AI-powered virtual student enrols at Chinese university

‘Hua Zhibing’ to study alongside and interact with human learners

June 21, 2021
Tsinghua University
Source: Tsinghua University

A human-like virtual student powered by artificial intelligence has been enrolled in one of China’s top universities – to study computer science.

The “student”, named “Hua Zhibing”, has a synthesised female appearance and voice, and joined Tsinghua University’s department of computer science and technology last week.

With the ability to “recognise hidden patterns from data”, Hua is expected internalise a large amount of learning material and understand the logic behind it over the next two years, before taking computer science and data courses.

Like other students, Hua has been assigned a Tsinghua student ID, university email, and a course supervisor.

“I became interested in my birth,” she said in a self-introduction video. “With Professor Tang’s explanation, I got to know the development of artificial intelligence.”

Researchers and staff from Tsinghua’s computing and psychology departments, Institute for Artificial Intelligence, and admissions office are involved in the project.

“We hope to integrate our AI technologies for a flagship application system that is driven by data and knowledge, which is a great example of a combination of theoretical and applied research in computer science,” said Yin Xia, dean of the computer science department.

“We look forward to the great fun [Hua] can add to everyone’s campus life and to see how she can promote the interaction and cooperation between human and AI.”

Tsinghua shared some paintings and poems created by Hua at a briefing.

Tang Jie, professor of data mining at Tsinghua and Hua’s supervisor, said that she was based on the technology of large-scale pre-trained models.

The aim was that Hua would “enrich and strengthen the model, rather than retrain the model, when facing various studying stages and scenarios”.

Professor Tang’s team has recently published the low-level algorithm and source code of the large-scale pre-trained model, named Wu Dao.

“We wish Hua [to] think and constantly study like human beings eventually,” said a spokesperson for the project. “To understand people’s ideas, to generate interaction that meets users’ needs, to capture their demands, is the [challenge] of the next generation of artificial intelligence.”


Print headline: AI-powered virtual student enrols to study tech

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