Will Japan's Language Learning 'Chat Bots' Go Global?
A Japanese company claims to have invented the world’s first artificial intelligence “chat robots” designed specifically to converse with English language students.
The online characters – dubbed “chatbots” – employ high-speed speech recognition technology enabling them to conduct real time spoken conversations directly with students.
The chatbots, created by the language education company SpeakGlobal, can be accessed online and students are also able to participate in the “virtual world” in which the robots inhabit.
“SpeakGlobal has developed online robots that look and move like a human, speak aloud and its dialogue lines appear on the user’s computer screen,” said the company in a statement.
“Most importantly, learners can speak into a microphone using Dragon Naturally Speaking – high-end speech recognition, considered the best speech recognition in the world.” Japan has long been synonymous with robotic creations, with a raft of imaginative inventions working their way into daily life – ranging from robotic shop assistants and school teachers to catwalk models.
The concept of an online “chatbot” – a computer simulation of an intelligent conversation – has also become steadily popular in recent years, perhaps fuelled in part by the growing appeal of virtual communication among solitary internet users.
In relation to SpeakGlobal’s new creations, students can log onto the website for around £9 a month and with the use of a microphone, speak directly with one of a range of “chatbot” characters.
The level of conversation can be adjusted depending on the skills of the student, while the exchanged spoken words also appear in text on the screen in English, along with an option to translate difficult words or phrases.
In addition, registered students are also able to join the virtual SG World, in which they can meet and befriend “chatbots” as a means of further advancing their language skills.
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.”
Taken from The Telegraph: 13.09.11