Perhaps you remember sitting in study hall, struggling through some thick textbook full of arcane terminology and complicated new ideas that frazzled your neurons to the point of exhaustion. Well, students of the future are likely to have it a lot easier, because digital books equipped with artificial intelligence capabilities will guide them along with the patience and perceptiveness of their favorite kindly professors.
Take the newly developed Inquire intelligent biology textbook for the iPad. It allows students to stop and type in a question like "What does a protein do?" and then presents them with a page full of information specific to whatever concept they're stuck on. The book's intelligent software also contains a machine-readable map that can link any of the 5,000 concepts in the text to any other concept, and explore how the two are interrelated. In a study conducted at a California college, students who used Inquire scored an entire letter-grade higher, on average, than comparison groups [source: Reilly].