Meet Ms. Siri, Your New Teacher

The next generation of artificial intelligence from the lab that built the iPhone’s Siri is powering an educational game.

A London-based startup, Kuato Studios, is expected to come out later this year with a newgameto teach kids computer programming.


This isn’t a lightly “gamified” platform like Khan Academy‘s new computer science offerings or Codecademy. Kuato Studios is building an immersive, richly illustrated third-person shooter that will have 11- to 15-year-old players “terraforming a virtual world through coding and science,” created by developers from companies like Konami and Rockstar Games.

Image: Kuato Studios

The game boasts a special secret sauce: the next generation of “virtual personal assistant” technology from SRI, the research institute that created the iPhone’s Siri. (Frank Meehan, Kuato Studio’s founder, sat on the board of Siri Inc.) According to reports elsewhere, the updated Siri, called “Lola,” is better at remembering the context of specific conversations, understanding natural speech, and reasoning–all qualities that would be nice to have in a virtual teacher who can answer direct questions, drop hints when a learner gets stuck, and dole out encouragement when she succeeds.

As edtech newsletter Edsurge points out, IBM just announced its own mobile version of AI engine Watson, in a push to build a $16-billion business analytics business. Putting AI into educational apps may not be far behind.

About the author

She’s the author of Generation Debt (Riverhead, 2006) and DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education, (Chelsea Green, 2010). Her next book, The Test, about standardized testing, will be published by Public Affairs in 2015.