Equipped to Lead and Succeed

Student Launches AI Project that Makes Learning a Language Easier

He hopes to found a startup

by Mary McInerney, USF News

Valerio Mirarchi MBA ’24 came up with the idea for an AI project while tutoring USF students studying Italian.

Mirarchi created Duets.ai in spring 2023 for his MBA program’s Innovation class as a way to apply AI to conversations between students and teachers, in order to help language students achieve speaking proficiency.

Today, Duets.ai has an entire USF team working on it, including several School of Management professors, three graduate computer science students, four undergraduate computer science students, three Italian-language students, and a Spanish-language student and professor.

Mirarchi, who is from Milan, Italy, said he wants to assist students who are learning to speak foreign languages by developing a tool with personalized insights and exercises generated by AI. The tool uses ChatGPT 4.0, with special access the team was given as part of the Microsoft for Startups program, to process recordings of the students’ conversations with their instructors or other students. The AI generates personalized exercises for the students to practice, based on insights from the discussion sessions.

Isabella Roof ’26, a psychology major, has been using Duets.ai to practice Italian.

“It’s been so much fun,” Roof said. “Having this extra one-on-one practice improved my conversational Italian immensely … I can look back on what I did well and where I needed to improve.”

Spanish Professor Ana Urrutia-Jordana said she has been testing the prototype since fall 2023, and Mirarchi sent her the first results in December. “They show great potential for students enrolled in our language courses, though we still need to do more testing,” she said.

Mirarchi hopes to make the language tool available to USF students at no cost while he launches a startup to develop the tool for customers. “The main goal is to develop something like this free for students, but there is a business opportunity that we are also exploring,” he said.

The team working on Duets.ai completed a prototype of the tool in late 2023. Behind the scenes are students like Arash Ansari, a graduate computer science student who graduates in May. Ansari worked as an electrical engineer for Intel Corporation, but always had an interest in coding and came to USF seeking a shift in his career. He has been particularly interested in the ethical questions surrounding AI and said he appreciates the discussions he’s had with faculty, including Christopher Brooks.

Ansari, along with fellow computer science students Parisa Abbasi, Travis Oleson, Alessandro Barrera, Colm Lang, Marcos Abadi, and Frank Guglielmo, takes the transcripts of the spoken lessons and prompts the AI platform to create materials that help students.

“We started in September and all three people on our team are multilingual, so we’re pretty excited about it,” Ansari said.

Vijay Mehrotra, professor of business analytics, said Mirarchi got his first introduction to machine learning in Mehrotra’s class. Mirarchi’s idea for Duets.ai is a good one, said Mehrotra, also an entrepreneur, having started a data science consulting firm.

“His focus is on enhancing the teacher/student relationship, rather than replacing it,” Mehrotra said. Duets.ai, he said, is a great example of how to use technology to improve the lives of people by improving their ability to communicate.

“It has been a great experience so far, and we dream to create a legacy that all our fellow USF students will be able to use for free forever,” said Mirarchi. “We also hope to find investors so we can bring this innovation to the market outside the school and scale rapidly.”