#Asia The rise of machines: How this startup uses AI to help employees upgrade their skills


In a world where computers are poised to take jobs away from humans, Pathship has created a system to help people keep up.



Mark Zuckerberg has created Jarvis. Okay, so it’s not in the same level as Iron Man’s Jarvis (yet) but that announcement, more than anything, brings home the idea that maybe machines and artificial technology are nearer Skynet than we thought. Or Wall-E, if you’re in that age group and/or you want a less menacing example.

As more and more advances in technology come up, one has to wonder how humans can compete. Hongkong-based Pathship believes they have the answer to that. And that answer? Revolves around a machine.

Founded in 2014, Pathship is a learning management system that is focused on corporate learning. Founders Chris Schrader and Zach Nevin believe that the current state of corporate learning leaves much to be desired; companies, after all, rarely have the resources to create personalised learning for their employees and resort to standardised training programs, regardless of skill level and learning style of employees.


Also read: 9 applications that will greatly benefit from machine learning in 2017


With the idea that the principal driving force of effective learning is the mentoring of great teachers, Pathship has set out to use technology to connect people to the right teachers, boasting a global network of experts and mentors in over 250 subjects that employees of their client companies can engage.

“Currently, there is no personalised learning and training tool available,” CEO Chris Schrader said. With this in mind, the online system is designed to allow employees to search for an instructor within their company or from a marketplace of mentors, generate a personalised goal with them, and develop an effective mentoring system and schedule based on the student’s reception and the mentor’s teaching style.


Recent breakthroughs in technology have created myriad opportunities to improve the learning experience for students across the planet. However, none of these technologies have been applied to measure student success.


The system provides an environment; a series of tools for self-supported learning that can be scaled, highly-personalised, scientifically-backed, and powered by proprietary technology.

The superstar of Pathship comes in the form of Datum, an artificial intelligence system developed by CTO Zach Nevin that uses biometrics and affective computing to measure student engagement and infer cognitive development through over 4,000 data points from voice and video streams. “To make learning a highly personalised experience, we use machine-driven analytics that processes facial expression and tone of voice and uses specialised algorithm to be able to measure engagement and learning progress,” Nevin said.

Datum is still currently in Alpha and is set to be released in the first quarter of 2017 to select clients. The AI system will eventually be able to perfectly match employees with mentors across the globe, recommend new skills to learn, schedule learning sessions, and derive intervention strategies for businesses to boost employee engagement and performance.


We are looking at industries rapidly changed by technology


There are two types of companies that would benefit from Pathship, Schrader believes. The first are companies that face existential threats if employees cannot upgrade their skills to compete with technology. The second are companies with a history of large growth and are in a competitive industry where the next generation tech is always around the corner. These are the types of companies whose employees need rapid skills upgrade to catch up on advancements in the latter and to ensure company continuity in the former.

While employee skills upgrade is the main function of the system, Pathship is also a management tool. As the system collects data on individual progress of employees, companies have access to skills learning data that could be used in business development and expansion.


Also read: A brief history of algorithms (and why it’s so important in automation, machine learning, and everyday life)


Pathship’s market is currently concentrated in North America and Europe while making headway in East Asia.  With clients in 11 countries across the globe, the company is set to open an office in Texas in the United States, where the tech community is large and vibrant.

That is not to say that expansion had been easy for the two-year-old startup. Corporate learning, after all, has long been associated with training, and training do not usually make it to companies’ Top 10 List of Priorities regardless of how many believe the importance of it. “People who love what we do are usually not part of the board or have very low decision-making power,” Schrader said.

To address this, Schrader says that they are proactive about partnership and reaching out to the community, ensuring quick trial and turnaround to support partners in presenting Pathship to their respective management teams.


We envision a future where the fear of being replaced becomes excitement for what’s ahead


While recent research on company-mandated learning does not look good, Pathship is hopeful that companies’ attitude regarding corporate learning will soon change. And the ongoing shift in workforce, with millenials projected to comprise half the global workforce by the year 2020, just may be the reason companies will take a longer look at corporate learning.


Also read: A few thoughts on millenial flakiness and freelancing


“Millenials, in particular, are much more loyal to their career than to the company they work in, as compared with Baby Boomers who are loyal to the company. Millenials will leave if they feel that they could learn more elsewhere.” Schrader states. With the help of Pathship, companies could provide a constant source of learning for a workforce that is increasingly becoming individualised.

Asked how he envisions the future of Pathship, the answer came easily to Schrader. Pathship will be at center of a community of highly-networked people teaching and learning from each other across the globe, which in turn drives business results.  While admitting that the market may not be ready for said future, Pathship is determined to take all the necessary steps to get there.

Pathship is currently opening a Seed round to support expansion in North America and to continue development of the product.


Featured image credit: viperagp / 123RF Stock Photo

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