At a Glance
Learn Capital, an edtech investor, has invested $29 million in Merlyn Mind, an AI aide for teachers. Merlyn Mind brings to market a unique, vertically integrated solution to address the most pressing edtech issues. HP Education, Amazon, Google, Facebook, Broadcom, and Roku alumni make up the early workforce of the business.
Merlyn Mind, an AI assistant for teachers, has received $29 million as initial funding from edtech investor Learn Capital and other undisclosed investors. With this announcement, Merlyn Mind has come out of stealth. It spent nearly three years developing its first version and, more recently, piloting the service in more than 50 classes across more than 20 schools.
Merlyn Mind, co-founded by longtime IBM scientists Satya Nitta (CEO), Ravi Kokku, and Sharad Sundararajan, is bringing a patented, vertically integrated solution to market to address what Mr. Nitta told TechCrunch in an interview is a fundamental pain point in the world of edtech that he believes and has seen firsthand.
The company is offering assistance in the form of an “AI centre,” as the company defines it. Merlyn, a personal assistant; Symphony Classroom, a kind of Alexa-style voice interface tailored to the educational environment and built on a fork of Android; Merlyn, a personal assistant; Symphony Classroom, a speech interface customized to the school setting and based on a division of Android; a smart speaker that looks like a soundbar; and a consumer-style remote that can be used for navigation and instructions.
These then operate with whatever screen the instructor chooses to use in the classroom, whether it’s a TV, an interactive whiteboard, or something else, as well as any other connected devices in the room, to open and browse through various apps, such as Google apps, Nearpod, Newsela, and so on.
The idea is that if a teacher is in the middle of a lecture on a specific topic and a question arises that can best be addressed by illustrating a concept using another app, the system will travel to a different screen to retrieve that material and present it to the students immediately. The method can also be used to locate a teacher’s file.
The startup’s early staff consists of alums from HP Education, Amazon, Google, Facebook, Broadcom, and Roku to help develop it all, understanding the hurdles they’d be facing and the return after it’s done if it all works.
We have a very, very talented team, and we basically said, right, this is going to be a lot of hard work that will take us three and a half years. We have to build our own piece of hardware. And we ended up building the entire voice stack from scratch ourselves, too. It means we have end-to-end control of everything from the hardware all the way to the language models.Satya Nitta, CEO, Merlyn Mind
Rob Hutter, founder and managing partner of Learn Capital said that Merlyn is one of the first businesses to focus on improving live teaching in classrooms, and it’s working on a system that’s so simple to use that instructors can grasp technology with minimum effort. This is an exciting platform.
Just as we saw with the breakthrough edtech company Coursera, which reached IPO this year and was started a decade ago by two machine learning professors, in today’s hypercompetitive market, the best edtech companies need to start with an advanced technological core.Rob Hutter, founder and managing partner of Learn Capital