We’re off to a great start! This week marks a major milestone in our W. M. Keck and NSF INSPIRE projects: we are piloting our RAVE (“Robot Avatar Thermal-Enhanced”) prototype learning tool! This first-time simulation of joint attention and socially-contingent conversation in human-artificial agent interaction is intended to lift infants with minimal language input to a honed sensitivity to multiple components of human language structure. If successful, this learning tool will break the communication barrier that widely impacts many young children with minimal or no language and social interaction in early life.

With our teams located on-site at the Petitto Brain & Language Laboratory (BL2) at Gallaudet University (Petitto) and working remotely from University of Southern California (Traum), Yale University (Scassellati), and Universita d’Annunzio Chieti-Pescara (Merla), we are piloting RAVE with 25 infants in just five days (June 26-30, 2017)!

Our multi-camera system showing different angles of the baby’s interaction with the RAVE prototype.

Dr. Laura-Ann Petitto interacting with Maki (the robot) and the baby as part of the social familiarization sequence.

Dr. Petitto’s Gallaudet/BL2 team, from left to right: Geo Kartheiser (4th year Ph.D. candidate in Educational Neuroscience; Petitto, Advisor); Dr. Adam Stone (recent graduate in Educational Neuroscience), Dr. Barbara Manini (Keck/NSF INSPIRE Postdoctoral Fellow), Dr. Laura-Ann Petitto (PI, Keck & NSF INSPIRE), Zoey Walker (graduate research assistant), and Calvin Kraft (visiting undergraduate research assistant from University of Notre Dame).

Our behavioral interface and thermal infrared imaging software, all constructed in-house with our teams at Gallaudet, USC, Yale, and Universitia d’Annunzio.

Our “A-Team” waiting behind the curtain, ready to start up RAVE as soon as the mother and baby are ready to begin!

Jake Brawer, Dr. Brian Scassellati’s PhD student at Yale University, poses as we test our multi-camera system and automated facial recognition software which enables us to track regions in the thermal video.

Dr. Laura-Ann Petitto with Setareh Gilani, Dr. David Traum’s PhD student, and Anya Hee, Dr. Traum’s undergraduate student, both at University of Southern California.

Members of Dr. Petitto’s BL2 team: Calvin Kraft (visiting research assistant from University of Notre Dame), Maxwell Graham-Putter (Gallaudet undergraduate student), and Paris Norwood (Gallaudet graduate student). Seated is Dr. Barbara Manini, Dr. Petitto’s Keck/NSF INSPIRE postdoctoral fellow.

Anya Hee (USC) and Jake Brawer (Yale) show off the “brains” of RAVE – many computers, screens, and laptops!

Dinner to celebrate our hard work thus far: Jason Lamberton (Gallaudet’s Motion Light Lab technician and avatar artist), Geo Kartheiser, Dr. Adam Stone, Dr. Barbara Manini, Jake Brawer, Kyle Duarte (ASL Interpreter), Anya Hee, Dr. Laura-Ann Petitto, and Jen Vold (ASL Interpreter).