The learning environment promises to be more fun and energetic with a new robot teaching assistant – a creation by Chula inventors rubber-stamped by the Gold Medal and the Innovation Excellence Award from the International British Innovation, Invention, Technology Exhibition (IBIX) 2020.
For kids, playing games and learning will no longer be two separate things. Following the recent launch of the teaching assistant robot “Avatar”, an innovative collaboration between Chula’s Faculties of Education and Engineering in the “TARAL: Teaching Assistant interactive Robot for Active Learning” research project.
“We developed the robot teaching assistant from a robot teddy bear, the first-generation robot that we submitted to a contest in South Korea. The highlight of the Avatar TA robot is the new feature that will transform the boring learning environment into fun lessons that learners will enjoy, including raising their Avatar robot with QR Codes received from answering quizzes. This process is called Gamification because it evokes a sense of enjoyment that learners may forget that they are studying”, said Prof. Dr Naowanit Songkram, Department of Educational Technology and Communications, who is a co-developer of the 10-inch, resin Avatar robot with Assoc. Prof. Dr Krerk Piromsopa of the Department of Computer Engineering, about the highlights and key features of the innovation.
The team applied the Learning Management System (LMS) in growing Avatar. The more learners answer quizzes, the more Avatar grows, “so learning and playing are pretty much the same thing,” the Professor said. Avatar is also equipped with Moodle open-source LMS which allows teachers to add and modify as needed all forms of contents and teaching materials in Avatars, be it animations, electronic books, or URL links. It was noted that the quizzes may include fill-in-the-blank, or full-sentence answers types. The evaluation and summary of the results are also done in real-time.
Prof. Dr Naowanit concluded that Avatar is currently under petty patent application and that an extension of the project to Chulalongkorn Demonstration School to develop exercise aids for students’ fitness test in P.E. is currently underway as well.
AI in education
A recent article noted that AI is slowly making its way into education, although robots in the classroom are yet to become a staple. Specific tasks can be rendered easier with artificial intelligence. Soon, it is expected that AI will be used to make grading relatively fast and simple on computer equipment. This will significantly improve the quality of education by helping students be as successful as possible.
Teachers and learners are already benefitting from machine-learning capabilities, improving access to information, and enhancing learning.
Some examples include:
- Personalized Learning: By offering personalized recommendations to each student, teachers can perform much better than before. With AI, students receive personal assistance with their in-class assignments as well as their final exams. It’s essential to give students immediate feedback through artificial intelligence apps since they’re targeted and customized. Lessons can be condensed into intelligent flashcards or study guides. Students can also be taught based on the challenges they face in learning class materials.
- Easy to Understand Materials: AI is being developed to make complex texts more understandable to students with varying levels of learning abilities. Students with learning disabilities should find it easier to relate and engage with the material if they simplify it or replace famous quips with simple alternatives.
- Educators Access to More Data: AI has enabled educators to have more access than ever before to a variety of data that can provide them with valuable insights into a student’s characteristics.
- Globalized Learning: Through AI-powered education, students learn the fundamentals of computer literacy. With the advent of more technological advances, there’ll be a broader range of courses available online.
- Identification of Learning Disabilities: Learning to identify learning disabilities in students is the first step in providing effective learning for them. Not all current testing is highly effective in detecting dyslexia, dyscalculia, and other learning disabilities. Some teachers are being trained on new AI systems to administer more effective tests to discover some of these conditions. A learning disability can be identified and the resources available can be used for the student.
- Simplified Administrative Tasks: With technology, grading can be automated in instances where multiple tests are being administered. So, professors wouldn’t be spending as much time grading them as they would be with their students. AI is expected to do this soon.
- Uses AI for Student’s Reliable Feedback: As AI gets increasingly advanced, this makes it possible to give students direct feedback on their performance. The system allows students to work at their own pace as needed to master the material and it won’t move on until students demonstrate mastery.
- New Innovations: AI can help in creating data-driven forecasts allowing operations departments to analyse complex data. Hence, they can adequately plan for the future, assign seats during school functions, or order food from local cafeterias. School districts can drastically reduce waste by eliminating over-ordering, thus saving money.
The use of a simple organic molecule during the fabrication of a two-dimensional (2D) perovskite results in one of the highest recorded efficiencies for perovskite-based devices. Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) employing this 2D perovskite material achieved an external quantum efficiency as high as 20.5%, which rivals the best organic LEDs, according to research co-led by City University of Hong Kong (CityU).
Led by Professor Andrey Rogach, Chair Professor at the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, CityU, and his collaborator Professor Yang Xuyong from Shanghai University, the research team has worked on 2D perovskite materials and succeeded to realise such efficient and bright green LEDs.
Their technology yielded the best-reported performance on both current efficiency and external quantum efficiency. This work has now put the perovskite LEDs close on the heels of current commercial display technologies, such as organic LEDs.
The findings were published in the scientific journal Nature Communications, titled “Smoothing the energy transfer pathway in quasi-2D perovskite films using methane sulfonate leads to highly efficient light-emitting devices”.
The key to the powerful change lies in the addition of around 10% of a simple organic molecule, called methane sulfonate. This molecule reconstructs the structure of the 2D perovskite nanosheets, while simultaneously enhancing exciton energy transfer between sheets of different thicknesses. It is also useful in reducing defects in the 2D perovskite structure, contributing to higher efficiency.
The consequences for producing better LEDs are encouraging. The brightness of 13,400 candela/m2 at a low applied voltage of 5.5 V and external quantum efficiency of 20.5% is recorded. This is close to the maximum that can be achieved by many existing LED technologies and has almost doubled the external quantum efficiency level of 10.5% reported in the previous collaborative study of the same groups two years ago.
“The CityU team has built up its expertise on perovskite materials to a very high level in a relatively short period of time, thanks to funding support from Senior Research Fellowship by the Croucher Foundation,” said Professor Rogach.
“The high brightness, excellent colour purity, and commercial-grade operating efficiency achieved marks 2D perovskites as an extremely attractive material for future commercial LEDs, and potentially also display technology. It’s a tangible outcome from both fundamental and applied research into novel nano-scale materials” he adds.
Other collaborators include researchers from CityU, Shanghai University, Jilin University, University of Science and Technology of China, Nankai University, Wuhan University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Innovation in LED tech
According to an earlier OpenGov Asia article, researchers at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) have discovered a novel way to enhance the efficiency of the ultraviolet (UVC) light-emitting diode (LED) disinfection technique and developed a closet that could kill 99.99% of the bacteria and viruses on the garment inside within a minute. The closet is now in use at three special schools under Po Leung Kuk.
UVC is widely used for disinfecting purposes in private and public facilities, but the light source of existing UVC disinfection products are mainly mercury lamps, which not only has lower germicidal efficiency but is also bulkier with a much shorter lifespan than the LED light.
Moreover, mercury lamp has a longer disinfection cycle and requires time for warming up while LED emits light instantly. Since last year, over 140 nations, including the US, EU, China, Japan and Australia, have implemented a treaty on gradually phasing out the use of toxic mercury in commercial and industrial processes.
However, despite LED lights’ superiority over its mercury-based counterpart, it is not yet widely adopted in sterilisation products due to its narrow beam angle and low output efficiency with traditional single-layer reflector.
Dozens of students, lecturers, and officers at the Posts and Telecommunications Institute of Technology (PTIT) can now use motorbike parking services, keep track of class schedules, check exam scores, and pay for meals entirely on their smartphones.
PTIT is a key human resource research and development unit of the Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC). With the aim of promoting digital transformation to improve the quality of training and research, the Institute deployed the PTIT S-Link mobile application for students, lecturers, and managers with essential functions.
PTIT S-Link sends students alerts about an upcoming lesson. It notifies the user about learning subjects, venues, and other detailed information about the class. The app was made operational in late 2020 and has over 12,000 downloads.
According to a press release, a digital university is taking shape at PTIT. In September 2020, during a talk with PTIT members, the MIC Minister, Nguyen Manh Hung, noted that PTIT, a “miniature society” with young dynamic people has favourable conditions to build a digital society. To prepare the labour force for digital transformation, an online university is the best way to “train digital citizens”. The Institute plans to unveil D-Lab, an online practice platform, S-Class, a smart class platform, and an intelligence operation centre (IOC), shortly.
The Ministry of Education and Training (MOET) said Vietnam is striving to become a leading country with a fully digitised educational sector. It wants to produce a Vietnamese workforce that has globally recognised digital transformation knowledge and skills.
Though the institute has been using IT in its activities for many years, it still faces difficulties upgrading the application. The biggest problem is the lack of a digital university model and transformation at the Institute. In the first period, PTIT is focused on researching and shaping the architecture of the digital university and completing the digital transformation plan by 2025.
With the spirit of carrying out digital transformation in accordance with the “miniature digital nation”, the institute studied national policies and built its digital transformation plan under the three pillars of the national digital transformation programme: digital administration, service, and society.
“The fourth quarter of 2020 and first quarter of 2021 will be the time for the institute to cooperate with a digital technology firm to build a digital university,” Hung said. The Minister’s proposal spurred on development in the institute, the release noted.
In December 2020, Minister Hung stated that one digital university has likely become eligible for pilot transformation. With instructions from the Minister, the institute has become one of the pioneers in building and applying a digital university model. PTIT is not, however, the only digital school in the country.
The targets set in the Hanoi National University’s development strategy by 2030 are: reforming teaching methods towards modernisation, integrating personalisation into IT platforms, and creating learner-centric infrastructure. It also aims to establish intelligent university management and organisation models, execute comprehensive digital transformation in all activities, and operate the shared digital data knowledge system synchronously. The university will interconnect data for effective administration, management, and the renewal of teaching, learning, and research activities. One of the key tasks in 2021-2025 of the school is perfecting the modern university management and organisation model in association with building smart universities.
Invest Hong Kong (InvestHK) co-organised a webinar with the Moscow Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) on 7 April 2021) to update Russian companies on Hong Kong’s latest business environment under the new normal, and encouraging them to tap the business opportunities arising from the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA) development.
Speakers at the webinar provided Russian companies with the latest information on business opportunities in Hong Kong regarding retail, e-commerce and import trade. They also highlighted how the city can tap opportunities amid rapid changes related to the world’s digital transformation in the face of the global pandemic.
The event started with welcoming remarks by the Vice President of MCCI followed by a video presentation on Hong Kong under the new normal. This included business opportunities, challenges and prospects from the Associate Director-General of Investment Promotion at InvestHK.
He said that the pandemic has fuelled a digital transformation globally and Hong Kong is ready to benefit. The Hong Kong SAR Government is committed to promoting the development of innovation and technology (I&T), with a special focus on research and development, state-of-the-art I&T infrastructure, a tech talent pool, investment funding and other support measures to improve the ecosystem for start-ups.
Russian companies can leverage the city’s sophisticated technology ecosystem to meet the growing demand for digital marketing and technology-related services in the Mainland and across the region.
He added that the GBA development offers huge business opportunities to Hong Kong in various areas. He urged Russian companies to set up a presence in Hong Kong and make use of the city’s status as an international finance centre, the low and simple tax regime, its robust common law legal system and vibrant business environment to expand into the lucrative Mainland market.
InvestHK’s Principal Consultant in Moscow told the webinar, “Through this webinar, we aspire to unveil the unparalleled advantages that Hong Kong grants to all sorts of entrepreneurial minds and daring corporations eager to expand into Asia and globally with all our expertise and care.”
An Entrepreneur and the Founder and Managing Director of a venture studio and consulting firm, based in Hong Kong and Co-Founder of Digital Week Online, a Business Development Specialist also shared his experience in doing business in Hong Kong, highlighting the business opportunities in retail, e-commerce and importation to Hong Kong.
InvestHK is the department of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government responsible for attracting foreign direct investment and supporting overseas and Mainland businesses to set up or expand in Hong Kong. It provides free advice and customised services for overseas and Mainland companies.
Hong Kong: an emerging tech hub
Hong Kong is rapidly emerging as a regional tech hub. Key IT infrastructure includes Hong Kong Science Park and Cyberport.
Hong Kong Science Park aims to transform Hong Kong into the regional hub for innovation and technology development. Home to 600 technology companies and about 13,000 technology talents, Science Park is a complete ecosystem that connects stakeholders, nurtures talent, facilitates collaboration, and drives innovation for commercialisation.
A leading information and communication technology hub in the Asia-Pacific region, Cyberport is a creative digital community of over 900 digital tech companies engaged in various forms of digital technology, such as FinTech, eCommerce, IoT/Wearables and Big Data/Artificial Intelligence.
The Philippines’ Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and the Department of Education (DepEd) strengthened the partnership between the agencies to clear the path towards the digitalisation of the education sector with the establishment of the Public Education Network (PEN).
The DICT and DepEd started coordinating on the development of the PEN last year. It is aligned with President Rodrigo Duterte’s directive during his 5th State of the Nation Address (SONA) last year for both agencies to connect all schools, especially last-mile schools, and DepEd offices nationwide.
Under the memorandum of agreement (MOA) signed between the two agencies, the DICT will provide medium to long-term assistance to DepEd, including the allocation of bandwidth from the DICT’s high-speed Internet infrastructure project, augmentation of DepED’s future satellite capacity through DICT’s existing very small aperture technology (VSAT) satellite and teleport facilities, the building of internet backbone up to last-mile schools under the DICT’s National Broadband Programme (NBP), and the provision of data transport service using DICT’s fibre optic network under the Government Network (GovNet) project and Microwave towers.
Under the agreement, the DICT will also give immediate assistance to the DepEd on advocating for the presence of ICT service providers in public school premises; provisioning of online resources, materials, and systems for educational use; giving teachers and learners access to DICT’s Tech4Ed facilities and its attached computer laboratories and research facilities; and coordination with the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), among others.
The agencies also inked a separate MOA for the use of suitable real estate properties owned or under the administration of DepEd as sites or locations for the implementation of DICT’s Shared Passive Telecommunications Tower Infrastructure (PTTI) or the Common Tower Initiative.
According to the DICT, education shall continue to play a key role in the socio-economic prosperity of a nation. Hence, the country needs to envision how education can emerge stronger, more responsive, and more effective from this global crisis than ever before. To do this, the agency is continuously assisting the DepEd with the transition from a traditional classroom setting to blended learning and shall continue to draw on the benefits provided by ICT to make this shift possible.
The DepEd said this partnership is designed not only to deal with COVID-19 but also to deal with the future. The agency hopes to improve the education sector with the help of partner agencies.
Accordingly, as reported by OpenGov Asia, the Philippine Full Digital Transformation Act of 2020 mandates all government agencies, government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs), instrumentalities and Local Government Units (LGUs) to adopt a digital plan that aligns with the Philippine Digital Transformation Strategy 2022.
With COVID-19, digital transformation in the government has taken on a sense of urgency. Contract tracing and distribution of aid could be smoother if data is harmonised, and digital systems are put in place more comprehensively. Lawmakers in the country plan to harmonise collected personal data of Philippine citizens, businesses, land, and transactions, among others. Further, it will open opportunities that will likely drive the government to invest in developing additional organisational capability and staff competencies.
With all these plans taking on urgency in the light of the pandemic, the government predicts it will be expedient to build a Digital Transformation Department to manage the ambitious and yet highly practical investment. The department would be expected to support and roll out the office’s digital transformation strategy. Lawmakers in the country stressed that there is no reason to delay the drive to realise the full modernisation of government services to serve Philippine citizens – adequately, efficiently, and securely.
More data centre and warehouse developments will qualify as state significant developments (SSDs) in NSW under planned changes to the state’s planning approvals process. The reforms, which come into effect in June, will temporarily lower the threshold for facilities to be assessed as SSD for two years to fast-track approvals and stimulate economic activity.
SSD is a type of development deemed important due to its size, economic value or potential impact, requiring Independent Planning Commission or ministerial sign-off before it proceeds. Proposals are assessed by the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, instead of local councils.
The threshold for data centres will fall “from $50 million CIV [capital investment value] to 10 megawatts total power consumption (which roughly equates to a CIV of $40 million)”. Warehouses, on the other hand, will fall from “$50 million CIV to $30 million CIV for a two-year period” before reverting to $50 million CIV. The department said the changes will “more accurately” reflect the scale, complexity and potential impact of data centres and warehouses, providing a “clear and more certain planning pathway”.
The Planning Minister stated that the reforms would allow projects to travel through the planning system more quickly at a time when demand for data centres and warehouses is increasing. “During the pandemic, there has been a noticeable shift closer towards e-commerce, remote working and cloud storage which has led to an increase in data centres and warehouses. These are great for stimulating the economy – they’re simple to build, simple to assess and create a higher number of direct and indirect jobs,” he said.
Data centres and warehouses represent a $4.9 billion pipeline of projects so by lowering the threshold to assess more of them as SSD, the NSW Government is pushing them through the planning system more quickly. The Minister added that the number of planning assessment officers would also be boosted to help manage the demand as a result of the changes.
The SSD assessment pathway reforms come as the department plans further changes to the SEEPs to streamline the delivery of smaller data centres through the complying development pathway. The pathway offers an accelerated approvals process by the council or an accredited certifier for “straight forward developments”, as long as they “meet strict construction and building standards”
It follows a noticeable increase in the number of data centre development applications, particularly using the regional development of SSD pathways. “This means we’re making it easier to build small-scale data centres without lengthy planning approvals while providing a swifter pathway for large scale ones,” the Minister said.
Each data centre development is estimated to contribute up to $1 billion in construction and fit-out costs to the NSW economy. The Managing Director of an Australian cloud, data centre, government cybersecurity and telecom company said that the reforms were “really practical” and would “support NSW’s short-term economic recovery”.
His company has invested more than $200 million in the past year alone building two facilities. The firm is proud to be part of that economic rebuild and look forward to continued partnership with the state and federal government to do more, he added.
The Managing Director of Australia’s branch of the world’s largest data centre and colocation infrastructure provider also welcomed the announcement. “With eight data centres in the state today, any legislative changes that speed up the planning system is an important step forward,” he said.
On 20 April 2021, Army will launch its Quantum Technology Roadmap. The launch will occur during the Quantum Technology Challenge 2021 (QTC 2021) at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre and will include presentations from Australia’s Chief Scientist as well as the Chief Defence Scientist.
Quantum technologies have been identified as having substantial disruptive potential across defence. However, their true capabilities, limitations, countermeasures and most disruptive applications are still being discovered.
Army aims to leverage Australia’s national strength in quantum technology research to gain and retain an early quantum advantage. The Roadmap provides the framework to achieve this through partnering with broader Defence, Australia’s academia and emerging quantum industry, and aligned nations. The Roadmap adds to Army’s accelerating engagement with emerging technologies and evolution, as described in Accelerated Warfare, Army in Motion and Army Objective Force.
Whilst the launch event is restricted to defence personnel and select guests, the Roadmap and a recording of the launch will be published on the Land Power Forum after a short delay on 20 April 2021. To be alerted of the publication and to view the recording, audiences are to register via the website.
QTC 2021 is a key first step in the Roadmap and will see teams of Australia’s world-leading quantum scientists and engineers compete to show how quantum technologies can deliver Army unprecedented capabilities. Pitches from each of the remarkable teams competing in QTC 2021 will be included in the launch recording.
About QTC 2021
The first Army Quantum Technology Challenge (QTC 2021) will be held at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre on 20 April 2021. The Challenge will see teams of Australia’s world-leading quantum scientists and engineers compete to show how quantum technologies can conceptually deliver Army unprecedented capabilities, including:
- Making the ground transparent: imaging what is hidden subterranean
- Resupplying troops in battle quickly, safely and efficiently: optimisation of large-scale resupply by squads of autonomous uncrewed ground vehicles.
- Denying the enemy secure communications: countermeasures quantum encryption.
QTC 2021 will be the first in a regular series of challenges that will enable Army to leverage Australia’s national strategic strength in quantum technology to rapidly identify the most disruptive and advantageous applications of quantum technologies for the land domain.
Future challenges will respond to opportunities and problems identified by members of Army and the wider quantum technology community.
The challenges are a key component of Army’s Quantum Technology Roadmap, which will also be launched at QTC 2021. The Roadmap also contains plans for the development of the high-value applications and technologies identified by the challenges, focused on Army’s needs. The Roadmap, a recording of the launch and recordings of the pitches by each of the QTC 2021 teams will be published.
The need for quantum technologies
According to an earlier article by Army, quantum technologies exploit the fundamental laws of nature to reach the ultimate limits of sensing, imaging, communications and computing, and thus promise otherwise impossible capabilities.
They are no longer scientific speculation; substantial public and private investments around the world are driving these technologies out of laboratories.
This acceleration will see quantum technologies transform our lives over the next 20 years. This will be even more evident when combined with other emerging technologies, such as nanotechnology, biotechnology, space technology, artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics. Now is the time that Defence must begin to understand, explore and exploit quantum technologies throughout its operations if it is to gain and retain a quantum advantage.
New Zealand has installed its most powerful supercomputer for artificial intelligence (AI) applications at the University of Waikato. The move aims to put New Zealand among the leading countries in AI research and development.
According to a news report, the NVIDIA DGX A10, nicknamed the Ferrari of computing, is the first computer of its kind in New Zealand and the world’s most advanced system for powering universal AI workloads. The machine can rapidly and efficiently process massive amounts of data, allowing students and researchers at the University to process at lightning-fast speeds. It enables machine learning and AI that can solve problems from addressing climate change to managing the country’s biodiversity.
Machine learning uses algorithms to explore huge data sets and create models that provide answers or outcomes mirroring human decision-making. Models can be trained to recognise patterns, facial expressions, and spoken words. They can also detect anomalies like credit card fraud. It uses artificial neural networks – computer software styled on the human brain – to learn how to make predictions in particular areas through deep learning. The model makes its own predictions then tests these against real-world results and is trained by humans to recognise what went wrong in a quest to create a more accurate model.
One of the first projects the computer is being used for is to train models that can learn and classify New Zealand’s plants and animals, based on a publicly available database of more than one million photos. Albert Bifet, a Professor at the university, said that students and researchers could take months, or even years, to process the data needed to create models like the one they are working on if they had to use more traditional computing. The computer will allow the researchers to process the data in a matter of days. It will enable them to gain insights and progress their research at an unprecedented scale, he noted.
The purchase was made possible through income from the sale of commercial licenses to the Waikato Environment for Knowledge Analysis (WEKA) software. It is a suite of Java-based software tools for machine learning and data mining that the machine learning group at the university has been developing for more than 20 years, the report explained.
“Being able to use the funds from WEKA, which has proved so successful, is a real win for us. WEKA software has been bought by several large international IT companies. It shows the success and depth of expertise we have here and has enabled us to reinvest back into our group,” Professor Bifet said.
The system was supplied by Fujitsu and fits into one-quarter of a computing rack in the University’s main server room. The NVIDIA A100 Tensor Core GPUs featured in the DGX A100 system enables enterprises to consolidate training, inference, and analytics into a unified, easy-to-deploy AI infrastructure. NVIDIA Mellanox InfiniBand networking ensures that the data is rapidly supplied to the system.
The report said that the A100 GPUs enable data scientists and developers to perform a massive number of calculations all at once, a key feature of the algorithms behind machine learning and AI. The DGX A100 has eight A100 GPUs containing 40 GB (gigabytes) of memory each for a total of 320 GB of GPU memory. When they all work together, they can process five quadrillion basic arithmetic operations per second.