Meet Will – Vector’s new renewable energy educator in schools

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In a first for education, Vector is exploring the use of “digital human” technology in its energy education programmes in primary schools.

In conjunction with New Zealand’s leading AI company Soul Machines, Vector has created Will, a “digital teacher” being trialed in its award-winning ‘Be Sustainable with Energy’ schools programme, which is offered free of charge to schools within Vector’s Auckland electricity network. The schools programme was launched in 2005 and has since educated more than 125,000 children about energy.

Will can interact with children from a desktop, tablet, or mobile, and helps them to learn about renewable energy such as geothermal, solar, and wind. Will challenges kids on their renewable energy knowledge by asking questions such as “how tall is a wind turbine?”; “how long does sunlight take to reach the earth?”; and “when we burn biomass, what do you think is let off as the main by-product?”

Vector’s Chief Digital Officer, Nikhil Ravishankar, says it’s critical the company uses new and emerging  technologies which will allow Vector to have better conversations with its customers – including its future generation.

“Our work with Soul Machines is a very effective user case as an education tool for kids around renewable energy and creating a new energy future.

“What was fascinating to me was the reaction of the children to Will. The way they look at the world is so creative and different, and Will really captured their attention.

“Using a digital human is a very compelling method to deliver new information to people, and I have a lot of hope in this technology as a means to deliver cost-effective, rich, educational experiences into the future.”

Will uses Soul Machines’ world-leading Artificial Nervous System - an autonomous animation platform that is modelled on the way the human brain and nervous system work – to bring his digital human face and persona to life in a very human-like way.

Soul Machines Chief Business Officer, Greg Cross, says education is going to be one of the breakthrough applications for Soul Machine’s technology as digital teachers have the potential to democratize the delivery of education to students everywhere (particularly those in remote communities) and help address the growing teacher shortages on a global scale. 

“Creating one of the world’s first digital teachers has been one of the company’s most exciting assignments. The opportunity to see digital interactions with children in the classroom has been a fantastic part of this project with the next generation of Vector’s users.

“Working with such an innovative company with a vision to create a new energy future, we’ve been able to not only demonstrate the power of digital humans in education, but also show how our technology can play an important role in helping companies reinvent themselves.”