Mimicry makes computers personable

May 29, 2003 | Source: KurzweilAI

We would enjoy interacting with our computers more if they mimicked our speech patterns, says Noriko Suzuki’s team at the ATR Media Information Science Laboratories in Kyoto, quoted in an article in the New Scientist May 31 issue.

Suzuki asked volunteers to work on-screen with an animated character whose character hummed back sounds that mimicked characteristic features, such as the rhythm, intonation, loudness and pitch of the user’s voice. The users then rated the character in areas such as cooperation, learning ability, task-achievement, comfort, friendliness, and sympathy. The animated character scored highest on all these factors when its voice was mimicking about 80 per cent of the user’s voice, says Suzuki.

Suzuki thinks that embedding such mimicry into speech during vocal interactions between computers or robots and humans will make things better. “Sometimes people are afraid of robots,” says Suzuki. But if robot voice patterns are improved, people may warm to them, he adds.

MIT’s Timothy Bickmore agrees that such mimicry could help people build a rapport with computer characters and robots, and sees applications in entertainment, computer gaming, and toys.

New Scientist press release