In the late 1990s, Professor Gregory Abowd of Georgia Tech’s School of Interactive Computing developed a tool to allow people to collect and reflect upon memories over a long period of time. Motivated by his father’s collection of 30 years worth of videos, Gregory wanted to create something that assisted in annotating and searching videos to create short memories. Around 2002, he began using this for his own family memories and made a discovery while watching one of the videos. His oldest son, who was then 5 years old and already diagnosed with autism, demonstrated stark differences in behavior and communication between videos at 18 months and others at 26 months. Amazed by what he saw in the videos, Gregory began to consider other more serious applications of this memory-capturing tool. In the coming years, it would become a key research initiative for Gregory and others at Georgia Tech.
Over the years, virtual reality has become a mythical new medium with promises of immersive gaming and enriched experiences. Novels and movies like Ready Player One have teased the potential – and raised the expectations. In many ways, though, the technology is a largely untapped resource for reasons varying from the usability of the equipment to the premium cost.
In this episode, however, we’ll hear from former Georgia Tech student Aditya Vishwanath and current Georgia Tech assistant professor Neha Kumar who are examining the potential for virtual reality in education and instruction. What are the affordances of the technology inside of a classroom, and how can issues of cost and access be overcome to ensure it is a truly democratized medium?
School of Interactive Computing Ph.D. student Kalesha Bullard does research into helping AI gain basic building blocks for how to learn more complex tasks. In one example, she describes the goal of packing a lunch box. What are the things that a robot must know in order to complete that task? The size and shape of fruits or beverages? The height or circumference of each object? The depth or surface area of the lunch box itself? Taking inspiration from human learners, including her own time as a teacher and a student, Bullard offers some input on how these tasks can be achieved.
In most online learning, instructors face challenges in achieving similar levels of effectiveness and retention to their on-campus offerings. With so many students to account for an the inability to meet in person, it’s important to find ways to supplement the interaction between teacher and student. As an instructor for a course in Georgia Tech’s Online Master of Science in Computer Science program, School of Interactive Computing Professor Ashok Goel introduced the world to Jill Watson, a virtual teaching assistant who was so good in her first semester on the job that even students thought she was human. Can AIs like Jill really improve course effectiveness and satisfaction? Will they be used to augment the production of the human assistant, not replace it? And can this method, which has proven successful in an academic setting, be used as a foundation upon which other sectors of the workforce can build?
When it comes to artificial intelligence and automation, there are two common opposing schools of thought: One says that AI is on its way to solve all our problems, work for humans and allow us to perform at peak capacity in our jobs. Another says that it’s on its way to take those jobs from us entirely and leave a substantial part of the population behind. The truth probably lies somewhere between those extremes. Georgia Tech Associate Professor Mark Riedl joins the podcast to help separate fact from fear.