Thursday, March 20, 2008

"The apps, frankly, are endless..." says Selmer Bringsjord, head of Rensselaer's Cognitive Science Department and leader of a team that has developed an artificially intelligent avatar (otherwise known as a "synthetic character") in SL.

According to the web site of the Rensselaer Artificial Intelligence and Reasoning (RAIR) Laboratory, "At a recent conference on artificial intelligence, a group of researcher lead by Selmer Bringsjord unveiled the "embodiment" of their success to date: "Eddie," a 4-year-old child in Second Life who can reason about his own beliefs to draw conclusions in a manner that matches human children his age."

Watch this video, where "Edd" is asked to respond to a scenario in which an person places a teddy bear in a cabinet (A), and then leaves; then another person moves the bear to the other cabinet (B), and then "Edd" is asked where the first person would look for the bear. (Edd says "B" because he fails, like a human child, to understand the different experiences of other people).

According to an article at iTnews, "
Eventually, more advanced versions of the artificial intelligence technology will be put to use in entertainment and gaming, as well as immersive training and education scenarios." (See also the article at Virtual World News:

Its those "education scenarios" that has me intrigued. What if we could do teacher professional development in a virtual classroom in which artificially intelligent students present various challenges. The savings in people's time (and in student learning which is so often compromised during student teaching episodes) could be enormous. Candidates could role play a scenario multiple times until they get it just right.

The biggest obstacle in the development of these technologies: it takes a very powerful computer to "reason" at anywhere near the speed of a human; plus, how do you store all the "knowledge" gained about other agents and the environment in a way that is efficient and doesn't require terabytes of data.

Wow, but this is exciting stuff!

(Interesting note: my spell checker in Firefox flags "terabytes" as misspelled.)

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