Google Assistant and Edwin Want To Be Your Next English Tutor


Google Assistant and Edwin Want To Be Your Next English Tutor

By Tina Nazerian     May 3, 2018

Google Assistant and Edwin Want To Be Your Next English Tutor

Google Assistant can remind users about appointments, turn off TVs, and help drivers manage tasks from behind the wheel. But the tech giant has plans to go further than that for its virtual assistant. Part of that next move? English tutoring.

Google is investing in the education startup Edwin, an AI-powered English tutor that was one of eight education technology companies to come out of Y Combinator’s latest demo day. The undisclosed investment is part of a new program Google has set up to bring early-stage startups and their ideas to Google Assistant. In addition to the funding, Edwin and three other selected companies will have access to advice from Google engineers, and marketing support.

Based in San Francisco, Edwin supports Spanish, Japanese, Korean, Russian and Hindi speakers, and has support for Arabic speakers in limited-beta mode. To use the tool, a student signs into Facebook Messenger, where they are connected with an AI chatbot that gauges the learner’s English proficiency level and learning goals in order to make a personal learning plan.

After that evaluation, students can complete verbal exercises with Edwin by recording themselves and comparing their pronunciation with examples Edwin provides.

According to CEO Dmitry Stavisky, the recent funds will be used to further develop Edwin’s curriculum and software so that it is suitable for Google Assistant. The idea is that in addition to recording their words and using the chatbot to check their pronunciation, learners would be able to speak directly with the virtual assistant to learn how to pronounce English words. Google Assistant will also let students practice conversational dialogue—something Stavisky calls “impractical” with a chatbot.

The integration between Google Assistant and Edwin will be accessible on smartphones that run Google Assistant, as well as Google Home smart speakers. Google Assistant is also available as an app for iOS devices.

Stavisky claims the company currently has 800,000 registered users, and that the majority of them are in Mexico.

Edwin is currently the only education technology company involved. English tutoring is not the only service Google is looking to add to Assistant. According to a company blog post, Google wants to “advance the possibilities of what digital assistants can do.” Other startups also accepted into the Google Assistant investment program are GoMoment (which is behind an AI-powered service that answers hotel guests’ questions), BotSociety (which made a tool for developers to design voice assistant applications) and Pulse Labs (which lets developers test their voice applications with people). The program is still accepting applicants.

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