Development of a virtual agent based social tutor for children with autism spectrum disorders
Luerssen, Martin Holger
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Virtual agents have been investigated as an educational tool for use with children on the autistic spectrum with positive results being gained for language skills with the use of autonomous agents and social skills with human-controlled agents. This project combines these ideas to investigate the utility of autonomous agents for teaching social skills. The virtual agent used in this project, known as the Thinking Head, has an ability to realistically portray facial expressions that lends it to this task. Two prototype modules were developed for this agent platform, one teaching basic conversation skills and the other dealing with bullying. In a pre-test-post-test evaluation, a group of children with autism who were exposed to the training modules obtained significantly higher post-test scores on their knowledge of these two topics. In addition, responses to a post-training survey indicated that participants found the virtual tutor enjoyable and useful.