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July 6, 1987


By CBR Staff Writer

Advanced Training Technology Associates Ltd, ATTA, yesterday announced plans to develop computer-based training systems using artificial intelligence techniques, and revealed that it had landed around UKP5m in venture funding for its ideas. Investment in the company has come from the Department of Trade and Industry’s Software Products scheme in the shape of its largest single grant – UKP883,000; Siemens has awarded the new company a contract worth UKP750,000 for developing intelligent training software to be embedded in its new machines; and other investors include Advent Eurofund, Advent Capital, Investors in Industry, Legal and General Assurance and Lisp workstation builder Symbolics Inc. Artificial intelligence expert professor Tim O’Shea of the Open University in Milton Keynes says that existing computer tutors are stupid because they cannot do what they are attempting to teach and so cannot make any comments or criticisms of the students’ attempts, they merely note that the student has got the problem right or wrong. O’Shea suggests that training tools should allow: instantaneous criticism of work done, knowledge of the students past performance to be retained, and taught subject matter to be increased. ATTA’s product Taste, Technically Assisted Training Education, is intended as an authoring system or applications generator as well as a teaching aid and is based on Professor O’Shea’s five-ring model. The five components include: Teaching Administrator, which presents material to the student and processes responses in a conversational manner; Student History records the material presented to the student in chronological and topic orders; Student Model makes predictions concerning the students future performance and his current ability; Teaching Strategy relates the system’s view of the student to the types of teaching action available and chooses an approach based on the student’s own way of working; Teaching Generator selects a specific item or teaching module for the teaching administrator to use. All components are expressed in production rules or IF…THEN rules, such as IF it is raining THEN I will take my umbrella. Templates are provided for the author to create ‘lessons’ through forms and the system advises on the most appropriate structures, designs and presentation tools. ATTA was first established in December 1986 and has spent the last six months getting finance and finding offices. The first fruits of its product development are expected before the end of this year but a completed saleable authoring system will not be available until the first quarter next year. Taste is being developed in Common LISP on Symbolics hardware but the finished products will run under Unix, MS-DOS and OS/2 on most popular hardware. The Hitchin, Hertfordshire firm will initially target large companies similar to Siemens rather than the education market because that is where the money is. ATTA intends to sell direct and through value added resellers. The Taste product will cost between UKP4,000 and UKP11,000.

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