Sunday, November 24, 2013

Using AI in educational ebooks

Et voilà… “Discover how works a Computer” is available on the iBookStore since a few days. This is the first ebook in a series about complexity published by Science eBook. It was designed using HTML5/CSS3 and (a lot of) Javascript. The first idea was to have a « lab » in order to be able to experiment directly (simple) assembly programming in the ebook. The second idea was to check the knowledge of the reader at the end using an embedded intelligent conversational agent.
Of course, everything is not perfect. In particular, I encounter a lot of problems for implementing these ideas with all the constraints of the ePUB format: this is a “pure” ePUB3 ebook with no use of any platform dependent or online features. It was quite difficult to integrate the EVA (Evolutionary Virtual Agent) technology and I was obliged to cut many features. Also, I am not very satisfied with the interactivity for the AI. I developed a small keyboard since it was the only way to have one inside the ebook without calling the iPad’s specific routines. Anyway, it will be much better when fluent speech recognition and synthesis will be available eReaders and tablets.
Nevertheless, this is the first ebook with built-in artificial intelligence and I am quite proud of it! I think it is a first step in using enhanced contents and artificial intelligence into ebooks and it prefigures what could be done in larger online learning systems such as MOOCs in the near future. It shows also that we can design now small objects and systems with artificial intelligence inside for improving the human interface.

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