Sanjana Basu, Investor

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Students across North America returned from winter break last week. And whether they were online or in the classroom, the impact of the pandemic continues to have far-reaching effects on schooling and education. Technology is accelerating a shift towards connected learning environments and every learner segment — from early childhood and K-12 to higher education and life-long learning — finds itself in the midst of a wave of disruption. As we extrapolate the emerging edtech trends of the last year, it is clear that artificial intelligence is poised to play an important role in the future of how we learn.

For educators, AI is already helping automate repetitive tasks (scheduling, grading, homework management) for teachers, creating more leverage for them to focus on teaching. AI tools are also being integrated into educational institutes to make administrative functions such as enrollment and retention more efficient. For learners, AI is personalizing the learning process and making curriculum more engaging.

In the future, we believe AI will be used in adaptive learning and assessment systems to help each individual student reach their full potential. While this future holds significant promise, we expect to see the speed and adoption of AI vary based on learning stages. K-12 will be slower due to traditionally lengthy tech adoption cycles and the role hands-on teaching plays in early social and emotional development.

We believe the biggest near-term opportunity for disruption is in lifelong learning, a growing segment that has seen major tailwinds since the pandemic. Re-skilling and certifications, corporate training, hobbies, and language-related training for adults are all categories that stand to benefit from the efficiencies and efficacy of AI tools. As adoption accelerates within this learning segment, we may see a backward domino effect, where educators gradually adopt the most effective and pervasive technologies for younger learners.

 

5 Noteworthy AI and Deep Tech Articles: week of Jan 11, 2021

1) ‘We have come six years in six months, and there’s no going back’: Eight VCs on what to expect from venture capital in 2021 (The Logic)
Radical Partner Aaron Brindle spoke to The Logic about how 2020’s acceleration of technology adoption could see governments making more data-driven decisions. “Without a doubt, governments will be using the insights and challenges of 2020 to build and innovate. 2021 is the moment to do it.”

2) The 2021 GovTech 100 (GovTech)
RoadBotics (a Radical portfolio company) made GovTech’s annual list of companies focused on helping local governments make a difference for their residents. With an AI-powered road-assessment tool that can be deployed via smartphones  mounted on the dash of any car, RoadBotics provides real time evaluations of city streets, empowering governments and communities to make objective, data-driven decisions about roadway maintenance, which costs taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars each year.

3) OpenAI debuts DALL-E for generating images from text (VentureBeat)
This week OpenAI announced a new software product that generates images from short text captions. From chairs in the shape of avocados to radishes wearing tutus, DALL-E combines computer vision and natural language processing to create original images.  The multimodal AI system is capable of creating both realistic images and representations that are similar to works of art.

4) Archaeology is going digital to harness the power of Big Data (Ars Technica)
Archaeologists are creating large online databases, combining data collected from satellite, airborne, and UAV-mounted sensors with historical information, to assist with research. Quantitative computational analysis is capable of revealing hidden patterns or trends that otherwise might have escaped notice.

5) Stop the Illegal Wildlife Trade: How artificial intelligence has become the latest conservation tool (Independent)
Wildlife conservationists in Lopé National Park in Gabon are turning to artificial intelligence to protect endangered species. Machine learning analysis of automated photographs  has enabled rapid tracking, identification and response to threats to at-risk animals, including over 25 species in the Congo Basin which otherwise would have been missed by humans.

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