Man people tend to disregard Disney as a company that makes cartoons. Well, you would probably be surprised by the breadth of the company’s operations. Check this for example: Researchers at Disney are attempting to improve the quality of human-robot interactions by studying exactly how speech patterns affect engagement and performance.

So here is the thing with interaction. When you are in sync with the person you are interacting with, you are that much more likely to be able to perform whatever task you are doing with more success. How do you put such an abstract theory into practice though. I means sure, robots can talk but how do you get them to synchronize with kids? That is likely to be more difficult.

That is the problem Disney Research team found itself facing, and it rose to the occasion with some clever bit of experimentation. The team paired the kids with a robot and had the pair play a game wherein one of the two had to tell the other to go while the other told it to jump. All the while, a system was studying the kids voice and extracting information like frequency, pitch etc. from it. Once the robot had a fair idea of the kid’s speech patterns, it moved on to the next level.

The next level  involved the robot interacting with the kid using different voices and noticing the affect on the game play. For example, once it chose a voice that was quite similar to the kids while the next time, it chose a voice widely different. The effect of the different voices on the overall performance in the game were measured and several interesting results drawn.

Apparently, kids exposed to the synchronizing voice were able to engage much better and scored significantly higher despite the synchronization being turned off halfway through the game. It was also found that these variations were shown mostly among older kids, suggesting that it was a skill kids picked upon later as their awareness of the society grew, rather than being something inherent.

Interesting. I can just imagine corporations refining this tech in the future. After all, the future is certain to have robots and humans working side-by-side.

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