New storybook introduces young children to complex AI concepts

Alyssa Yong, seven, and her drawing that contributed to the final design of Daisy during the AI for Kids (AI4K)® storybook launch at National Library on March 13, 2022. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
The book Daisy And Her AI Friends marks the first time AI Singapore's literacy programme AI For Kids is extended to young children. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - Binary code, machine learning and data can be unwieldy concepts to grasp - even more so for young children.

But this is exactly what AI Singapore hopes to achieve with a children’s storybook launched by the national artificial intelligence (AI) programme on Sunday (March 13)

Aimed at lower primary pupils, the book marks the first time AI Singapore's literacy programme AI For Kids (AI4K) is extended to young children to help them understand technology and how to use it effectively and responsibly.

Sponsored by Meta, 10,000 free copies of the illustrated book titled Daisy And Her AI Friends will be handed to low-income families. The books are stocked in public libraries and not for sale.

The 40-page book centres on Daisy, a computer with legs, who is lost on her first day in school as she is able to speak only in binary code. Daisy meets other characters, who each teach her a new tech-related concept to help her to find her way.

The names of the seven main characters are a play on the letters "AI", such as the camera-inspired Aishwarya, a computer vision app who can identify objects; Aiman the sensor who can scan for temperature changes; and their teacher, Miss Ai.

The characters are based on 10 winning designs chosen from a competition for primary school pupils that received more than 230 submissions.

Illustrator Tan Jia En, 21, took elements of these winning designs to inspire the final appearances of the characters in the book, which was written by AI Singapore.

Elements of primary school pupil Alyssa Yong's sketch were adapted into the final design of the book's protagonist, including the eye-catching daisy worn on its head.

Alyssa, seven, said her character's design was inspired from items at home, such as the hands of a Lego mini-figure, roller skates for quick traversal and arms based on a shower hose.

Her father Yong Chern Chet, 42, a doctor, said of the book: "It's good that kids learn about these things early. Reading and writing for them will be increasingly linked to coding, which will be part of everyday life."

Speaking at the book launch on Sunday, AI Singapore senior deputy director of AI innovation Koo Sengmeng said copies will be given to lower-income families to ensure equal opportunities for all to learn about AI concepts.

Illustrator Tan Jia En sharing her inspiration and work process during AI for Kids (AI4K)® storybook launch at National Library on March 13, 2022. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

He said at the National Library: "It is never too early to introduce and demystify AI for kids. We made a book to make AI relatable to them."

Minister of State for Education and Manpower Gan Siow Huang, who was guest of honour at the launch event, said the pandemic has reshaped the way children use technology and that digital skills are increasingly important in jobs today.

Contributors of drawings to the storybook and Minister of State for Education and Manpower Gan Siow Huang (centre) at the launch on March 13, 2022. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Eight-year-old Sarrah Ali Asghar, one of the first people to read the book, said she learnt a list of new tech-related words and proudly explained the meaning of binary code: A language made by humans that only computers can speak.

Her father, Mr Ali Asghar, 35, a science, technology engineering and mathematics educator, said: "It's interesting that these ideas are made into a story that is relatable to kids and can introduce them to these concepts."

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