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The Internet Education Technology

The Virtual Teacher 94

Roland Piquepaille writes "Researchers from Illinois and Florida are developing a networking system which will create virtual representations of real people to improve our knowledge. They will use artificial intelligence and natural language processing software to enable us to interact with these avatars. The goal of the project, sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF), is to give us the possibility to interact with these virtual representations as if they were the actual person, complete with the ability to understand and answer questions. We should see the results at the beginning of 2008 — if the researchers succeed."
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The Virtual Teacher

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  • Vacuous article (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nebaz ( 453974 ) * on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @07:45PM (#18614551)

    Summary of article (IMHO):

            Guess what. In the future, we will create avatars that will look and sound just like real people. To see how far along we are, take a look at some of these avatars

          (decent graphical images, which not an AI make)

          There's some money from the NSF to continue this effort.

          Really smart guys are working on ways to get realistic sounding voices and

          We're using motion capture too.

          Is this commercially viable? We'll have to see.

    First of all, this virtual avatar stuff is icing on the cake. The first (easiest) Turing test implementation does not require body language, realistic avatars, or
    mannerisms, and we are still YEARS from that. What makes anyone think that this is remotely possible by next year?

    P.S. The submitter's name seems familiar. Where have I heard it before?

    • tag: boycottroland (Score:5, Informative)

      by SuperBanana ( 662181 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @07:58PM (#18614687)

      P.S. The submitter's name seems familiar. Where have I heard it before?

      Roland submits dozens upon dozens of stories to Slashdot. "Vacuous" is pretty accurate; I've repeatedly heard Slashdotters ask for the ability to filter his crap like we used to be able to filter Jon Katz.

      The primary difference is that while Katz was batshit insane and overimpressed with himself, Roland simply states the obvious and inane in his "article", and then submits it to slashdot. He regularly does little more than quote sections of the article and supply obvious commentary...and watches the hit counts roll in.

      There are two remarkable facts: one, that there isn't better content in the submission queue, and two: I don't think I've ever seen comments posted supporting him. Hilariously, on the rare occasion he does post, he's moderated down so fast, he must be on the level of the GNAA people in terms of Karma.

      Since hits support Roland, I'd suggest slashdotters tag his stuff "boycottroland"

      • tag: pigpile (Score:3, Informative)

        by cswiii ( 11061 )
        seen that one before too.
      • by e4g4 ( 533831 )

        Since hits support Roland, I'd suggest slashdotters tag his stuff "boycottroland"
        Now if only slashcode would support the ability to filter out articles by their tags - seems to me to be an obvious feature to add, especially given how long the new tagging system has been kicking around.
      • How about a FireFox extension or greasemonkey script to accomplish this? We're (well at least y'all) are the Open Source community. You're not helpless...
    • tag: boycottroland (Score:5, Interesting)

      by joe_bruin ( 266648 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @08:46PM (#18615117) Homepage Journal
      I've just added *.primidi.com (Roland's blog) to my adblock filters. I obviously never go there intentionally, but I've clicked on his links a few times without checking the submitter name. I suggest you all do the same.

      Unfortunately, the ZDnet article linked is also written by our buddy Roland. I do wish that Slashdot would give me a way to avoid his crap (or, y'know, just not approve his stories). Either way, I think the boycottroland tag will help me in the future.
      • by Nimey ( 114278 )
        Do the same adblock trick for zdnet. Does zdnet produce anything worth reading?
        • Do the same adblock trick for zdnet. Does zdnet produce anything worth reading?

          You make a good point. I just added blogs.zdnet.com to my blocking list, as it is entirely useless.
    • here ! here !br> no to mention that the content is rife with potential for abuse.
    • Re:Vacuous article (Score:4, Insightful)

      by countach ( 534280 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @09:53PM (#18615691)
      It doesn't have to pass the Turing test, it merely has to be a useful teaching aid. A much lower standard to reach.
    • My summary of the article summary:

      the National Science Foundation (NSF), is to give us the possibility to interact
      with these virtual representations as if they were the actual person (NSFW)

  • by Average_Joe_Sixpack ( 534373 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @07:45PM (#18614555)
    but can I frag them with a rail gun?
  • by Jhon ( 241832 ) * on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @07:46PM (#18614565) Homepage Journal
    True Names by Vernor Vinge to me...
  • Will this be on the test?
  • How is this better than a real teacher?
    • While I'm sure this software will be damn near worthless when it makes it's first apperance, I have to make the comment that I've seen many worthless professors and teachers. I've even had people in my classes correcting the professors because they were telling us the wrong facts out of the very reading they assigned to us the night before. This will be interesting to see how far it may actually go in the future. It may be somewhat of a solution to the problem professor like the ones I mentioned above, howe
    • by ch-chuck ( 9622 )
      Um, they aren't constantly whinning about low pay?

    • It's not.
    • by jpvlsmv ( 583001 )
      How will this be better?

      It will be able to say "You have your answer, slashdot user, I suggest you act on it" in a condescending tone, like any good ascended-ancient-posing-as-a-hologram should be able to do.

  • Good idea (Score:3, Funny)

    by Kohath ( 38547 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @07:50PM (#18614609)
    It will never be able to be used to help in public schools because it doesn't pay union dues.
  • by qw0ntum ( 831414 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @07:52PM (#18614635) Journal
    Ronald left out the part about the system being powered by cold fusion! Seriously, is it realistic to expect researchers to figure out how to digitize someone's entire personality and knowledge in less than a year?

    Allergies are blocking my nose, but I can still smell the stench of sensationalism with this one.

    • Ronald left out the part about the system being powered by cold fusion!

      Shame on this research lab. What's wrong with Perl, Python, and PHP?

    • by VON-MAN ( 621853 )
      "digitize someone's entire personality and knowledge in less than a year"

      Oh, good catch! Of course both F* articles don't even contain the words "personality" or "entire" or anything close to that, but I'd mod you up if could (this is Roland of course).
  • by vivaoporto ( 1064484 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @07:52PM (#18614637)
    I doubt we will see any meaningful result soon on this field. First because AI is not at this advanced point yet (in order to provide improvisation and interactivity), and the use of pre-recorded images and sounds cannot cope with the ingenuity and the unpredictability of the students. Second because human beings, although very sympathetic to the idea of talking heads (just look at clippy), in the long run get bored of it.

    On the other side, I already had a couple of teachers that were completely inept to their jobs, following scripts just like a computer program with pre-recorded footage would. But computers are very unlikely to come even near to advantages a real good teacher can provide.
    • "First because AI is not at this advanced point yet"

      They only have to use those clones on the moon and send a ship out there with 5 people with secret agendas but with the goal to create A.I.

      It works i tell, i read about it....

  • This comes along as an even bigger waste of time for presentations.
  • by blitz487 ( 606553 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @08:12PM (#18614811)
    "Ask Jeeves" tried to do this and failed miserably. What hope does this have? Researchers still cannot even write acceptable language translation software, and this would be far beyond that.
  • by jeevesbond ( 1066726 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @08:20PM (#18614895) Homepage

    The problem is as soon as the teacher says anything like: 'Now class, I'd like you to help me do this...' WAAAJAANNAAA!!! Everyone gets a massive fine from Amazon for infringing their 'Humans Assisting Computers [slashdot.org]' patent.

    I wonder if Amazon will use special lawyer avatars to hand out the court summons?

  • Virtual representations eh?

    About as useful as a virtual avatar for a search engine: http://www.msdewey.com/ [msdewey.com]

    Bitch never gives me what I want though!
  • by viking80 ( 697716 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @08:38PM (#18615049) Journal
    This is an automated comment generated by a grease monkey script. If you agree that this is posted by a blog whore, or if you do not want to read any future articles with no useful or new content, you can gray out all Roland Piquepaille articles with this script:

    http://userscripts.org/scripts/show/5735/ [userscripts.org]


    The part that automatically posts this information is not included.

  • Sure virtual teachers are great, but what will really make this complete is virtual students. Only then can we have a fully automated educational system that can operate at maximum capacity with minimum taxpayer expense. Of course, it will still be necessary to maintain colleges as fronts for basketball and football programs. This is, however, hardly without precedent.
  • by Runefox ( 905204 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @08:41PM (#18615061) Homepage
    How does Virtual Teacher discipline Non-Virtual Ritalin-Required Student? Shock buzzer? Stern language? Complete room lockdown with titanium sheeting? Lasers? How does Virtual Teacher respond to vulgarities? Slang?

    "Yo', homes, teach me sum alg'braw 'n' shiz so I be up on da fo'-one-one and tut' me sum ladayz, fo'shizzaw muh nizza, biznatch."
    "Please repeat query."
    "Yo, man, dis shit is whack."
    "Please repeat query."
    "What da fuck."
    "Please refrain from using profanity."
    "Hey, fuck you, man."
    "Cleansing speech orifice with Javex. Please wait..."
  • was a couple of days ago.
  • we can be reasonably sure that a virtual teacher won't virtually molest their wards.

  • ... they have a Mary K. Letourneau avatar available.
  • Sounds just like it, a virtual avatar that is basically an expert system designed around the memories of a real person. "Would you like an anagelsic cream for that?"
  • They will use artificial intelligence and natural language processing software to enable us to interact with these avatars

    Until students start complaining of this Indian accent, would researchers admit that this AI is actually backed by real humans, and it's very cost effective.
  • martian timeslip
    by philip k dick
    • The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson

      Is this another case of science and technology striving to achieve a vision that was dreamed of by a Sci Fi author?

      Which reminds me, has anyone yet created the photoanalysis device that Dekkard uses in Bladerunner? My take on this was that the software was using some sort of super-resolution image processing. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super-resolution/ [wikipedia.org]

      I was interested to see an article a while ago where a developer from Linden Labs said that Snowcrash, another N

      • by VON-MAN ( 621853 )
        "Which reminds me, has anyone yet created the photoanalysis device that Dekkard uses in Bladerunner?"

        Well, it is just the movie of the story, and Philip K. Dick really wasn't interested in technology. But, to me that machine was some holographic device. I distinctly remember Dekkard doing more than just zoom-in, so you need probably more that just a 2D image.
  • Whether this article has anything cogent and relevant to say or not, this technology is inevitable. Eventually an instantly cataloged database of speeches on any topic given by the expert in that field at that time will be available for anyone to view, complete with annotated footnotes from the other experts in the field up to today. I think 2008 is a little soon to have a fully fleshed out version, somehow tied to Wikipedia and similar sources, but I can definitely see this happening to some extent by th
  • I don't believe this would benefit learning.

    A real teacher interacts with his students.
    He notices their behaviour and based on that he adepts his lessons.
    Think of it would a digital teacher help teenagers learn (adults are much the same).

    More likely computer screen colors fancy graphics will distract away from what has to be learned. Remember we probaply all had tried that web advising monkey advater that could speak and would help you search the web. Nice idea but it mainly distracts. And computers dont un
    • "...based on that he adepts his lessons"
      "...probaply all had tried that web advising monkey advater"
      "...to do it in quikest possibble way"
      "...make some notitions of what you read"
      "...realy isn't anything better"
      "...you need practicle knowledge"

      Hmm. I can see all of that "real teaching" has worked for you.


  • Why does this remind me of the avatar librarian from Time Machine [imdb.com]?
  • Lessee now...

    - Fleshlike rubber, check

    - Realistic, load-balanced, dynamic walking, check

    - Natural language parsing, check

    - Language understanding and response, check

    It's all coming together finally. Soon, the "AI" movie scene of "take off your clothes" will become a reality! One may evolve one's traits out of society, but one'll have a hell of a fun time doing so.
  • ...and he wants his idea back.

    Great idea, but there can be problems. Not just technically, but morally and ethically. These guys should read Neuromancer [wikipedia.org] and find out how Dixie Flatline felt about existing in a ROM chip after he was dead.

  • Well, this time the /. editor didn't redact Roland's ZDNet blog link whorage. Please tag as 'ohnoitsroland'. Thanks for taking the time.

A mathematician is a device for turning coffee into theorems. -- P. Erdos