Where serious games and eLearning might lead…

As part of the Serious Games MOOC from the Erasmus University, Rotterdam, I’ve been asked to look in my crystal ball and  guess what’s coming in 5-10 years, so here’s my best answer yet…

Many studies have shown that technology is isolating us to a great extent – where we used to meet, we communicate via virtual channels. There’s a lot of development, especially in Japan covering virtual companions. There’s the Turing test, testing if people can tell a human and a ‘bot’ apart – I see developments in this field coming in to gaming. This would allow virtual ‘agents’ to be placed in the game – as teachers or merely companions to the player – which would then open up another area of social learning possibilities.

Its been studied that we learn more from those around us than anything else – so that must be a desirable effect to mimic.

Imagine a language course with an attractive virtual partner, who can take you through scenes – like a virtual date – while having natural conversations in the chosen language – at the same time, analysing your own conversation for weak areas, to return to in the next session. Scenes could be visiting a restaurant, museum, even walking around a virtual city…

That would push every psychological and affective button we have. The only problems I see is what would happen to the relationship with the avatar once the lessons are learned? Perhaps the answer would be to have the ‘date’ change every few weeks? Then would that disposability of partners cheapen the learners’ attitude to relationships generally?

This idea has got me excited about the possibility of bringing AI into eLearning courses, as virtual tutors. It might not happen yet, but it’s around the corner. More to the point, how elaborate does an AI tutor need to be to be useful?  

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