Student aims to stop cheats using essay-writing bots with his own AI app

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A Bristol University student is aiming to stop cheats using essay-writing bots with his own artificial intelligence (AI) app.

Ed Daniels, 22, began developing software start-up AIED.UK after a project on his university course asked him to integrate AI with education.

The fourth-year student, who is studying film and television with innovation, said that when ChatGPT became popular he felt the need to “protect the education system”.

Mr Daniels’ app uses AI to detect whether an essay has been generated by AI, which he likened to “fighting fire with fire”.

“It worries me that some people may not have access to that stuff, so we need to level the playing field.”

Mr Daniels said he sees AI as imperative to all workplaces, and since the purpose of university is to prepare students for the world of work, eventually they will “have to give us access to AI tech, just like they give us printer credits”.

Until then, he said he thinks of AIED.UK as a “transitional phase” to prevent cheating whilst universities adapt to new technologies.

Explaining how the software works, Mr Daniels said: “Computers are getting really good at noticing things, if I’m always saying the exact perfect word next, chances are, that’s a bot.

“Normal human writing and speaking don’t always use the most predictable word, so the technology in the app effectively notices that if it can predict which word is coming next, a bot has probably written it.”

As a student himself, Mr Daniels said he has been able to respond to cheating tactics he spots on social media.

“I’ve seen a lot online of cheaters knowing these detectors exist, and saying this is how I can get around it, and I’m watching those videos and learning from it too, I can be a bit more nimble than bigger companies,” he said.

Ed Daniels and Jess Roop
Ed Daniels and Jess Roop (Anuroop Adiery/PA)

But he said criticism from fellow students does not bother him, adding: “I actually quite like it because it lets me pretend like I’m playing the villain or something.”

Mr Daniels said his passion for coding began at a young age and led to him being banned from using school computers after taking over pupils’ screens and convincing them they were haunted.

While the bulk of the work behind AIED.UK was done by Mr Daniels, he has been supported by a grant from the University of Bristol’s student start-up incubator, Runway.

Mark Neild, Runway’s programme director, said: “When AIED.UK applied for innovation funding, our judges could see its potential.

“This is a rapidly growing market, so we are keen to help Ed develop his skills and build his exciting software.”

Kate Whittington, associate pro-vice chancellor for quality and standards at the University of Bristol, said: “Ed’s software is really interesting, and we are excited to see how it develops. One day it could be useful to educators all over the world.”

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