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Army Avatars Join the Battle For Hearts and Minds

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Researchers at the University of Southern California's Institute for Creative Technologies (USC-ICT) are developing realistic, immersive virtual-reality programs for the U.S. military in which the soldiers are trained by being presented with avatars that behave like the people they will meet in the field. "When two people converse, the speaker influences the listener and the listener influences the speaker, so you have a constant dynamic in action, with a lot of subtle expressions that are influencing that interaction," says USC-ICT's Louis-Philippe Morency.

The researchers used software to analyze recordings of 50 people describing to 50 listeners what they had just seen in a video. The software detected nodding in the listener and searched for visual and verbal cues from the speaker. The program resulted in a list of cue combinations that were highly likely to elicit nods.

A big hurdle for the researchers is that different cultures evaluate facial gestures in different ways. The researchers are feeding a detailed analysis of such cultural behavioral differences into a training environment known as ELECT-BiLAT, which will be used by soldiers being deployed to Iraq.

From New Scientist
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