Saturday, May 7, 2016

Professor Pranksman fools his students with a TA powered by IBM's Watson

Ashok Goel, a computer science professor at Georgie Institute of Technology, recently pulled a huge prank on his students: he gave them a robot for a teaching assistant. "Jill Watson" did regular TA work, like remind students of due dates and answer questions, all over email. According to a Wall Street Journal report, a few students were suspicious, but nobody uncovered the truth.

IBM wasn't directly involved in the Jill project — which is rare, because IBM is constantly looking out for new PR opportunities. The bot was trained by Georgia Tech researchers on 40,000 postings from a discussion forum, and only answers questions if "she" has a high confidence. And nobody figured it out!

So this is terrifying. Not because "Jill Watson" TA...

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