Thursday, March 22, 2007

Commentary: Emotive Software

One of the biggest criticisms of email is that you can't tell what the writer really means just by the words alone. 'I'm leaving you' might simply mean that you are running out to a meeting, or it might mean you are heading for a divorce. It's hard to tell. Yes, you could throw a smiley face in, but is that enough to let your reader know your true emotions? Hardly. Wouldn't it be better if you could simply get a wonderful voice to read your words, adding the true emotions that you are feeling? Enter the world of emotive software: (

"The Interactive TTS Demo enables you to use Loquendo TTS to create and listen to your own synthetic messages. Scroll the list of Loquendo languages to find the persona of your choice, type in a text in your chosen language and have Loquendo TTS read it to you. You can choose between .WAV and .MP3 formats."

Yes, you could say I am leaving you, but have Susan (in a very clear American accent) say your words and add a giggle afterwards. Or if it's a divorce you want, have Kate (in an equally clear British accent) cry a little, while still keeping a stiff upper lip. Or perhaps you are feeling saucy, and would prefer from Juliette, in a very fetching French accent. Just laying down the options? Try for Ulrike to give it the German no nonsense accent. I think you get the drift. I remember when Apple came out with computer voices to read your words. It was nice to have a voice read your letter outloud to you before you sent it, but the robotic sound was quite annoying. I-am-leav-ing yo-u. The new generation sounds like your best friend, no matter where they come from. Clear, easy to understand and quite fun to do. Check out the Loquendo Web site to give it a try.
Now, wasn't that fun? Of course. However, this is an academic blog, so what is it that you could do with the Kate and Simon, and Susan and Kenneth? Well, imagine typing what you want students to learn, and then having an American accented reading of your words, complete with the emotions you want to express. If you were commenting on a student writing assignment, for example, you could say 'Interesting piece, Elizabeth \_ sigh, but I have to tell you that you will not pass \_ cry-big'. You might want Simon to read it...his smooth British accent can ease the blow. Or, perhaps not. All are much better than the old robotic voices. At any rate, it is rather interesting, and might have some academic applications. Worth a peek \_ giggle.

Or consider Auto Tutor:

"AutoTutor is a web-based intelligent tutoring system developed by an interdisciplinary research team. This team is currently funded by the Office of Naval Research and the National Science Foundation and is is comprised of approximately 35 researchers from psychology, computer sciene, linguistics, physics, engineering, and education. The Tutoring Research Group (TRG) has conducted extensive analyses of human-to-human tutoring, pedagogical strategies, and conversational discourse. This research has provided the empirical and theoretical foundations for developing intelligent tutoring systems that help the students learn by engaging them in a natural language conversation about a particular subject matter. Currently AutoTutor comes in two forms: The computer literacy version is designed to help students learn basic computer literacy topics covered in an introductory course (e.g., hardware, operating systems, and the Internet). The conceptual physics version is designed to help students learn Newtonian physics. AutoTutor can also be adapted for use in a variety of other content domains.
AutoTutor works by having a conversation with the learner. AutoTutor appears as an animated agent that acts as a dialog partner with the learner. The animated agent delivers AutoTutor's dialog moves with synthesized speech, intonation, facial expressions, and gestures. Students are encouraged to articulate lengthy answers that exhibit deep reasoning, rather than to recite small bits of shallow knowledge. For some topics, there are graphical displays and animations. "

This could be used for adaptive students who need special tools. It's all interesting, and worth viewing.