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08/29/2003 - Terabyte Triangle Welcomes Next IT

Thanks to Next IT, the world is one step closer to the "Star Trek" computer of everyone's dreams. Working with Gonzaga University, Next IT is setting up a three-phased education program implemented through a lab they call the GAIL --- Gonzaga Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the quest for computer actions that emulate humans. AI began through a challenge to scientists by British mathematician Alan Turing. His challenge was to create a machine that could trick people into thinking it was one of them. AI has grown and changed, so that the challenge now is to recognize the uniqueness of machine intelligence and learn to work with it in useful ways. This is what Next IT will accomplish at GAIL.

Next IT Corporation formed as the result of a merger with Artificial Intelligence Innovator, SpectreAI, Inc., in August 2002. Next IT, in the Holley Mason Building at 157 S Howard, has been operating in deep stealth mode since its inception, and is now making its debut with the GAIL project. Next IT Principals are Fred Brown, CEO; Phillip Galland, President; and Rob Hust, Head of Research and Development. In just one year, the company has grown to twenty-two employees and is accepting resumes. Next IT Corporation produces advanced Artificial Intelligence software for government, commercial, and educational markets.

Phase one of Next IT's program is to build a prototype --- Artificial Intelligence Developmental Educator (AIDE) --- a software package that will interact with students and teachers to help in the teaching of math and science. According to Kristen Souers, Director of Corporate Relations, AIDE follows the 80% - 20% rule --- the computer does 80% of the routine work, leaving just 20% to the human. This frees the human to do the work that only a human can do, thus optimizing the teacher's time and promoting efficiency for both teacher and student. Although the prototype will focus on teaching of math and science, the technology can be readily adapted to other subjects.

The 80% that the AIDE will do includes:
Capture data
Identify the learning style of the student
Reinforce the skills and concepts being taught
Alert the teacher to issues that may arise
Measure student's progress or lack of progress
Offer comparisons --- across a class, the state, or the nation
Assist the teacher in increasing student confidence and self esteem
Identify learning disabilities and patterns

AIDE is especially geared toward teaching K - 12 students. Being able to teach a student based on their individual learning patterns promises more effective learning. GAIL endeavors to make it possible for a teacher to do this.

Although the core content of GAIL is being determined by Next IT --- working in close collaboration with students, educators, administrators, and experts in math, reading, and ethics --- the students at GAIL will be deeply involved in determining the look and feel of the AIDE. Ultimately, each student will be able to customize his own desktop --- to choose the software mechanism that best suits the way he learns. He can customize the AIDE's teaching "hints" to be delivered visually, textually, or spoken.

A major concern goal is to have the AIDE so user-friendly that there is essentially no learning curve for either student or teacher. They want the educator to want to use the machine. Next IT hopes that GAIL will also help bring more math teachers forward and reinforce the current teacher populations.

The program may be easy, but the underlying technology, the Functional Presence Engine (patent pending) (FPE) is very complex. The Next IT Web site explains that "the FPE is a dynamic probabilistic parser that uses a changeable Lexical Grammar to sort, correlate, and classify all types of textual information based on subsumptive rule sets or knowledge bases." "In plain English," it continues, "the FPE is an intelligent, agile, situationally trainable, recursive parser that resolves textural input from any source."

Using the same 80% - 20% rule, Next IT is developing the same type of system for their commercial customers. The AIDE can serve equally well for continuing education, employee training and as a human resources aide.

To learn more about Next IT, go to:

Billie Moreland
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