Faqden, Using MIT Artificial Intelligence Research, Aims to Turn Mobile Phone Into Vocab Coach for SAT Prep

Looking back on my SATs, I felt like I might have been at a disadvantage having prepped for the test with a book, as opposed to a living, breathing coach or instructor with a bit more personalization.

Sunnyvale, CA-based Faqden, whose founding team includes Harvard and MIT alums, has set its sight on combining the best things you can get from a book and from a teacher. It’s all coming together in a mobile app that it calls IntelliVocab.

The app quizzes users on vocabulary terms but offers the more interactive, tailored experience of personal coach. It has versions on the iPhone for SAT, GRE, and GMAT, and is also available on the Android platform.

IntelliVocab works by using research from the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and MIT Web Semantics Labs to profile users to figure out how advanced they are already in their vocabulary, says founder Irfan Mohammed. Each of their answers to initial vocab questions develops this profile. The app processes this information, and uses it to determine the type of repetition and frequency of questions that would be best suited to the user’s learning style. It also can also decide which format of question—synonyms, antonyms, fill-in-the-blanks, or straight definitions—the user best responds to for learning the word.

Faqden is also using its technology to develop an app aimed at helping professionals prepare for interviews for high tech jobs and one for helping users learn Latin, says Mohammed, who completed a joint master’s degree in management and engineering at MIT this year. He took a six-month break from MIT to work at the San Francisco-based mobile app design and development firm Sourcebits.

“We’re re-skinning the app and targeting new markets,” Mohammed says.

The firm has about 200,000 registered users in its database for IntelliVocab, which hit app stores earlier this year. The application is currently free, but will upgrade to “freemium” model sometime September, requiring users to pay for any words beyond the first 100, says Mohammed.

The education apps aren’t Faqden’s only mobile business opportunity. The company is also developing mobile versions of existing Web apps like Basecamp, for the iPad, as part of an enterprise-focused business unit.

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