Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and why we should be afraid of Barbie are just some of the fascinating topics we always seem to explore whenever Dr. Eric Anctil, Associate Professor of Education, is our guest on Tech Talk. Dr. Anctil’s scholarly work centers on the nexus of media, technology, innovation, and the curriculum. He frequently writes/speaks on the impact of social networking on college student identity. His newest interest is studying the implications of mobile technology on student learning and identity development for students and teachers in K-20 education.
This time on Tech Talk, we delved into the strange new world of AI Barbie and the impact that connected devices, imbued with Artificial Intelligence, is likely to have on the classroom. While Dr. Anctil is the first to admit he’s been humbled by a few wrong guesses about some of tech’s biggest hits (e.g. he thought texting was a fad and that no one would pay $1 for a ring tone), he makes a good case for why we’re likely to see versions of enhanced reality become a part of everyday education in the classroom.
Complete transcript available in MS Word format
From Our Conversation:
Eric Anctil: So, virtual reality, augmented reality, then the third leg of the stool of what I see really coming is artificial intelligence in the classroom. I demonstrate this now with an Amazon Echo, and it’s crude technology as far as a sophisticated artificial intelligence goes. But when you demonstrate that you can communicate back and forth with it, and you can ask it questions, and you can do things like project the echo app into your classroom and build a list, for example. You’re doing it by talking to it, and then all the sudden you see it populate on the screen. You start thinking, “This could just be the cassette tape of where we’re headed,” we just can’t even really imagine the iPod yet of what that will be, and then the smartphone of what that would be to be able to stream music.
But I feel like artificial intelligence right now is that cassette tape. It’s moved past the eight-track, moved past vinyl in terms of it’s portability. It has some stuff. But it still has a long way to go. I think that educators who ignore the potential impact of artificial intelligence are being really, I don’t know, ignorant. Ignorant’s the wrong word, but they’re denying that it is going to really change things. When you walk into your house and you can talk to your home, and have it be responsive to your needs, why wouldn’t that be in a classroom?
Sam Williams: It’s almost like the classroom assistant. While the students are asking questions, you can’t get around to every student in an efficient way in a large classroom, so it’ll be interesting. You also had another one that you were putting on the network. What was that one?
Eric Anctil: Barbie?
Sam Williams: The Barbie!
Eric Anctil: Yeah. This is one that if your listeners haven’t gone and seen a video of the Hello Barbie, it’s one of the creepier things that is out. I think it’s going to be in a bunch of toys. But what it is, is it’s a conventional Barbie, and she has a little bit of an artificial intelligence flavor to her in that you can talk to her. She remembers things. She’s attached to the cloud so she’s got predictive analytics working for things like remembering your interests, remembering where you live, and then being able to feed these things back to you in a kind of conversation. It’s pretty- real’s the wrong word, but it’s a very surreal experience that, again, is one step closer to being able to talk to your toys and have them talk back to you. There are some really creepy possibilities for the conversations I guess you can have with Barbie… You guys have to walk around Toys R Us and you can see all the Try Me! Little stickers on so many toys, because kids and parents have come to expect that you can touch the toy and have it do something. Make a sound or whatever. This is just the very beginning of what that’s going to be like.
Sam Williams: Definitely when you start thinking about- immediately in my head and I needed to bring it up- but it’s this whole idea of having a tutor in the classroom. Barbie can be your tutor in math, are you going to listen to Barbie or are you going to listen to your parents? It’s just interesting how language acquisition, learning a foreign language from Barbie-
Eric Anctil: Yeah, because I often wonder- You’re going to take a French class. You go to French one a day, like in high school, and you kind of, sort of learn how to speak French. With some luck, you have some people who are speaking French around you and you’re able to have a kind of immersive French experience, at least for that hour or so. But what if you had an artificial intelligence that just taught you French? That when you woke up it was talking to you, when you went to bed it was talking to you. It talked to you about the [pantaloons 00:14:37] you were putting on. You can kind of see all the times in your day where it would be really convenient to have this. It would switch to English. It’d be kind of like the movie Her, where you have an operating system that is really forming a relationship with you.
I think if we’re not thinking about this in terms of child development and the way kids are oriented to their world, the private sector will dictate to us what those relationships are. In the same way that it’s dictated to us that we have to have our cellphones in our pocket all the time. We need to be thinking about these things.