Is Vietnam’s first AI robot the future of education?
- In digitally progressive Vietnam, an AI robot fitted with five “senses” and Google search is being equipped to be a teaching assistant
As a country, Vietnam keeps growing digitally from strength to strength. In just three years, after decades in the digital wilderness, the traditionally agrarian nation has undergone a rapid transformation driven by “improvements to the digital identity, digital citizenship, and digital lifestyle components”, to the extent Vietnam has even developed its first AI robot.
Building a working automaton that is driven by artificial intelligence, and that can interact with human beings would be an achievement for most developing territories. But with a supportive government that has made digital transformation a priority for governance, infrastructure, and businesses alike, surprising breakthroughs like AI robots or sustainable energy alternatives for smart cities are not that surprising anymore.
Vietnam now sees smart urban centers and digital transformation initiatives as key to boosting its economic and societal development. GSMA noted that the Vietnamese government has been pursuing a national Industry 4.0 strategy that includes infrastructure and human resources, along with e-government services and innovation initiatives like an e-commerce transformation plan that is expected to grow online businesses by up to 43% within the next five years.
Vietnam is also slowly exploring technologies important towards achieving Industry 4.0, such as big data, cloud computing, and of course AI. Vietnam’s Deputy Minister of Science and Technology, Bui The Duy, told a recent conference that AI had been receiving more and more attention in recent years as the technology can be applied in many fields.
Vietnam’s education AI robot
One of those fields is education, and that is the purpose of Tri Nhan, Vietnam’s first AI robot that can do math problems, work out solutions on its own, and even read poetry. Developed by local edtech startup Open Classroom, Tri Nhan is a 1.8-meter, humanoid robot that was 3D-printed and is intended to be a teaching assistant.
That is why Tri Nhan has been equipped with a human-like personality and emotional intelligence that can even tell jokes, according to lead scientist and AI expert Pham Thanh Nam that developed the bot.
Nam says that Tri Nhan converges many typical Industry 4.0 technologies including artificial intelligence, big data, IoT, cloud computing, 3D printing, blockchain, augmented reality, supercomputing, robotics, and bioinformatics to give it its five “senses”.
Developer Nam says these senses (‘vision’ with two cameras in the eyes; ‘hearing’ with a long-range microphone array; olfactory or ‘smell’ sense with air quality sensors; tactile or ‘touch’ with pressure, temperature, and humidity sensors; and ‘taste’ via an electric meter attached to an antitoxic mechanism) have been integrated with Google search engine to be able to handle a variety of educational tasks, including math-solving and poetry recitals.
Tri Nhan can also translate Vietnamese to English and vice versa, and for some reason it has also been fitted with an artificial heart, lungs, and even a DNA sequence. Using its sensors, Tri Nhan can detect facers and measures heart rates, but it can also control other smart devices with relatively simple instructions like vacuum cleaners and drones.
“Using Google’s search power, Tri Nhan can answer questions of almost any field, with answers that we, the creators, do not know,” said Nam, adding that Tri Nhan as Vietnam’s AI robot is designed to eventually support learning and teaching outcomes in the country’s educational sector.
“If students only learn through traditional books, it will be very passive,” said Pham. “Tri Nhan synthesizes source knowledge when asked, and Tri Nhan’s brain will analyze and give answers in a snap, especially knowledge of mathematics, helping students to actively learn and update knowledge.”
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