Feeds

Shy? Socially inadequate? Fiddling with your phone could help

App 'tells the brutal truth' about social inadequates' chatup lines

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

Help is at hand for the millions of people whose shyness is ruining their chances at improving their lot in life.

Eggheads at MIT have unveiled a virtual life coaching system called My Automated Conversation Coach (MACH) which helps bashful people practise stressful situations in the hope of allowing them to cope better in real life.

The software helps shy people deal with scary situations including public speaking engagements, first dates and job interviews. Its designers hope it will be of particular benefit to people with Asperger's Syndrome, who often have great difficulty holding eye contact and noticing important non-verbal cues.

The MACH software uses a computer-generated (and therefore extremely good-looking) face to simulate a one-to-one conversation. After chatting away with a person who would be way out of their league in reality, the shy person is then encouraged to get out there and use their new-found skills.

“Interpersonal skills are the key to being successful at work and at home,” said MIT Media Lab doctoral student M Ehsan Hoque, who designed the system. “How we appear and how we convey our feelings to others define us. But there isn’t much help out there to improve on that segment of interaction.”

"People with social phobias want the possibility of having some kind of automated system so that they can practice social interactions in their own environment,” addedHoque. “They desire to control the pace of the interaction, practice as many times as they wish, and own their data.”

A paper (PDF) on the program will be presented at the 2013 International Joint Conference on Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing, known as UbiComp, in September.

To see if silicon can beat shyness, Hoque tested it on 90 MIT students.

He divided the subjects into three groups who all took part in two job interviews with MIT career advisors.

All the groups received some kind of assistance in the week between grillings. One watched interview tips videos, another practised with MACH and the third used MACH as well as watching their own performance played back, accompanied by analysis of "how well they maintained eye contact, how well they modulated their voices, and how often they used filler words such as 'like,' 'basically' and 'umm'."

The third group showed a larger improvement between the interviews than the two others when the MIT interviewers were asked about how well they came across in both meetings.

The software behind MACH took two years to develop as part of Hoque’s doctoral thesis and is designed to run on a bog standard laptop.

The system is able to analyse a user's facial expressions and record their speech, allowing the automated interviewer to respond realistically by, for instance, nodding and smiling while the subject is speaking or asking questions.

Hoque said MACH was effective because of its honesty: “It’s easier to tell the brutal truth through the software, because it’s objective.” ®

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

More from The Register

next story
This time it's 'Personal': new Office 365 sub covers just two devices
Redmond also brings Office into Google's back yard
Oh no, Joe: WinPhone users already griping over 8.1 mega-update
Hang on. Which bit of Developer Preview don't you understand?
Microsoft lobs pre-release Windows Phone 8.1 at devs who dare
App makers can load it before anyone else, but if they do they're stuck with it
Half of Twitter's 'active users' are SILENT STALKERS
Nearly 50% have NEVER tweeted a word
Internet-of-stuff startup dumps NoSQL for ... SQL?
NoSQL taste great at first but lacks proper nutrients, says startup cloud whiz
Next Windows obsolescence panic is 450 days from … NOW!
The clock is ticking louder for Windows Server 2003 R2 users
Ditch the sync, paddle in the Streem: Upstart offers syncless sharing
Upload, delete and carry on sharing afterwards?
Microsoft TIER SMEAR changes app prices whether devs ask or not
Some go up, some go down, Redmond goes silent
Batten down the hatches, Ubuntu 14.04 LTS due in TWO DAYS
Admins dab straining server brows in advance of Trusty Tahr's long-term support landing
prev story

Whitepapers

SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.