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Wed Jan 11, 2017, 04:40 PM

Jill Watson, Round Three -- Georgia Tech course prepares for third semester with virtual TAs

Georgia Tech is beginning its third semester using virtual teaching assistants (TAs) in an online course about artificial intelligence (AI). The new term comes one year after Jill Watson was introduced during Knowledge Based Artificial Intelligence (KBAI), a core course of the College of Computing’s Master of Science in Computer Science degree program.

Jill, which is implemented on IBM’s Watson platform, was first used during the spring 2016 semester to successfully answer particular types of frequently asked questions without the help of humans. The students weren’t told her identity until the final day of the class.

Professor Ashok Goel then introduced two “Jill Watsons” this past fall to work alongside 13 human TAs. With Jill no longer a secret, Goel gave 14 of 15 TAs pseudonyms (only the head assistant kept his real identity). Jill Watson became Stacy Sisko and Ian Braun. Stacy interacted with the 400 enrolled students during class introductions and posted weekly updates; Ian answered common questions.


Also in the fall, approximately 40 students built chatbots (their own avatars of Jill Watson) that could converse about the course. This allowed the students to operationalize some of the techniques they were learning in the class.

“When we started, I had no idea that this would blossom into a project with so many dimensions. It’s been a bonanza of low-hanging fruit we’re just starting to pluck.”


So are trolls really trolls, or are they trollbots?

Think of political discourse when trollbots outnumber humans.

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