Machines are learning to process simple commands by exploring 3-D virtual worlds. Devices like Amazon's Alexa and Google Home have brought voice-controlled technology into the mainstream, but these still only deal with simple commands. Making machines smart enough to handle a real conversation remains a very tough challenge. And it may be difficult to achieve without some grounding in the way the physical world works. Attempts to solve this problem by hard-coding relationships between words and objects and actions requires endless rules, making a machine unable to adapt to new situations.
The way we learn natural languages hasn't really changed for decades. We now have beautiful apps like Duolingo and Spaced Repetition software like Anki, but I'm talking about our fundamental approach. We still follow pre-defined curricula, and do essentially random exercises. Learning isn't personalized, and learning isn't driven by data. And I think there's a big opportunity to change that.