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 Virtual twin always happy to chat

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Date posted: 20/08/2004

When accountancy students at the University of Wollongong need help from lecturer George Mickhail, George is always willing to help. Any queryfrom anyone, on any of thecampusii, at any time of the day or night, is greeted with a smile and a ready response.

Inhuman? Actually, yes. There are two George Mickhail's. One is a lecturer, the other is his cyber-personality, a chatbot connected to a database of his knowledge, and coded to emulate his personality.

From his launch late last year as a simple text interface, Virtual George's responses have been refined through studying real chat sessions and their outcomes. Students now see a film of their real lecturer when they log on to the system, but a mobile multimedia interface now in development will next year offer an even more compelling online experience.

"I had one student say he really enjoyed talking to me last night," he says. "I asked him what time and he said three o'clock.

"He didn't believe it wasn't me."

Many university staff are trying to complete research outside their teaching curriculum, but find ever-increasing student demands constantly get in the way.

Mickhail has presented the system at education conferences, describing it as a "private tutor for students and a personal assistant for academics".

See the full Story via external site: www.smh.com.au



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