Researchers at Massey University in New Zealand have developed a computer-based virtual teacher called Eve that can adapt her responses to the reaction of a child facing her.
The Eve software, developed for one-to-one maths teaching with eight-year-olds, can tell if a child is frustrated, angry or confused by the on-screen teaching session, and can adapt its tutoring session appropriately.
Because one-to-one teaching is known to be the most effective teaching method, the researchers wanted the virtual teacher to be able to pick up on the body language and facial expressions of the students she was teaching.
To do so, they captured images of facial expression, gestures and body movements of children interacting with real teachers, and then developed programs that would recognise facial expression, body movement, and (via a mouse) heart rate and skin resistance, which they then built into the Eve system.
‘With rising demand for long-distance learning and online tutoring, a computer programe capable of detecting human emotions may become a critical teaching tool,’ said Dr Hossein Sarrafzadeh at the Auckland-based Institute of Information and Mathematical Sciences, one of the developers of the system.
‘When we interact with people we expect them to take note of our feelings and reactions. Soon we will be able to expect the same from a computer,’ he added.
The introductory video of virtual Eve is online at: http://news.massey.ac.nz/quicktime/eve-intro.mov