SimSensei – The Therapy Robot Is Coming!

Can an artificial intelligence act as your therapist? Remove the barriers we have when talking to other people, add in a bunch of pre-existing technologies and pretend to understand some language context and the answer is apparently yes. Introducing SimSensei – a virtual human interviewer.

This paper is available from

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This week the paper topic was software and I stumbled across SimSensei – a virtual human created for assisting in therapeutic diagnosis for those suffering from depression or PTSD. I found this paper interesting as it opens so many potential doors for other use cases and the best thing is that very little is new in here – most of it is just clever connecting existing technologies together. There are some more videos on YouTube showing it in action but check out below for my comments on the paper.
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★ Abstract ★
Devault, D., Artstein, R., Benn, G., Dey, T., Fast, E., Gainer, A., … Morency, L.-P. (2014).
SimSensei Kiosk: A Virtual Human Interviewer for Healthcare Decision Support. In AAMAS ’14 Proceedings of the 2014 international conference on Autonomous agents and multi-agent systems (pp. 1061–1068).

We present SimSensei Kiosk, an implemented virtual human interviewer designed to create an engaging face-to-face interaction where the user feels comfortable talking and sharing information. SimSensei Kiosk is also designed to create interactional situations favorable to the automatic assessment of distress indicators, defined as verbal and nonverbal behaviors correlated with depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In this paper, we summarize the de-sign methodology, performed over the past two years, which is based on three main development cycles: (1) analysis of face-to-face human interactions to identify potential distress indicators, dialogue policies and virtual human gestures, (2) development and analysis of a Wizard-of-Oz prototype system where two human operators were deciding the spoken and gestural responses, and (3) development of a fully automatic virtual interviewer able to engage users in 15-25 minute interactions. We show the potential of our fully automatic virtual human interviewer in a user study, and situate its performance in relation to the Wizard-of-Oz prototype

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