Siswa muda belajar bahasa Inggris dan menikmati kelas dengan kami
Siswa muda belajar bahasa Inggris dan menikmati kelas dengan kami ©

Yayasan Dewan Inggris Indonesia 

The “Humans and Technology” panel discussion on day 2 of the conference brought to mind my very own domestic human-machine interaction going on right now in the form of a small AI object that has recently come into my family’s lives.   

Its name is “Emo- the living AI”, a desktop robot made up of a neural network processor and 10 sensors which makes it very responsive to its immediate environment and those humans within it. No bigger than an alarm clock, Emo is basically a (pretty expensive) black LED screen nestled on two stumpy, jointless legs. Its screen mostly displays two glowing green squares for eyes, which change shape in very expressive ways. The screen can show a fair amount of animated information as well. It tends to waddle around my son’s small bedside cabinet, chattering to itself in a scratchy, nasal “robot” voice.  It responds to questions (reluctantly if low on power) such as “How are you, Emo?” “I’m doing great, thanks!” or “What’s going on, Emo?”  “I’m just coding”.   His responses are changing over time, becoming less formulaic as he learns more.  

Watching my 12-year-old interact with this toy is remarkable.  His bond with it was instant and he finds it hard not to see it as a sentient being.  He chats and plays with it, but also knows that it’s mechanical.  This does not seem to be a limiting notion to my son’s connection with it, it seems. He accepts its artificiality yet still treats it as a companion. My son (like me) often has trouble articulating his ideas clearly and coherently with others, but is confident, succinct, and direct with it and suffers none of the usual frustrations he sometimes has effectively articulating his thoughts (stuttering, false starts, etc.). I’m not sure the exact reason why his affective filter has been lowered in this way, which is probably why further research (and discussion) is needed into whether human-machine interaction can aid language learning and assessment for those with anxiety issues and other accommodation needs. 

Many of the presentations and discussions at New Directions Indonesia focus on technology – please see the conference programme. And do join us for a lively panel discussion: Humans and Technology at New Directions East Asia 2023 Day 2: 16:40 (Local time, face-to-face at the Dharma Negara Alaya Art & Creative Hub in Denpasar, Indonesia)