'Avatar-technology' to tackle bullies: Study

‘Avatars’ or computer-generated images of an individual could be used to help combat bullying in schools, scientists say.

In a six-month-study, researchers from the University of Kent found students using software which incorporates the latest gesture and facial recognition technology feel more positive towards other students.

The study focused on students aged 12-13 and their use of technology, including ‘avatars’ to resolve potential conflict at school.

Specifically, students using avatars like and trust their partner significantly more. They are also able to produce better ideas to alleviate bullying issues. Prior to the study, avatar-mediated communication was believed to be less effective than video-mediated communication.

However, new technologies, which have developed avatars that respond to facial and gesture cues, can improve social interaction. Avatar technology is of particular interest for tackling bullying issues because of its ability to protect users’ anonymity.

“Advances in avatar technology have great potential to transform the way we connect and empathise with each other using computers.

And, as our research has shown, it’s an excellent platform to help young people, who are very comfortable with all forms of technology, to resolve conflict in schools,” lead researcher Dr Jim Ang said in a statement.

“It was exciting to see the enthusiasm with which the students embraced our project.

We are planning to take the findings from the project into the next stage to investigate the effectiveness of using avatar technology with pupils with social interaction and learning difficulties in mainstream education,” said researcher Ania Bobrowicz.

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