When I bring up the idea that in the future we will do a lot of our learning from computerized teachers, I tend to get a comment that computers can never be teachers because they can’t hug their students. Of course this is not meant literally, but it means that computers don’t understand emotional responses, therefore can’t be teachers. There is some truth to that. I agree that a computer has to have a two way communication with the student, including an emotional connection. Turns out, this might be closer than I thought.
There are a number of companies that have created services that can read a person’s emotions based on facial expressions. (H/T Singularityhub.com)
A handful of companies are developing algorithms that can read the human emotions behind nuanced and fleeting facial expressions to maximize advertising and market research campaigns. Major corporations including Procter & Gamble, PepsiCo, Unilever, Nokia and eBay have already used the services.
They’ve all developed the ability to identify emotions by taking massive data sets — videos of people reacting to content — and putting them through machine learning systems.
That’s pretty amazing but what are the applications to teachers? Well, most computers these days come with webcams so online learning could take advantage of this. Detecting emotional responses could help an adaptive learning system determine what kind of material is the most effective for each student. It could also determine when a student is tired or bored and suggest breaks.
You could also use this in the classroom because you can have a camera watching every student at once and do mass facial expression captures.
Moving beyond the classroom, there are devices now that capture various biometrics such as heart rate and such. If you couple this data with the emotional data, our various computer systems will know a lot about the user. The other place I think this will be useful is in smart toys that interact with children. It will be able to watch a child’s interactions and quickly learn what they like (of course then advertisers will be able to send messages to the parents about products their kid will like). I also wonder if this technology will make computerized psychiatrists possible (there’s an app for that?).
So no, a computer still can’t give a hug but it might be a more effective teacher soon.
It’s a brave new world.