Artificial Intelligence & The Perfect Teacher

Something new is coming over the horizon. | Image courtesy Noah Bradley / Wizards of the Coast

So far, we’ve taken the liberty of looking at how immersive education can redefine learning in the long term through a primarily experiential approach — we also discussed how data can be collected in those experiences to create truly individualized education, giving developers, teachers and creators unparalleled understanding of the student’s mind in real time.

Let’s extend our imaginations and bit further and imagine how other technologies may converge with immersive media in education — starting with AI.

Artificial Intelligence is one of the most important technologies in the contemporary world, with its influence grasping everything from the creation of medicine, financial market predictions, chatbots and art. It already touches all of our lives in ways we can’t even fathom, and much like the computers and internet we use on a day to day basis, we’re bound to get increasingly dependent on the power it gives us.

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AI is already changing the way we interact with our devices — Conversational User Interfaces are an increasingly popular way to control our devices through voice, and it’s not hard to see why. Widely present today in smartphones (Google Assistant, Siri, Cortana) as well as home devices (Amazon Echo, Google Home), it plays into one of the most intuitive ways for humans to get anything done: talking. And given that the technology only gets better every year with continuous advancements in text-to-speech, voice recognition and procedural conversation building, it’s only a matter of a few years before we start to have fully fledged conversations with the devices we own.

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So what might happen when we start to combine that power with immersive education?

The beautiful thing about Immersive Media is that it can give physical presence to Artificial Intelligence assistants, chatbots and characters unlike anything we’ve ever been able to do. We’re already on the verge of being able to have conversations with these Artificial Intelligence bots as they stand, but using immersive technologies we will also allow them to have a body and an emotion-expressing face we see, interact and connect with.

A.I. companions can look like anyone — or anything. | Image courtesy Microsoft

Suddenly, the possibility of having a nuanced relationship with your personal A.I. doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility, and this is could also be a huge deal for education. As the years progress, Artificial Intelligence assistants are bound to understand us more deeply than we’re even capable of knowing ourselves — couple the previously mentioned understanding of a students’ intellect and emotions with the imminent democratization of AI and the door is open to completely functional A.I. teachers that know exactly how to deliver information to you.

AI is learning about us — now it’s only a matter of time before it starts teaching us.

While the concept might seem preposterous for some, it is a real possibility. A quick reflection on how the teacher-student relationship goes shows a very predictable pattern —a teacher performs a lecture, gauges the reaction of students and occasionally diverts from their script to address a question or do an activity before returning to the lecture. Of course, not all classes function in this manner, but the majority of them do, and working on such a predictable framework is not something A.I. will have any trouble doing convincingly as a starting point. Ideally (as the tech improves and issues continue to become more software bound, making them easier to manage) we would find new ways to expand the teacher-student relationship that are less hierarchical and more engaging.

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The UX behind the teacher-student relationship is predictable — and questionable.

Be mindful that A.I. teachers do not have to look like any one thing in particular — in immersive mediums, artificial intelligence can be characterized in any way given the teaching context. You can be taught by a Dragon, Marie Curie, Neil DeGrasse Tyson or William Shakespeare himself – there’s no theoretical limit over what form or shape A.I. instructors can take for the sake of a lesson — all while creating procedurally generated interactive lectures based on your personal psychological profile.

In the long run, I feel that to truly live up to the dream of individualized education, there’s no other way to achieve it than through A.I. instructors (until we’re able to simply download information into our brain). Their digital presence and limitless access to information can give them abilities and understanding of subjects and students teachers could only dream of.

A.I. has been learning about us for the longest time— now it’s only a matter of time before it starts teaching us.

Continued on Page 4: The Fluid Classroom »

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • Honestly, this article didn’t excite me.

    First of all, you’re underestimating the problems of costs. Doing a 3D application is super-expensive. If you want to immerse your students in an ancient battle, this requires an enormous amounts of 3D models and animations and this is damn expensive. Schools have always too little money and this is a big issue.

    Then, the idea of my teacher having a psychological profile of myself scares me a lot. There’s a big privacy issue.

    What I liked instead of the whole article has been the dream of an AI teacher: this is a smart thought I honestly never had. This can really be important for education… even if this would mean that all teachers will lose their jobs.

    • Lucas Rizzotto

      Thanks for the comment, Tony! I’m sure that the cost of 3D application development will plummet in the years ahead. This is being pushed by all major tech companies right now (and making 3D creation tools easily accessible is in their deep interests) as well as game engines, so I don’t think it’s that much of an issue in the future. Additionally, lack of resources also spurs innovation – I’m sure we’ll see new creative ways of teaching all types of content in the years to come without the need for photorealistic AAA productions.

      The analytics portion is supposed to be slightly worrying and there needs to be a discussion about how that data is used, although in my opinion there’s no way tech companies and developers will let that data go, so it’s a matter of how more than if. Regardless, it’s important to highlight the value that the data can potentially have for creating dynamic and personalized educational experiences.

      Glad you liked the bit about A.I. teachers! (:

    • PS Vita Roundup

      If you want 3D battles, you license the Total War series, a PC game that has been used for historical reenactments on TV shows for years. Patch in a VR mode and multiple perspectives, which I’m sure the developers Creative Assembly would do quite cheaply for the extra exposure and educational sales… and there you go. There’s little need to start from scratch with most of these ideas.

  • I love this, and have had many similar thoughts! Very exciting. Also totally fascinated by the pupilometry concept and how it could enhance student profiles and guided learning. Galvanic skin response might also be helpful, but I can totally see pupil size being great. It would have to be calibrated based on the amount of light delivered to the eyes (which also impacts eye dilation) but luckily that is easily captured in a VR headset. I have seen eye trackers out there for headsets, but haven’t seen any which say they track pupil size specifically.. I’d be curious if they are missing out on tracking this!

  • Augmented reality can be used in the study of any subjects – from history to physics. This year, a “virtual teacher” was patented: students listen to a lecture, perform assignments, everything as usual, and the teacher is physically located elsewhere. Moreover, he can interact with students in real time, give them assignments, navigate the class. From these examples it is clear that what still seemed fiction today is already widely used, it concerns the role of augmented reality in education ( ). You can easily find out what kind of constellation you see, or solve several examples with a funny dog. And similar applications are released more and more – if only the children at least somehow motivate to study.