This week Google revealed its purchase of the homework assistance app, Socratic. Although it obtained ownership of Socratic last March, most users were unaware of the change until last Thursday, when Google released a new version of the app on iOS.

The Use of Artificial Intelligence in Learning

Socratic first began as an app that sought to provide students with the help they needed to succeed in their learning through the formation of a virtual support group. And unlike many other assistance apps, Socratic is not limited to the submission of single-subject questions – if you have a question about your math homework and your history homework, you can receive feedback on both. But in Google’s hands, the app has undergone significant changes. Users can no longer submit an image of their homework questions and receive a response from another person. Instead, Google has modified the app by building an AI-based response system to answer all user questions. According to TechCrunch:

The new version of the iOS app still allows you to snap a photo to get answers, or you can speak your question. For example, if a student takes a photo from a classroom handout or asks a question like ‘what’s the difference between distance and displacement?’ Socratic will return a top match, followed by explainers, a Q&A section and even related YouTube videos and web links. It’s almost like a custom search engine just for your homework questions.

Google also says it has built and trained algorithms that can analyze the student’s question, then identify the underlying concepts in order to point users to these resources. For students who need even more help, the app can break down the concepts into smaller, easy-to-understand lessons.

The app also includes a new feature which was created with the assistance of professional educators and contains guides for over 1,000 higher education and high school topics.

Strengthening Existing Google Assistant Technology

Not only do the changes to Socratic seek to efficiently provide students with helpful and accurate explanations of the solutions to their questions, but the new AI technology may also provide useful insights that could help Google hone their existing AI technology. A recent TechCrunch article explained,

In addition to its primary focus as a homework helper, the acquisition could aid Google Assistant technology across platforms, as the virtual assistant could learn to answer more complex questions that Google’s Knowledge Graph didn’t already include.

While the new version of Socratic is already available on iOS, Android users will not be able to download it until later this fall.