TAL debuts chatbot on smart gadget to solve math problems

Its parent TAL has been exploring state-of-the-art technologies to provide users with more scientific, smarter and easier-to-use products.

TAL (好未来,NYSE: TAL), one of China’s biggest out-of-school for-profit tutoring services provider, announced recently that it has installed an AI chatbot on its newly released smart learning gadget, as part of its response to the ongoing ChatGPT craze, Chinese media reported today.

Xueersi, a K12 affiliate of TAL offering tutoring in small-class formats, said the chatbot, called π, or Little Pi, derived its name from an eponymous internal development project.

The name of the chatbot could be subject to future changes ahead of official product launches, Xueersi added.

The research behind the chatbot dates back to 2020, when Xueersi, based on more than 300 million math test datasets, began feeding data to AI models and algorithms to train their ability to understand and solve math problems.

With a focus on using AI to teach math to students, the chatbot-equipped smart learning gadget — part of TAL’s pivot to educational smart hardware — can recognize handwritten or printed test items when it is paired with AR eyewear.

Little Pi then proceeds to process and analyze the content it is shown and explain the test answer in smooth, natural human language.

Notably, the chatbot can solve complex math problems involving fraction, decimal and combination and come close to the teaching quality of a real human instructor.

According to a manager with Xueersi, who spoke on condition of anonymity, its parent TAL has been exploring state-of-the-art technologies to provide users with more scientific, smarter and easier-to-use products.

“The appearance of ChatGPT has provided many new thoughts and methods for product R&D. Going forward, Xueersi will update and iterate its smart learning gadgets using ChatGPT and related technologies,” said the spokesperson.

“We expect them to make significant progress in test item coverage, human-machine interaction, and the vividness of test item explanation.”

TAL and a host of other for-profit tutoring companies, such as New Oriental (新东方, NYSE: EDU, HKG: 9901) and Gaotu (高途, NYSE: GOTU), were forced to shift away from their original business model after China cracked down hard in 2021 on the sector in a campaign to relieve the academic and financial burden of students and their families.

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Ni Tao

Ni Tao is the founder and editor-in-chief of cnrobopedia. Prior to cnrobopedia, he had a full decade of experience with a major state-run English-language newspaper as a tech reporter and opinion writer. He is also a communications specialist, having provided consultancy services to established firms like Siemens, Philips, ABinBev, Diageo, Trip.com Group (Nasdaq: TCOM, HK: 9961), Jianpu Technology (NYSE: JT) and a handful of domestic startups. A graduate of Fudan University, he writes widely about China's business and tech scenes and other topics for global publications including South China Morning Post, SupChina, The Diplomat, CGTN, Banking Technology, among others, and tries to impart his experience to students at Fudan University Journalism School, where he is a part-time lecturer. When he's not writing about robotics, you can expect him to be on his beloved Yanagisawa saxophones, trying to play some jazz riffs, often in vain and occasionally against the protests of an angry neighbor. Get in touch with him by dropping a line at nitao0927@gmail.com.

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