in a nice chronological manner. Since most of my concepts are written in German it’s far easier for me to ditch the English blog (this one) and keep posting in German (Metaversability on Blogger).

But I had an idea: Since some of my English speaking friends would actually miss my blog, I integrated a „Google Translate“ Widget in my German blog so you can have it all with one mouse-click. Try it out – it really works! Those of you using Google Reader have the option to instantly translate anything anyway. I also transferred all articles to the other blog so it’s all in one place now.

I might cross-post some HowTo articles in the future so I’ll keep this blog up and running as an archive. Something like „How to Move from Tumblelog to WordPress, from Blogger to WP and from WordPress back to Blogger while keeping all your posts“ (that last one was a tough one, I can tell you!)

Bye for now,

Gaby aka Consiliera

Why PlayStation Home will revolutionize gaming

„PlayStation Home gives you a neutral space where you can really get to know someone. Even in the real world now if you’re a gamer and you want to get to know other gamers, there really is nowhere left to go.“
[Sony PlayStation Home Director Jack Buser]

I am not a gamer or at least I was never a gamer before. Although I am having fun in Second Life, the 3D virtual world built by its own residents, I see my time in-world mostly as part of my normal workload, because I am a Metaverse expert and need to experience virtual worlds first hand to be a useful advisor and trainer. But this year two things happened: I got myself a Wii console with Balance board (to stay fit and have my very own bowling alley in the living room) and for a couple of weeks now I am seriously considering buying a Sony PS3 console just because of PlayStation Home (ok and the Blu-ray player is nice, too). I probably won’t do it because I still don’t like playing video games but what strikes me is that after all that I’ve seen from the PS Home beta version I want to meet people this way!

pshome

The avatars look great, they’re highly customizable (albeit human – well I can be a flying dragon in Second Life anytime) and the body movements look much better than in SL. And it doesn’t seem to be as difficult to meet people because the area doesn’t stretch out over thousands of square kilometers (like the huge SL grid). It’s like a bar that’s never deserted – 24/7. And you get to meet people from all over the world, too. Ok you have that in SL all the time; but it can be difficult to find everybody. And who wants to look an armless Mii figurine or one of the new cartoony Xbox LIVE avatars? Let’s face it, we like looking human.

Easily customize your avatar. You don’t need to be a Photoshop expert and don’t have to pay extra (like in Second Life). Ok, you do have to pay for fancy cloths in Home as well – that’s the same in any virtual world.

Jack Buser says gamers don’t hang around in arcades (in real life) – that’s just not the way we do things today. Gaming is entertainment, like watching TV – it is a way to beat boredom. If we don’t have anything better to do and there are no friends around, we like to hang out with others nevertheless – be it (in the games) with NPCs (Non Player Characters), who are only software-controlled extras, or with other gamers, known to us only by their handle and score records (or in case of MMORPGs like World of Warcraft by the actions of the roles they’re playing).

The whole point seems to be that people more often than not like hanging out with other people. We are a social species – we even die if we don’t have contact to other human beings, after all. And if we have the opportunity, we very much like to play together. More than one study revealed:  Gaming is not for loner’s and gamers are more social than non-gamers. Oh, and we sure do like decorating our own apartment and invite our friends.

And so I guess that’s what’s so intriguing about Home:

  • we can hang out virtually anytime we don’t have anything better to do
  • people we meet have the same knowledge about the game we do (no newbie challenges)
  • if we’re up to it we can play with people we actually got to know a little, because we didn’t just shoot each others brains out but laughed or danced together (see the video below)

That’s what people do if you give them the opportunity…

It’s hang out on-demand. And it’s definitely a social virtual world – a shared virtual environment.

I think all other consoles will follow and offer similar hangouts for their users. And I hope that we’ll find a way to have a meta-friendlist some day: a buddylist with friends from all kinds of virtual worlds, game consoles and flat web social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Friendfeed and the likes). Some kind of interoperability, so we can at least communicate (IM) with all our friends, in whatever world or network they prefer to hang out. I am not talking about data portability here – Pixelsebi blogged his detailed thoughts about that here – just about a standardized mechanism that automatically collects all my friends/connections from all platforms/networks where I have a public account (like Google’s SocialGraph).

And I am going to get me a PS3 – what the heck. It’s X-Mas after all 🙂

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