Meet “Will” World’s First AI Digital Teacher, Teaching Kids About Energy

Students of New Zealand’s primary school will going to world’s first student who will learn from an Artificial Intelligence digital avatar. This digital teacher will teach kids about sustainable energy.

New Zealand rank at the top in the list of preparing students for future, according to worldwide Educating for the Future Index. In the upcoming year, chances are that this digital teacher is likely to replace flesh and blood teacher.

The name of this virtual teacher is Will. It is created by Auckland energy company Vector and Soul Machines. Will is being used to teach Vector’s “Be Sustainable with Energy” programme, which has been running since 2005.

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Vector’s chief digital officer, Nikhil Ravishankar said: “using a digital human is a very compelling method to deliver new information to people, and I have a lot of hope in this technology as a means to deliver cost-effective, rich, educational experiences into the future.”

The easiest way to think about Will is as a voice assistant, the only thing will differ Will from others is that it will have a human form on the screen. Children trialing the programme said talking to Will was different to talking to other artificial intelligence systems, such as Apple’s voice-based assistant Siri because you could see and interact with him: “He’s there, looking at us, like a real human.”

Will has brought to life on the screen using Soul Machine’s Artificial Nervous System. It is an autonomous animation platform that is modeled on the way the human brain and nervous system work. It’s meant to make the face “very human-like,” and while it is, you can clearly tell Will isn’t real. Eventually, I’m sure it will become impossible to tell the difference.

Students can interact with Will to find out about different forms of renewable energy, such as solar and wind. He can respond to their answers on topics he tests them on, as well as to their body language. If they smile at Will, he smiles back. He can then ask the students questions about what they’ve learned to ensure the lessons stick.

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“What was fascinating to me was the reaction of the children to Will. The way they look at the world is so creative and different, and Will really captured their attention,” Nikhil Ravishankar said in a news release.

digital teacher Will Soul Machine

The avatar used by Soul Machines is called an Artificial Nervous System. It uses webcam and microphone to collect the information and commands given by the user. Will analyze the users’ expression, his voice tone, his body posture and also ask few questions to the users to make a decision. It is programmed to react according to the user’s emotions. By using it’s Nervous System, Will can understand how well a student is understanding the concepts of the chapter.

Soul Machines chief business officer Greg Cross “kids who have grown up in an era of smartphones adapt to new technology quickly.”

“It’s a well-known fact we don’t have enough teachers in our schools anymore. We can pick up the newspaper and read about schools in communities outside major cities who can’t attract teachers. At the same time, you can read about schools in Auckland losing teachers because Auckland is too expensive for them as a city to live in” he added.


Soul Machines is the only company in the world which has developed autonomously animated avatars.

Like Will, Soul Machines has also created many different avatars. Currently, Soul Machines is working on eight different projects with customers like ANZ and Air New Zealand either launched or announced. Another 15 to 20 are under development.

Customers can choose a digital human from a catalog of fifteen different digital humans. Each has been modeled on a different real-life person but can be programmed to have different languages and accents.

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