Today we're announcing "MakeTherapist", a new variation of MakeHuman, in collaboration with the local psychology department at Mid Sweden University. As is well known, there is a shortage of therapists, and as a part of a PhD thesis we have started to look at options to get around this while still providing the "here and now" feeling of attending a therapy session. We believe that therapy sessions with an animated 3d toon can reach almost as good effect as with a human therapist, although this remains to be tested.
MakeTherapist is constructed by combining a number of already existing open source and other free technologies with the goal of enabling the user to hold a coherent conversation with the toon visible in makehuman. Currently the following technologies are used:
- The toon "speaks" using speech synthesis. This is implemented via eSpeak.
- The visible components of the speech (visemes, i.e how the mouth moves) is reused from technology which has been available in MakeWalk for some time now.
- Optionally it is possible to use a microphone to talk to the toon. This is implemented via voice recognition in CMU Sphinx. Alternatively, keyboard input can be used.
- Responses are formulated using an AI backend. This is a proprietary system developed at MIUN, but can be downloaded for free upon request. Alternatively, for testing, it is possible to instead use Cleverbot via ajax calls.
Further it is possible to choose the voice mode of the "therapist", for example "motherly" or "fatherly". Since this is makehuman, it is obviously also up to the user/patient to choose what clothes (if any) the therapist bot should use. Although we caution that having a nude therapist might not have the same results as, say, a therapist in a neutral/formal dressing.
The current status of the system is that it is already possible to hold a semi-coherent conversation with the MakeHuman toon, although the AI backend will need to be further trained on real patients in order to give clinically relevant responses.
If you are interested in trying out the system, all you need to do is to install the above mentioned dependencies and then enter "enableTherapy()" on the "shell" tab under "utilities".