The session begins:
The virtual therapist sits in a big armchair, shuffling slightly and blinking naturally, apparently waiting for me to get comfortable in front of the screen.
“Hi, I’m Ellie,” she says. “Thanks for coming in today.”
Right now there are two assistants guiding the avatar, but:
Real people come in to answer Ellie’s questions every day as part of the research, and the computer is gradually learning how to react in every situation.
It is being taught how to be human, and to respond as a doctor would to the patients’ cues.
Soon Ellie will be able to go it alone.