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University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Virtual human may help you spill your secrets to your doctor

With her hair pulled back and her casual office attire, Ellie is a comforting presence. She's trained to put patients at ease as she conducts mental health interviews with total confidentiality. She draws you into conversation: "So how are you doing today?" "When was the last time you felt really happy?" She notices if you look away or fidget or pause, and she follows up with a nod of encouragement or a question: "Can you tell me more about that?" Not bad for an interviewer who's not human. Ellie is a virtual human created by scientists at the University of Southern California to help patients feel comfortable talking about themselves so...