Chatbots in education

Chatbots, those automated apps that exist to help you with fairly straightforward queries on websites, are about to become more intelligent. More emotionally intelligent that is. An article in The Guardian reports that scientists have developed an emotional chatbot. The aim is to create a 'bot' that can respond to a person with what appears to be empathy.

Artificial Intelligence with a heart

Illustration by Geralt

The program developed by the research team could be switched into five possible emotion states:  happy, sad, angry, disgusted, liking. The user can choose the preferred mode.  In one conversation the person typed in: “Worst day ever. I arrived late because of the traffic.” 

In neutral mode, the chatbot replied factually, stating: “You were late”. In disgust mode it replied “Sometimes life just sucks!” (disgust mode) in liking mode it responded with “I am always here to support you”, while in happy mode it said “Keep smiling! Things will get better”.

I can think of several uses for this in a school context, such as:

  • Answering parents' standard enquiries, like "When are the SATS tests?" and "Is the school open today in view of the bad weather?"
  • Answering questions about a particular child's attainment, given appropriate security questions.

Think of how much time a good 'emotionally intelligent' chatbot would save both teachers and office staff.

For further information, including a link to the original research paper, see