CEO Insider

How AI Helps Children Learn to Love Reading

The power of books and the influence that they can have on children’s development is astounding. Reading aloud to kids of any age, simply sitting down with their mom or dad and getting lost in a story can help to build bonds between parents and children.

The American Academy of Pediatrics advises that this feeling of well-being helps children to feel secure when they are learning, as they associate it with attention and intimacy. I passionately believe that helping your child fall in love with reading isn’t just an opportunity to give them a bigger vocabulary, but a way to set them up to enjoy stories and learning for their entire lives.

Many parents already know the value of reading and see its impact in their children. However, life is often hectic and making time for these moments can be difficult. Compounding this is our increasing reliance on technology, which both helps and hinders parenting: children are drawn to screens, and adults often find it hard to resist them too. This is now so serious that the World Health Organization published research in 2017 saying that a dramatic increase in screen time was putting children’s health at risk, based on a survey of 200,000 children across 42 countries.

However, advances in technology can also help busy parents to unlock some of the benefits that reading aloud can bring to children. When I left Baidu, where I oversaw Human-Computer interaction, I set up Ling Technology to develop artificial intelligence (AI) that would have a positive impact on families. My experience at Baidu and at Microsoft Research showed me the huge potential that the transition from an Internet era to an AI-IOT era could have, with more natural interactions between humans and machines.

That’s why Ling Technology created Luka, a reading companion that uses Artificial Intelligence to recognize over 30,000 classic picture books, and read them aloud to kids.

Luka is behavior-driven, so it responds to the page of a book turning, for example, creating a beautiful interaction between a child and their robotic playmate. In the future, I believe that all electronics will be able to interact with humans in this way, subverting the traditional human-computer interaction model with a positive and engaging user experience, rather than an addictive one.

Listening to Luka or other reading companions tell a story can engage children in a story and spark their imaginations, allowing them to interact without the need for a screen. Luka recognizes and reads the books, and children learn as they turn the pages. And, if they are tied up or out of town, parents can even record their own voice reading a favorite tale through a dedicated iOS or Android app.

Parenting can often be a tough job, with lots of family, friends, and experts offering advice and opinions. However, the power of reading offers so many advantages – from helping your child develop a love of learning right through to helping them form better relationships. Encouraging your budding bookworm either in person or with the help of technology will help you to be a brilliant parent, in my book.

Have you read?

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Gu Jiawei
Gu Jiawei is the CEO and founder of Ling Technology. He previously managed the Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) group at Baidu Research Institute of Deep Learning (IDL), and worked at Microsoft Research. He holds 28 US patents and more than 150 Chinese patents and was recognized as one of the top 30 Designers Under 30 in 2015 by Forbes magazine, honored as one of the Top 35 Innovators Under 35 in the World in 2016 by MIT Technology Review and named one of the 40 Under 40 Businessmen in China by Fortune magazine.