“Lost in the wood” — Timmy’s AI Exploration Story.

Timmy’s first experience with a project-based learning activity was exciting. He loved the idea that he was able to help the homeless people in his neighborhood. As part of the experience, he was able to meet with and talk to business owners, local area experts, and the city mayor. His continued efforts resulted in renewed community support for the homeless problem and the building of two new homeless shelters in his neighborhood. When his science teacher indicated that his class was about to embark on a new project-based learning activity, he was excited once again. This time, the project was wrapped around the idea of artificial intelligence.

As with most boys his age, Timmy spent a lot of time playing in the woods near his home. He was an energetic eleven-year-old. He spent many hours outside riding his bike, climbing trees, and finding new places to explore. This meant he spent many hours in the wooded area that surrounded a large park in his neighborhood. Despite his young age, he could easily navigate his way through the park to reach his friend’s house on the other side.

AI World School

Timmy’s science teacher introduced the unit as “Artificial Intelligence — the Science of the Future!” The project-based learning activity was divided into two main sections. First, all students were introduced to AI World School at https://aiworldschool.com/. Their course, AI Primus, was divided into twenty-four one-hour sessions. The goal of this first section was to give Timmy and his classmates the foundations for understanding what artificial intelligence was and how AI was used to assist people in daily tasks at home and work.

The second part of the project would be more immersive. Timmy, and his classmates, would be given the opportunity to use a wearable — a wristwatch computer — for one week. The wearable contained sensors, voice recognition software, and a camera.

As was normal with Timmy, he wanted to jump in and start learning. He already knew some basic code using a drag-and-drop design. But this time, he would be able to use voice commands to interact with the watch verbally. He anticipated that artificial intelligence might even be able to help him do his homework. He thought it would be awesome to wear a computer on his wrist for a whole week. Bur first, he had to improve his coding skills and understand how machines learn through code. Before getting to use the wearable, he had to design some basic applications that the wristwatch would use in part two of the project.

With sensors attached, the wearable could identify Timmy’s location, the temperature of the air, and how fast he was moving. Since the computer contained voice recognition software, Timmy could talk to it. And since the computer had access to the Internet, he could ask it basic questions and receive immediate answers. The goal of the project was to determine how well the computer could interact with the user in the user’s natural habitat.

The Experiment

The Monday came when Timmy was given the wearable! The week prior, his class downloaded and tested the applications that the computer would use for the next seven days. Students were encouraged to talk to their wearables as if they were talking to a friend. By using normal language, the computer would learn to interact with the wearer. Additionally, students were encouraged to use the computer in different settings — home, outside, and wherever they would normally be. For Timmy, this meant he got to wear his new watch on adventures through the woods.

Timmy did exactly that! He wore it all the time when he played outside. For fun, he taught the computer how to recognize certain areas of the woods. He took pictures of everything. He took pictures of his favorite climbing trees. He took pictures of the different fishing spots along the river. He even took pictures of the different rock formations along the various paths throughout the woods.

Timmy used the science apps that he created in part one. He remembered all the AI technologies taught through AI World School. It was a lot of fun to know that the things he created could be used by the computer.

Lost

Friday night came, and he was having a lot of fun playing with his friend that lived on the other side of the woods. But it was getting late, and the sky was turning dark. And it looked like it was going to rain. He decided to head home. Not far into the woods, the clouds moved in and the rain came down. Slowly at first, but quicker as time passed. The trees and rocks looked a lot different at night than they did in the day. With the rain coming down and the darkness surrounding him, Timmy lost his way home.

Initially, Timmy was worried that his mother would be mad at him for coming home late, or wet from the rain. He did not want to admit that he was lost, or afraid. But as he tried to navigate through the trees, he seemed to be going in circles. Without realizing what he was doing, Timmy began to speak out loud, and his wearable began to speak back.

Even though Timmy knew that the computer was not human, he felt comforted by the fact that it talked back to him. When the wearable told him to point the watch in front of him, Timmy did as he was told. The camera on the watch immediately recognized where Timmy was and began giving him walking directions to get home safely.

A Better Tomorrow

Monday morning came, and Timmy was ready for science class. After his experience the previous Friday, he was less willing to give back the wearable. He was bursting at the seams, wanting to tell his class how the watch helped him find his way home in the dark and stormy night. Timmy and his parents were impressed that the watch talked to Timmy in a very calm and soothing way, which helped Timmy compose himself and use the technology to find his way home.

The other students in Timmy’s class had different stories to tell of how they used the wearable. None of the stories told were as adventurous or interesting as Timmy’s. This being his first real experience with artificial intelligence, he wanted to learn more from AI World School, and he wanted a wearable of his very own.

Photo courtesy : freepik.com

Author : Dr. Keith McNally

AIWS is an online self-learning platform providing transformational AI and Coding technology education to students at home, to homeschoolers and in K12 schools.