Shanghai start-up Rikai Labs helps teach English using WeChat chatbots
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Shanghai start-up Rikai Labs helps teach English using WeChat chatbots

THE key to learning a new language is practice, and Shanghai-based start-up Rikai Labs has engineered a chatbot to help students do exactly that.

By working with China’s most popular chat application, WeChat, Rikai Labs helps users to learn English by chatting with both a bot and a real human teacher by integrating the two with what they call ‘Artificial Artificial Intelligence’.

Rikai Labs, whose motto is “WE BUILD BOTS”, uses chatbots to hike up the capability of its English education platform, Englishquiz, to handle a growing number of participants.

David ‘DC’ Collier, CEO of Rikai Labs, told TechNode the application of chatbots is suited to education as it is a two-way medium. However, he said that adding the Artificial Intelligence (AI) does not “necessarily” replace the teacher, but instead acts more as a “teacher’s assistant”.

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An example of a student-teacher session using Rikai Lab’s English education platform. Image via TechNode.

The lessons are conducted via WeChat, which has 697 million monthly active users. The chatbots are meant to enhance the teaching and learning experience by including extra media such as labelled pictures or transcribed spoken audio files that would otherwise take a long time to do.

The bots, dubbed “teacherbots”, are also responsible for providing practice material and responding to answers from students, reports TechNode. The addition of the bots should take out “all of the drudgery”, according to Collier, as well as help teachers “deal with 20 students at the same time”.

Like most AIs, Rikai Labs’ teacherbots should become more sophisticated as lessons become more advanced, becoming better at catching grammar mistakes and correcting students by learning together with them.