On July 21, 2020, a research group led by Dr. Yoichi Matsuyama, Associate Research Professor at the Perceptual Computing Laboratory (Professor Tetsunori Kobayashi, Director; http://www.pcl.cs.waseda.ac.jp/) of the Green Computing System (GCS) Research Organization at Waseda University, was selected for the “Technology Development Project for Next-Generation Artificial Intelligence Evolving with People” grant offered by the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO; https://www.nedo.go.jp/news/press/AA5_101336.html).

AI-based Online Language Learning Assistant System that Grows with Humans (Conceptual depiction)

Research Project

The title of the project is “Development of AI-based Online Language Learning Assistant System that Grows with Humans.” The funds allocated to the project amounted to approximately $ 4M in total for five years. In the context of the growing need for online education prompted by the transmission of the novel coronavirus infection, the group will fully utilize the proposed conversational AI-based technology to support advanced English language education. This system utilizes the achievements and knowledge of Tutorial English, a communication-oriented English language learning program, which was developed and implemented by Waseda University Global Education Center and Waseda University Academic Solutions Co., Ltd. and has been in use for about twenty years. With their conversational AI-based technology, they aim to assess students’ English communication skills and realize an online lesson system that is beneficial to both learners and educators, where humans and AI collaborate and grow together.

The Tutorial English AI Team

This is an interdisciplinary collaboration between rising researchers in dialogue systems, machine learning, linguistics, learning science, and cognitive science. In this project, Associate Professor Yusuke Kondo of Waseda University Global Education Center, Professor Yasuyo Sawaki of the Faculty of Education and Integrated Arts and Sciences, and Professor Emeritus Michiko Nakano have agreed to study English education and language test design from their expert perspectives, and Waseda University Academic Solutions Corporation (Akira Miura, Akira Miura, President and Representative Director; https://www.w-as.jp/) has resolved to jointly provide learning content and experimental environments. The knowledge of Japanese-English speech recognition, previously accumulated via joint research with Dr. Satoshi Kobashikawa, Senior Researcher at Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation (NTT) Media Intelligence Laboratories, will also be utilized. Young researchers at the Perceptual Computing Laboratory, represented by Mao Saeki, Hiroaki Takatsu, and Takao Watanabe are engaged in research and development of multimodal dialogue systems for the project. In addition, an international support team comprising Dr. Oscar Romero Lopez at Robotics Institute of Carnegie Mellon University (cognitive modeling), Choitek LLC (VR/AR technology), Intelligent Framework Laboratory Co., Ltd. (crowdsourcing technology), Alt Bridge Technology Co., Ltd. (data security), etc. will also join the project.

Principal Investigator

Dr. Matsuyama, the principal investigator, obtained his Ph.D. degree in Computer Science from the Graduate School of Fundamental Science and Engineering at Waseda University in 2014 and was employed as a post-doctoral fellow (special faculty) at Carnegie Mellon University for four and a half years. He has led various research and developmental projects on conversational AI, such as the Socially-Aware Robot Assistant (SARA), which is an official virtual assistant at the World Economic Forum in Davos, an educational tutoring agent (US Science Foundation grant), and joint research projects with Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft. In 2019, he was appointed Associate Research Professor at Waseda University. In the same year, his group was selected for the “Commercialization of Media Services Utilizing Socially-Smart Conversational AI” grant under the “Program for Creating Start-ups from Advanced Research and Technology” (START) offered by the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST), amounting to a total of approximately $ 1M.

Waseda University champions the mission of “social value creation” based on open innovation as the third role of the university, alongside education and research. Through this project, Waseda University will strive to further improve its contributions to society and academia.

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