Can AI help children learn better? Perhaps…


What is green, very small, sounds like Yoda and boasts almost endless wisdom? The answer is Elemental Path’s CogniToys small talking and listening dinosaur that taps into IBM Watsons powerful AI and Cognitive Computing smarts to help children learn – or that, at least, is the objective.


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CogniToys are sort of a hybrid between Musio and an Amazon Echo, except with a major advantage a child can have a conversation, ask questions and interact with a powerful AI that on the one front is helping to cure cancer and predict the stock market and on the other is singing ad hoc nursery rhymes to a bunch of children. All in a days work I suppose.


CogniToys In Toys

“For privacy reasons, the toy doesn’t directly connect to Watson,” says JP Benini, co-founder of Elemental Path.

“It connects to our proprietary platform, which in turn connects to Watson. Our platform is where we keep the personality, all the stories, the jokes, all the educational exercises and personalised experiences. We use Watson as the logical left brain to our creative right brain.”

In order to make the toy work each CogniToy has to be connected to the web via WiFi with an iOS or Android app and there’s a button on each dinosaur’s belly that engages the microphone and Watson. Conversations, spelling and math quizzes, knock knock jokes and stories about the universe – that kind of thing. Parents can also customise each toy’s settings and set the childs’ interests within the app.

According to Benini and co-founder Donald Coolidge, Elemental Path’s platform curates data and tailors it for each child and the database of responses is meant to answer common questions – ”mommy questions,” as Benini and Coolidge put it in the 5 to 9 age range, such as “Why is the sky blue?” and “Why can’t I eat candy for dinner?”


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The project was initially funded via a KickStarter back in 2015.

“The KickStarter campaign was a great way to inform and education the general public,” says Coolidge.

“It provided us with a tool to speak directly to our early adopters about how the toy should look, feel, and act.”

While the Gen One device, which sounds like a freaky Elmo, is just a toy this kind of in home interaction with a powerful AI engine like Watson certainly has use cases beyond children.

“The base technology is about giving connected devices a personality that responds and changes over time, but the really powerful piece of the puzzle is the conversational nature of the toy.”

About author

Matthew Griffin

Matthew Griffin, described as “The Adviser behind the Advisers” and a “Young Kurzweil,” is the founder and CEO of the World Futures Forum and the 311 Institute, a global Futures and Deep Futures consultancy working between the dates of 2020 to 2070, and is an award winning futurist, and author of “Codex of the Future” series. Regularly featured in the global media, including AP, BBC, Bloomberg, CNBC, Discovery, RT, Viacom, and WIRED, Matthew’s ability to identify, track, and explain the impacts of hundreds of revolutionary emerging technologies on global culture, industry and society, is unparalleled. Recognised for the past six years as one of the world’s foremost futurists, innovation and strategy experts Matthew is an international speaker who helps governments, investors, multi-nationals and regulators around the world envision, build and lead an inclusive, sustainable future. A rare talent Matthew’s recent work includes mentoring Lunar XPrize teams, re-envisioning global education and training with the G20, and helping the world’s largest organisations envision and ideate the future of their products and services, industries, and countries. Matthew's clients include three Prime Ministers and several governments, including the G7, Accenture, Aon, Bain & Co, BCG, Credit Suisse, Dell EMC, Dentons, Deloitte, E&Y, GEMS, Huawei, JPMorgan Chase, KPMG, Lego, McKinsey, PWC, Qualcomm, SAP, Samsung, Sopra Steria, T-Mobile, and many more.

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