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Since 2013, Torobo, a robotic arm designed to test the limits of artificial intelligence, has had one aspiration — to be admitted to the University of Tokyo, one of Asia’s top-ranked educational institutions. However, despite having an extensive database of textbooks and other teaching materials to draw upon, Torobo (short for Todai Robot) has repeatedly failed to obtain the university’s required minimum 80% score in the National Center Test, a standardized entrance examination adopted by Japanese universities. This year was no exception.
In early November, Torobo, along with millions of Japanese high school students, took a mock exam to prepare for the all-important standardized test. Created by education publishing company, Benesse Corp. it comprised eight tests in five subjects. While Torobo’s overall score of 525 out of 950 was 14 points higher than in 2015, its standard score of 57.1% was slightly lower, because human students did better in the 2016 test.
Though the score, which is higher than the national average, is enough to get the robot admitted to many other prestigious Japanese universities, it falls short of the minimum required for the University of Tokyo’s liberal arts courses.
A closer analysis of the results showed that Torobo’s newly programmed ability to solve complex physics equations helped increase its year-over-year physics score from 46.5% to 59%. The robot also dug deep into its database of information from textbooks and websites to obtain an impressive 66.3% in world history. The average 60% scores garnered in the two math sections, were not too shabby either.
But, while Torobo is able draw from its database to tackle knowledge-based questions and ones involving complex mathematical calculations, it has a hard time thinking independently. As a result, the robot is unable to comprehend multiple sentences and phrases to arrive at the logical conclusions required in the English language tests. This weakness was reflected in the weak verbal and writing scores, which came in at 36.2% and 50.5%, respectively.
Fortunately, after four grueling years, the robot’s creators have decided to free Torobo from its annual test-taking misery. The research team will instead focus on improving the robot's ability to pick out specific answers from massive sets of data — a skill that led to its excellent history scores. They believe the expertise will help Torobo succeed as an industrial robot.
Noriko Arai, professor of information and society research at the University of Tokyo’s National Institute of Informatics, who heads the team, says, "As the robot scored about the same as last year, we were able to gauge the possibilities and limits of artificial intelligence. From now on, we will grow its abilities in the fields it’s doing well in and aim to improve them to levels that can be applied in industry.” So while Torobo will never graduate from the University of Tokyo, it can still look forward to a bright future!
Resources: Japantimes.com, dailmail.co.uk,nationalmultimedia.com