Beyond intelligent tutors to affective tutors

Writing for Wired Magazine, Clive Thompson reports on work done by U. of Massachusetts at Amherst professor Beverly Park Woolf.

Intelligent tutoring systems are designed to provide ongoing feedback to users and adjust their tutoring to the user’s particular learning needs as determined by the tutor. The artificial intelligence engines are the heart of such systems base their tutoring approaches on cognitive aspects of the user’s behavior. However:

Autotutors can’t tell when a student is bored or frustrated. A regular teacher can spot this instantly and intervene. So Woolf decided to tackle the problem by designing a computer that senses emotion.She outfitted computers with expression detectors that followed where the students were looking. She installed sensors in the chairs to detect posture and gave the kids wristbands that measured galvanic skin response. If the tutoring software identified that the pupils were checking out, it would offer encouragement or shift to a different or easier problem, just as a human teacher might do.

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