“The last few years have seen a rapid increase in research that is now referred to as affective computing – efforts to create technologies that relate better to humans in that they can sense emotional responses, are sensitive to social situations, and express emotions to users in the shape of computer agents, or embodied robots” says Arvid Kappas, Professor of Psychology at Jacobs University (Bremen, Germany).
“The application of such technologies in schools is particularly important to help, not replace teachers. This is about creating a mix of methods where sometimes all of the children might get individualized tutorials at the same time.”
The artificial tutor catches up
Significant work has been devoted to the design of artificial tutors with human capabilities with the aim of helping to increase the efficiency achieved with a human instructor. Yet, these systems still lack the personal, empathic and human elements that characterize a traditional teacher and fail to engage and motivate students in the same way a human teacher does.
The EU-funded EMOTE (EMbOdied-perceptive Tutors for Empathy-based learning) project will design, develop and evaluate a new generation of artificial embodied tutors that have perceptive capabilities to engage in empathic interactions with learners in a shared physical space.
The EMOTE consortium brings together experts to carry out interdisciplinary research on affect recognition, learner models, adaptive behavior and embodiment for human-robot interaction in learning environments, grounded in psychological theories of emotion in social interaction and pedagogical models for learning facilitation.
To ground the research in a concrete classroom scenario, the EMOTE-project will develop a showcase in the area of geography, focusing on environmental issues. This will enable tutors to be tested in real world school environments in different European countries.
The team at Jacobs University will focus on the assessment of emotional responses in the laboratory and in the class room. They will also study how nonverbal communication, particularly sounds, can be employed to create empathic bonds between the artificial tutors and children. Arvid Kappas is currently involved in two other projects funded by the EU, namely CYBEREMOTIONS, and eCUTE that bridge psychology on the one hand and computer science and engineering on the other.
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