My Automated Conversation coacH

A lot of the time, the way that you speak is just as important as the selection of words. However, analyzing speaking habits is much harder than diction, so how do you even prepare for that crucial job interview? Well, researchers at MIT have created a robot that can help you with that.

My Automated Conversation coacH (MACH) is a robot program that targets social interactions. Since more than 15 million adults in the United States suffer from glossophobia (fear of public speaking), such a robot is duly needed to help us get rid of any awkwardness in daily conversation.

On the surface, MACH is a 3D model of a person that can talk to a user with common scenarios, one being a job interview. However, MACH is unique in that it uses a camera and microphone to record video and audio input, and analyzes these parts. It uses facial recognition software to detect eye contact, as well as smiling, nodding, or even drifting away from the conversation. Voice recognition, on the other hand, detects not only the words that are spoken, but the tone and modulation (how much the tone varies) over time.

Such data from any social interaction is very valuable to the improvement of speaking. People were able to see how they responded, as well as detected visual cues and spoken nuances. The results are pretty solid as well.

To test the robot, the inventors created an experiment with MIT students. First, all of the students went through a fake interview. Then, the students were split up into three groups. The first group was not trained with MACH but was allowed to view advice videos about interviews. The second was trained with MACH but received no feedback from the robot. The third was trained with MACH and received the full set of feedback from the robot. A week later, when all three groups received a second interview, only the third group with training and feedback improved significantly; the other two groups showed little or no improvement.

MACH is planned to be accessible on an ordinary laptop; however, it will still take a while for the program to release generally. Until it’s released and everyone can enjoy the benefits of better social interaction, you’ll just have to grind your teeth and make it through that interview.

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