Google announced it will invest in a group of startups including Edwin, a TOEFL preparation app, as part of efforts to improve Google Assistant.
Edwin, which has built a machine learning-powered English tutoring system that helps students pass TOEFL, is among the first startups included in Google’s investment programme. Users currently can take Edwin courses through Facebook’s Messenger, but the company says Google Assistant will soon be supported as well.
Under the new strategy, Google will support startups with investment funds, guidance, and marketing support through Google’s existing channels. Companies can also receive early access to new Google tools and features, so they can build them into their products more quickly.
Google’s vice president for corporate development, Sanjay Kapoor, said:
We’re welcoming companies across a diverse range of fields, including startups that are developing technologies that broaden the Assistant’s set of features.
In a blog post, Edwin wrote:
We are very happy to have Google as an investor and a technology partner in our mission to help over 800 million EFL students succeed at work and in life. In the future, Edwin’s students will be able to practise speaking with Google Assistant. This will also make Edwin widely available on smartphones and Google Home devices, bringing our education technology closer to millions of people around the world.
Edwin’s website describes the app as a form of personalised learning using a combination of “advance artificial intelligence and professional English tutors”, incorporating the latest advances in speech technologies and Natural Language Understanding (NLU).
Its “Tactics and Practice” intensive course prepares TOEFL candidates for reading, writing, listening, and speaking. It also has vocabulary improvement tools as well as practice tests with scoring and explanations of all test answers.
Google’s announcement comes amid intensifying competition between tech companies looking for new opportunities as the smartphone market reaches saturation point and consumers warm up to voice-powered AI assistants.