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AI Robots to Help the Students of Japan in Enhancing English Speaking Skills

According to data from the most recent EF English Proficiency Index in 2017, Japan is ranked 37th out of a total of 80 countries

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English teaching robots
AI robots to boost spoken English skills of Japanese students. Pixabay

The government of Japan is planning to introduce English-speaking Artificial Intelligence (AI) robots in classrooms to help children improve their English speaking skills, considered one of the worst in the world.

The Japanese education ministry would be launching a pilot programme to test the effectiveness of the initiative in April 2019, reports Efe news.

The initiative will be initially rolled out in 500 schools throughout the country with the aim of fully implementing it in two years, public broadcaster NHK reported Saturday.

The programme also includes study apps and online conversation sessions with native English speakers.

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An iPal couple social robots help teach children at a kindergarten in Suzhou, Jiangsu province, China, July 4, 2018. Designed to offer education, care and companionship to children and the elderly, the 3.5-feet tall humanoid robots come in two genders and can tell stories, take photos and deliver educational or promotional content. VOA

Japan has proposed improving English skills ahead of the surge in tourists expected during the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

According to data from the most recent EF English Proficiency Index in 2017, Japan is ranked 37th out of a total of 80 countries.

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The latest test and score data of TOEFL, the most popular English language proficiency test, showed that Japanese test-takers have among the worst scores as compared to their Asian counterparts, and are especially poor in speaking, along with Burkina Faso and Congo. (IANS)

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Social Robots Can Now be Conflict Mediators: Study

The study also found that the teams did respond socially to the virtual agent during the planning of the mission they were assigned (nodding, smiling and recognising the virtual agent's input by thanking it) but the longer the exercise progressed, their engagement with the virtual agent decreased

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Artificial Intelligence Bot
Artificial Intelligence Bot. Pixabay

We may listen to facts from Siri or Alexa, or directions from Google Maps, but would we let a virtual agent enabled by artificial intelligence help mediate conflict among team members? A new study says they might help.

The study was presented at the 28th IEEE International Conference on Robot & Human Interactive Communication in the national capital on Tuesday.

“Our results show that virtual agents and potentially social robots might be a good conflict mediator in all kinds of teams. It will be very interesting to find out the interventions and social responses to ultimately seamlessly integrate virtual agents in human teams to make them perform better,” said study lead author Kerstin Haring, Assistant Professor at the University of Denver.

Researchers from the University of Southern California (USC) and the University of Denver created a simulation in which a three-person team was supported by a virtual agent ‘Avatar’ on screen in a mission that was designed to ensure failure and elicit conflict.

The study was designed to look at virtual agents as potential mediators to improve team collaboration during conflict mediation.

AI
“We’re beginning to see the first instances of artificial intelligence operating as a mediator between humans, but it’s a question of: ‘Do people want that?” Pixabay

While some of the researchers had previously found that one-on-one human interactions with a virtual agent therapist yielded more confessions, in this study, team members were less likely to engage with a male virtual agent named ‘Chris’ when conflict arose.

Participating members of the team did not physically accost the device, but rather were less engaged and less likely to listen to the virtual agent’s input once failure ensued among team members.

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The study was conducted in a military academy environment in which 27 scenarios were engineered to test how the team that included a virtual agent would react to failure and the ensuing conflict.

The virtual agent was not ignored by any means.

The study also found that the teams did respond socially to the virtual agent during the planning of the mission they were assigned (nodding, smiling and recognising the virtual agent’s input by thanking it) but the longer the exercise progressed, their engagement with the virtual agent decreased. (IANS)