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“What can I do right now to best help my child?”

Vivienne Ming says that this is the most common question parents ask – and she hopes to answer this question through Muse, a machine learning application that streamlines the parenting process. Unlike other education-based applications that emphasize hard skills, Muse focuses on the qualities that boost a child’s ability to thrive in the real world, such as creativity, persistence, and emotional intelligence.

Priced at 5 dollars per month for each family, Muse hopes to gain a refined understanding of a child’s development by the one-question-a-day function. Some questions Muse may ask include “Have you and your child visited the library this week?” and “Have you taken your child to the zoo recently?”. Muse then collects the parent’s response alongside unstructured data – video recordings, the child’s story map, you name it. Upon learning more about the child, Muse recommends personalised activities and conversation starters that facilitate the child’s intellectual development, hoping to foster 50 skills such as metacognition. Parents can even press the ‘why’ button if they are curious as to what the goal of the activity is.

One of the most unique facets of Muse is its emphasis on improvement rather than evaluation. It doesn’t provide scores or compare against other children – effectively promoting a healthy environment that shifts away from constructing unrealistic, toxic parental expectations.

However, there are points of concern with Muse, such as what the data is being used for and the efficacy of its recommendations. Regarding the latter, Ming states that activity recommendations aren’t a best guess, but rather a carefully thought out means of strengthening one or more of the 50 skills. “It recommends the activity that it is most confident will make a difference.” Ming claims. Another question is whether Ming might alter parenthood in a negative manner, which currently remains unanswered.

Although Muse has only 2,700 users so far – with over 50% in the Us – Ming hopes to use it with less fortunate populations. She has been working with nonprofits in South Africa and China and firmly believes that Muse can bridge inequality gaps – piercing the cause-and-effect relationship between socioeconomic status and student achievement.


Written by Amanda Y


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