Duolingo Max

Duolingo and OpenAI Will Build Generative AI Chatbots to Teach Languages

Language education app Duolingo is working with OpenAI to introduce a new subscription tier designed around generative AI. Subscribers to the new Duolingo Max tier will get detailed explanations on wrong quiz answers using the Explain My Answer feature and the chance to practice conversations with generative AI chatbots in the Roleplay feature.

Generative Duolingo

The Explain My Answer feature will use generative AI to expand on the current explanations for wrong answers, acting like a teacher who can help a student makes sense of their error through a discussion. The Roleplay feature starts a kind of improvisational dialogue with the AI chatbot playing parts like a waiter at a restaurant or a hotel clerk to let users practice their language skills in a more organic setting. It’s a lot like an academic version of how ChatGPT users can ask it to respond as though it were any number of real or fictional people or characters. The new features don’t include any of the characters with synthetic voices that Duolingo began experimenting with last year, but the Roleplay option especially seems like a good fit for incorporating characters with fictional backgrounds and synthetic voices.

Both of the new features rely on the large language models OpenAI has developed. Duolingo hasn’t specified the LLM to be employed, but the ChatGPT API introduced this week by OpenAI seems the most likely option. Duolingo has been working with OpenAI for some time, testing its GPT-3 model on designing personalized lessons and feedback for students. The company’s analysis of the experiment showed a measurable improvement in the writing skills of students who interacted with the AI. Duolingo Max costs $13.99 a month and includes the features of the $6.99 a month Super Duolingo tier. The tier only offers Spanish and French lessons for English speakers but will expand to other languages in the future.

“While we have been investing in AI since 2013 to power both the Duolingo language learning app and the Duolingo English Test, the technology has advanced to a level that is within striking distance of our vision to teach as well as a human tutor. As such, we’ve begun testing a higher subscription tier (above Super Duolingo) with new generative AI features, called Duolingo Max, that is the next step on this path. We worked closely with OpenAI to develop Max features, using an advanced system that is optimized for language learning,” Duolingo CEO Luis von Ahn explained in a letter to shareholders this week. “We believe that together, these new features will allow us to get closer to simulating a human tutor while continuing to make Duolingo even more engaging and fun.”

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