Documenting the Coming Singularity

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Your Kids Could Soon Have a Virtual Teacher

My wife teaches 8th-grade algebra. She is very good at her job. She should be paid more than she is, but that is a complaint that often falls on deaf politician's ears. In any case, the time may soon come when at least certain parts of her curriculum are taught by a virtual teacher called Eve.

Eve is what's know in in the field of information systems an intelligent or affective tutoring system. It can "adapt its response to the emotional state" of its students (Blogging the Singularity).
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 personalized 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.
If you plan to go into teaching, it's unlikely that Eve will completely replace all teaching kind, but there can be no doubt that there will be significant and far-reaching implications. Maybe you should think about teaching computer engineering.

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