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Sesame Workshop and IBM Watson today announced that they are creating a vocabulary app and the Sesame Workshop Intelligent Play and Learning Platform. The new platform will be used by Sesame Workshop and IBM to create a series of cognitive apps, games, and toys to help kids learn.

This is the first public action announced by the partnership, which was formed more than a year ago.

The platform will run on IBM Cloud and the partners invite the “ecosystem of software developers, researchers, educational toy companies, and educators to tap IBM Watson cognitive capabilities and Sesame Workshop’s early childhood expertise to build engaging experiences to help advance children’s education and learning,” according to a statement from IBM Watson.

“When we first started 45 years ago, [our show] was basically using the technology of the day — that was TV — to give all kids access to high-quality education,” Sesame Workshop COO Steve Youngwood told VentureBeat in a phone interview.

Now the company is working on things like tutor assistants, apps for personalized education, and other tools to helps kids learn and augment intelligence.

“The basis of the partnership when we formed it a year ago was you take the cognitive computing power of Watson and the early childhood expertise of Sesame and you bring them together to create adaptive and personalized platforms and products that ideally transform education both in schools and at home through apps and games and eventually though items like educational toys,” he said.

Part of the partnership has involved joint research, including an expanded trial program for use of the vocabulary app will begin this fall at Gwinnett County Public Schools in Georgia.

“The first real incarnation of that platform to show the power of the platform is this vocabulary app that we’re building with Gwinnett,” IBM Watson Education VP Chalapathy Neti told VentureBeat. “Think about the core Watson platform with NLP, speech input-output, image, and video recognition as the basis. On top of it we’ve been working with Sesame building specialization for early childhood with a set of linear combinations and core services.”

Neti said the vocabulary app, which is designed to help pronounce tough words like “camouflage,” calls upon roughly 75 percent of the more than 50 APIs for AI services from IBM Watson.


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