IET Doctoral Consortium: Intelligent Personal Assistants for Language Learning (Wendy) and Humanoid Intelligent Agents (Xinyu)

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In this seminar, two PhD students in IET, Wendy and Xinyu will present their projects, both of which are related to intelligent agents.

Investigating the Role of Intelligent Personal Assistants in Migrant Learners’ Willingness to Communicate in English as a Second Language

Wendy Galvan-Romero

Modern approaches to second language (L2) pedagogy emphasise communicative competence as part of the language teaching goals. However, it has been observed that some learners are more willing to engage in L2 communication than others, and that this disposition may be affected by several variables that are not bounded to their linguistic competence. In the case of migrants, who are required to learn and use a second language to integrate into their new environment, there is a critical need for opportunities and resources to support their Willingness to Communicate (WTC) beyond the classroom. Intelligent personal assistants (IPA) offer a dynamic oral conversational aspect of language learning that is not provided by other forms of technology and that seem to have potential in improving language learners´ Willingness to Communicate. In this presentation I will discuss my research, which will focus on studying teachers’ and learners’ perceptions as well as their attitudes towards the use of Google Assistant in their language learning process. This study also seeks to understand how IPAs might influence migrant learners’ WTC levels in formal and informal settings, with a special interest in motivation, self-perceived competence, language anxiety, and communication strategies.

Humanoid Intelligent Agents

Xinyu Huang

Humanoid intelligent agents, or ‘Holographic AIs’, as we prefer, are trending, promising improved delivery of personalized services on smart glasses and in Augmented Reality. Lacking clarity of the concept and missing recommendations for their features, however, pose a challenge to developers of these novel, embodied agents. In this paper, we therefore conduct a comparative analysis of nine intelligent agents who can interact with both physical and virtual surroundings. We identify, select, and investigate four distinct types of non-player game characters, chatbot agents, simulation agents, and intelligent tutors in order to, subsequently, develop a framework of features and affordances for holographic AIs along the axes of appearance, behaviour, intelligence, and responsiveness. Through our analysis, we derive four key recommendations for developers of Holographic AIs: the use case determines appearance; dialogue management is key; awareness and adaptation are equally important for successful personalization; and environmental responsiveness to events both in the virtual and digital ream is needed for a seamless experience.


Wendy Galvan-Romero recently joined The Open University’s Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies and the Institute of Educational Technology, as a postgraduate research student. She is an educator with over 10 years teaching English as a foreign language in Mexico and Spanish language in South Korea. She completed her master’s in Educational Technology at Seoul National University, funded by the Korean Government Scholarship Program. Her research projects include 360-degree video use in the classroom, and she is currently investigating the use of intelligent Personal Assistants in English language education as part of her PhD.

Xinyu Huang is a PhD candidate in the Institute of Educational technology at the Open University. She works on Holographic Artificial intelligence (AI), including reconstructing three-dimensional models, motion capture, animation, and dialogue management. She seeks to enrich and improve the user experience and the sense of reality in the resulting models and animations.




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