I have written now over 800 posts in the past 3 years. Probably the one with the most traffic is the one I wrote called Computers Will Replace Teachers, and Here’s How… In that post I discuss how many people have trouble believing that we will learn from computers because they visualize robots doing a teacher’s job in a classroom, which I agree won’t happen. I speculate that what will actually happen is learning will be embedded in the world around us. We won’t just learn during school hours but anytime we want to, throughout our entire lives. (see The future of education eliminates the classroom, because the world is your class)
In order for this vision to become a reality, certain technologies will have to emerge and be perfected. In terms of interfacing with humans, computers might want to adopt a virtual persona. I came across this very cool tech demo from NVIDIA where they show the state of the art in human rendering. (fast forward to 8:37)
What is important to note is that is not pregenerated. Instead it is using a very powerful graphics card to generate it on the fly. Because of Moore’s Law it will only 3-5 years before you an do that on a high end cell phone. When that happens, the line between real people and virtual will start to blur. So what is this virtual person going to say?
To make the virtual human speak will require computers to understand language in a very natural way. This is part of how computers are developing senses and the ability to understand our world. This understanding of the world is what is known as semantics. There is a lot of work going on right now on building a semantic web, also known as an Internet of Things. Once you have this you can have a conversation with the computer and it will understand things in context. Having a computer understand natural language is how you start this and Ray Kurzweil is now working on it for Google.
Finally, once the computer can understand natural language you need it to be able to create new knowledge from existing facts. This is machine learning. You see, we will never be able to get to true Artificial Intelligence by programming all the info in. It will have to be able to learn. The Defense department is working on this project too.
So once you have AI intelligent machines, they will be able to teach you things. You can talk to them, they will understand the question and the meaning behind it. They will always be with you and eventually will be an extension of human capacities via Augmented Reality.
Remember, there are many new technologies all going to come of age at about the same time. Who knows in what ways they will be combined and what new technologies we can hardly guess at will come from their union?