Technology has the potential to significantly improve the education system globally. One such company that is transforming the way education is delivered through artificial intelligence (AI) is EruditeAI.
EruditeAI delivers free private tutoring powered by peer-to-peer learning with AI. The company’s product ERI, is a dedicated chat system for educational use that incorporates AI by mapping students’ knowledge and intelligent matching, and generates feedback to improve the tutoring quality of peer-tutors to a professional level.
The company’s philosophy is to build AI technologies that augment humans as opposed to replacing them. This requires EruditeAI to integrate AI technologies in a Human-in-the-Loop context. So, it becomes important to have the UX and interface of the system to work in harmony for the human and AI to work in a tight closed loop.
The company also offers development and consulting services to corporate customers who want to take advantage of AI techniques. EruditeAI’s specialty revolves around Deep Learning, Reinforcement Learning, Natural Language Processing and Generation besides other techniques that are in the Machine Learning domain.
The Force Behind EruditeAI
Patrick Poirier, President of EruditeAI, was a high school dropout and was able to bounce back through private tutoring. He earned four University degrees in Commerce, Computer Science, Psychiatry, and Machine Learning. Patrick realized that although private tutoring is very effective, it is very expensive, hence the mission of EruditeAI is to provide tutoring to learners entirely free across students worldwide.
Just like all startups, EruditeAI went through ups and down along the way. With incremental refinements, and iterations, the company presented their work at the United Nations twice in 2017, demonstrating that it is possible to combine commercial goals and social impact using deep technology. In 2013, EruditeAI started building educational games and moved into an intelligent tutoring system, and into a peer-to-peer model after two years.
Innovating Around Education
Patrick, with his background in Neuroscience, brings a fresh outlook on AI technology and Education. He rethought the entire workflow of private tutoring in order to completely eliminate cost to students using a combination of not only technology, but human paradigms such as peer-to-peer tutoring. One of Patrick’s main contributions was to integrate a company culture that attracts high-quality AI expertise.
EruditeAI was fortunate enough to attract a solid team of engineers with a strong AI knowledge. The technical advisors of the company include some of the top professionals in the world such as Dr. Doina Precup, researcher at McGill University and head of research of Google DeepMind at the Montreal office.
“All our staff have the option to collaborate with University researchers at McGill University (MILA), Polytechnique University (IVADO), and Concordia University through our existing partnerships. This setup enables us to give back to the industry through published research but also offers a technical research challenge that some crave” says Patrick.
Awards and Accolades
Most recently, EruditeAI won the Social Impact Startup Prize by CIC of the Coopérathon. The company was the finalist of the AIconics award for best innovation in Deep Learning.
For most customers, AI is still too new and magical, it requires a fair amount of education to explain how such tools can be integrated into their workflow to increase revenues and efficiency or lower costs. The trick is to challenge all assumptions. Big companies have a lot of data, but it is rarely structured with the intention of integrating it with AI. The reality is that for most organizations it can be more advantageous to re-assess their workflow and identify new data that could be generated and taken advantage of by AI. “When considering AI tools, it is not enough to just integrate it into current existing practice, we need to rethink how we can change the workflow for the better” said Patrick.
Investment and Collaboration to Upgrade Education
EruditeAI invests heavily into academic research in the area of Reinforcement Learning applied to Natural Language Generation in a context of Human-in-the-Loop concept. The company plans to publish research articles to contribute to the field of AI. For companies and society at large, this means advancement in AI technologies built to augment humans as opposed to replacing them, resulting in a stronger economy and prosperity for all.
As mentioned earlier, attracting talent in the AI industry is very difficult. For companies in the non-tech industry, it can be even more difficult, so collaborating with tech companies and even startups can be very advantageous to attract such talent and technological advancements indirectly.
Challenges Acknowledge So Far
Commenting on challenges, Patrick said, as with any startup, we made our fair share of mistakes, in our case, although we had serious accounting issues at some point, our current problems are now more related to the difficulty of obtaining large dataset to train our AI technology. Not every company benefits from having large user base such as Google and Facebook. But with time, money, and an attractive product the real problem can be solved.
Patrick often jokes that entrepreneurship is a disease similar to gambling addiction. The ups and down have a strong effect on your brain chemistry leading to rearrangement of your neural pathways. After a long period of struggle, even the smallest bit of good news can feel so much better. This addiction however, is critical to ensure entrepreneurs have the resilience to bring their innovation to the finishing line.
Although EruditeAI is doing very well now given the market hype of AI, the company expect there might be a decrease of interest and funding in the next 24 months due to unrealistic expectations of what AI can deliver. However, they are confident that some AI companies will survive and thrive despite market conditions, just like eBay and Amazon succeeded after the dotcom crash of 2000.
“We are very fortunate that Canada has been and continues to offers incredible financial support for the tech and specifically the AI industry, and we are looking forward to the next decade. We believe that while there will be full automation for certain job types, the vast majority will simply be human with AI systems working together in a more productive fashion, taking advantages of each other’s strengths. As far as our company goes, we have a large ambition to become one of the world leaders in education through our peer-to-peer AI-augmented tutoring system. A quality and accessible education for all of the 1.8 billion students in the world is important to our team as we believe everyone should have a chance and the tools to achieve their full potential in their life” Patrick said.