Virtual Eve: first in human computer interaction

Nov 19, 2007
Virtual Eve: first in human computer interaction
Credit: Massey University

The near-human performance of a virtual teacher called Eve created by Massey researchers has drawn the attention of scientists across the computing world.

Eve is what is known in the information sciences as an intelligent or affective tutoring system that can adapt its response to the emotional state of people by interaction through a computer system.

The system “Easy with Eve” is thought to be the first of its type.

The ability of virtual Eve to alter her presentation according to the reaction of the child facing her at the keyboard has been hailed as an exciting development in the $25 billion e-learning market.

The Massey scientists, led by Dr Hossein Sarrafzadeh at the Auckland-based Institute of Information and Mathematical Sciences, tell the story of creating Eve and the teaching system in the latest issue of the leading international journal on information sciences, Elsevier.

Because one-to-one teaching is known to be the most effective teaching method, Dr Sarrafzadeh says the researchers wanted to create a virtual teacher that could pick up body language and facial expressions – like a real teacher – to interact and to ensure they are holding the attention of students.

He says the realisation that software systems would significantly improve performance if they could adapt to the emotions of the user has spawned research and development in the field of affective or intelligent tutoring systems.

“With rising demand for long-distance learning and online tutoring, a computer programe capable of detecting human emotions may become a critical teaching tool.”

Although Eve was developed for one-to-one maths teaching with eight-year-olds, she is a significant new character in the future of human computer interaction and could be a personalised virtual tutor by any name.

Linked to a child via computer, the animated character or virtual tutor can tell if the child is frustrated, angry or confused by the on-screen teaching session and can adapt the tutoring session appropriately.

The animated Eve (with a human-sounding voice) can ask questions, give feedback, discuss questions and solutions and show emotion. To develop the software for this system the Massey team observed children and their interactions with teachers and captured them on thousands of images.

From these images of facial expression, gestures and body movements they developed programs that would capture and recognise facial expression, body movement, and (via a mouse) heart rate and skin resistance.

The system uses a network of computer systems, mainly embedded devices, to detect student emotion and other significant bio-signals.

“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,” says Dr Sarrafzadeh.

The introductory video of virtual Eve is available online: news.massey.ac.nz/quicktime/eve-intro.mov

Source: Massey University

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User comments : 11

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misk
not rated yet Nov 19, 2007
Ok concept, but...
Did they have to hire the woman with the *most* annoying voice in the world to do the character? I lasted all of about 4 seconds before I shut it off in horror, with my ears burnt to a crisp - ouch!
hodges
not rated yet Nov 19, 2007
OMG she has the most annoying voice! Is that what everyone in NZ sounds like?? Dear me...
bmcghie
not rated yet Nov 19, 2007
Heh, my mother doesn't sound that bad, and she's from NZ. I wonder if they had a pool riding on how bad the voice could get before the children run away from the computer...

JJJ2123
not rated yet Nov 20, 2007
What a load of crap.
At a time when there are too few good human teachers, this annoying puppet would only worsen teaching standards. Teaching is so much more than impersonal instruction. Children are inspired by the personality of a good teacher who loves their subject. We should care more for kids than to put them in front of a computer, they should be out and about, doing and playing and learning for themselves, accelerated by good human teachers.
snippy
not rated yet Nov 20, 2007
Gad! She looks more like a one night stand for the desparate than a teacher.
learnerchris
not rated yet Nov 21, 2007
From these comments I believe that we can confirm that a robot be it virtual or actual better not try to look human. If this was just a cartoon of an old fashion metal robot we probably would not have such negative comments though the accent is a bit thick for American ears.
The key breakthrough in Eve according to the article is the ability to read the child's mental state from visual and auditory cues. A video of a child interacting and Eve's response would have been much more illuminating. Showing the avatar speaking really doesn't help make the point of the article.
I am very interested in this approach. I think it should have happened long ago. Now if it can be made to run on a desktop or laptop we really have something. Dropping the avatar and just giving voice/text feedback would be fine for this generation of text messagers/cell phone users.
bmcghie
not rated yet Nov 21, 2007
learnerchris seems to have the right of it. I think we could all cope with the red HAL9000 eye, provided it gave decent feedback about what we were attempting to learn at the moment, and it didn't speak with that particular voice.
mee
not rated yet Nov 21, 2007
Nice Idea; but....
Any recent video game with cinematics would cream Eve.
Also if the game is hackable, perverts will rush to perchase and
convert Eve to other purposes.
To get the voice right, you must run the Mov within the Quick Time
software and use the A/V controls located inside the QT menu.

It would be infinitely better if the characters were based on
historical figures who mastered the subjects in question. Progressive
Education has not as yet delivered on its promise for the past 40 years.
That is introduce subjects sooner, faster, better. The grades prove it is a
failed proceedure that needs to be re-examined.
Thus Progressive Education in the context of Video software is equally
useless.
But the Classical Education that had evolved over the past 500 years
not only delivered but without it none of the great people of the past 150 years
would have amounted to much. I would suggest we dump Progressive Education
in favor of a modified Classical Education wrapped up in a slick Video presentation.
Hossin08
not rated yet Nov 21, 2007
Brilliant! I think that the bigger point that the previous commenters are missing is that realistic AI is quickly becoming less a matter of capability and more of acceptance. If the Blu-ray would have replaced the phonograph there would have been mass hysteria and talk of Armageddon. Instead, we started with the 8-track.
physorg1234
not rated yet Nov 22, 2007
They sure set their standards low. Looks like she's either drunk or high. If that's what the pupils are used to at school, I guess that's ok.

The tone of the voice is horrendously annoying. They should go for a uber sexy female movie fembot voice or a male with news/documentary gravitas. Why? They're proven to be attractive to both sexes and all ages. A voice should be transparent, uniform, with no energy peaks in any frequency - it's like a beautiful face, without blemishes and everything is in correct proportion, nothing sticks out.

The accent sounds rather uneducated to any dictionary- correct English or American speaking person (regardless of nationality), no offense kiwis.
nilbud
not rated yet Dec 12, 2007
If it can fire bits of chalk or in extreme cases a chalkboard eraser at the child's head, it should make an excellent teacher. If you don't see the missile by definition you were not paying attention.

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