People with a fear of social situations are often labelled as loners and ostracised, but in reality social phobias are incredibly common. For example, how many of us get anxious about speaking in front of a large crowd? And to help people over come these fears, researchers at MIT have developed an interactive program that coaches people through social interactions, which boosts their confidence.
The MACH—or My Automated Conversation coacH—software uses a computer generated onscreen persona that people with social phobias learn to interact with. A video camera constantly monitors the person's movements and facial expressions, while behaviour analysis software determines how well they did in a conversation based on eye contact and reactions.
Feedback is provided on how the user can improve their social interactions, and since there's no fear of the on-screen simulation making fun of them, or reacting awkwardly to something they've said, it helps build and reinforce the confidence needed to tackle real world social interactions with ease.