'Baldi' Helps Kids With Autism (WebMD)

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MrMark
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16 Feb 2008, 10:13 am

'Baldi' Helps Kids With Autism

Virtual Talking Head Teaches Autistic Children Language Skills
By Martin F. Downs
WebMD Medical News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD
Feb. 15, 2008 (Boston) -- Children generally love to play with computers, but many children with autism prefer interacting with a computer to conversing with a person. Many scientists have been working on ways to take advantage of that to help autistic kids learn.

A virtual talking head, or "embodied conversational agent," nicknamed Baldi by its creators, is one of the latest technologies being used to teach language skills to autistic kids. Dominic Massaro, PhD, a language researcher at the University of California, Santa Cruz, demonstrated Baldi at this week's annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

If you've seen virtual characters in video games, you may notice that as realistically rendered as they may be, their mouths typically don't move in a natural way when speaking. The difference with Baldi is the extent to which Massaro has realistically modeled the virtual mouth movements. Baldi's whole face -- including the tongue, jaw, and lips -- moves the way a real person's does when making different spoken sounds. This is important for learning, Massaro says, because language is learned not only by ear but also by sight. "People use cues from both the face and the voice," he says.

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greendeltatke
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16 Feb 2008, 1:15 pm

Baldi sounds terrifying!



fernando
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16 Feb 2008, 1:24 pm

so he moves his mouth the same way real people do... what's the big deal? if you wanna see that you can watch real people... for free, they're everywhere!


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zendell
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16 Feb 2008, 4:02 pm

I want a Baldi. Where can I get one?



MrMark
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16 Feb 2008, 4:30 pm

Schools and families can purchase the software to use at home or in the classroom from Massaro's private company, Animated Speech Corp.


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WurdBendur
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16 Feb 2008, 4:44 pm

This is nothing new. Besides, if a child is using a computer to the extent that it interferes with his ability to learn language skills, you can't blame that wholly on autism. Take the computer away and talk to him.


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MrMark
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16 Feb 2008, 4:50 pm

WurdBendur, deliberate efforts to get around the word filter may put your posting privileges at risk.


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