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Bina48, one of the worlds most advanced social robots. Photo courtesy of Bina48 Facebook page

Bina48, the first-ever robot to complete a college course, finished another mission today: It became the first robot to co-teach a university-level class.

Why it matters: The experiment at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point sought to determine if AI can "support a liberal education model," says William Barry, a West Point professor who has been using Bina48 to teach for years.

What’s happening: Bina48 co-taught two sessions of an introduction to ethics philosophy course — which covers ethical reasoning, just-war theory and the use of artificial intelligence in society. In the classroom were almost 100 students, along with Barry and Maj. Scott Parsons, an assistant professor at West Point.

The objective was to understand whether AI “can authentically support teaching in the classroom, where it enhances students’ comprehension and holds interest," Barry says.

How it works: Bina48 is fed a mosaic of general knowledge, in the form of what Barry calls "mind files."

  • In preparation for today, AI developers fed Bina48 troves of data about war theory and political philosophy, in addition to Barry's lesson plan.
  • “We asked not to hook her on the internet ... because she can easily run to Wikipedia or the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. We want to run her just on the algorithm,” Barry says.
  • When it's Bina48's turn to teach, it peruses its background knowledge and lesson plan and delivers a lecture. And if a student asks a question, the bot can reply out loud.

After today’s class, Barry tells Axios the cadets were wholly receptive:

“Before the class, they thought it might be too gimmicky or be entertainment. … They were blown away because she was able to answer questions and reply with nuance. The interesting part was that [the cadets] were taking notes.”

But the bot may not be best suited for West Point, the cadets concluded, since it didn’t quite keep pace with the class. It might make a greater impact in countries with low literacy rates, he says.

Flashback: This is not Bina48's first interaction with West Point students. Last year, it participated in a debate about the use of nonlethal weapons in warfare.

Go deeper

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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

State governments, private businesses and even part of the federal government are suddenly embracing mandatory coronavirus vaccinations for their employees.

Why it matters: Vaccine mandates have been relatively uncommon in the U.S. But with vaccination rates stagnating and the Delta variant driving yet another wave of cases, there's been a new groundswell of support for such requirements.

Ina Fried, author of Login
40 mins ago - Sports

Axios at the Olympics: Softball on the brink

Cat Osterman, pitching here against Japan on Monday, came out of retirement to play in the Tokyo Olympics. Photo: ina Fried

TOKYO – When the U.S. and Japan take the field in Yokohama on Tuesday, they are playing for more than just a gold medal. As badly as both teams want to win, they also want to show the world their sport deserves a permanent place in the Olympics.

Why it matters: Softball is returning to the Olympics after a 12-year absence, but its long-term Olympic future is uncertain, with the sport not part of the 2024 Games in Paris and plans up in the air after that.

Updated 1 hour ago - Sports

Naomi Osaka eliminated from Olympic Games tennis tournament

Czech 42nd-ranked Marketa Vondrousova (L) shakes hands with Japan's Naomi Osaka after their Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games women's singles third round tennis match at the Ariake Tennis Park in Tokyo on Tuesday. Photo: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP via Getty Images

Naomi Osaka was eliminated from the Olympics Games after losing her Tokyo tennis tournament match 6-1, 6-4 in the third round to Czech Marketa Vondrousova on Tuesday.

Of note: Japan's Osaka is the women's world No. 2, while is Vondrousova ranked No.42.