Research

RAVE Revolutionary Learning Tool Prototype

RAVE is a robot-avatar learning tool that senses when babies’ emotional-attentional interest is most engaged and “ready to learn." Information about the baby’s emotional interest is then sent to the avatar to begin signing rhythmic nursery rhymes in American Sign Language and engage in other social interactions and contingent (meaningful) two-way conversations. When babies are disinterested, the system signals the avatar to stop the language conversation.

There are a vast number of children throughout the nation and world who suffer from the devastating effects of minimal or delayed language exposure. This can impact children in various home environments with reduced adult contact, particularly socially rich language interactions. This is especially challenging for over 90% of young deaf infants who initially have little (or no) exposure to a fully accessible natural signed language. Minimal or delayed early first-language exposure can have a lifelong negative impact on healthy learning, cognitive development, language acquisition, and reading success.


Professor Laura-Ann Petitto (Principal Investigator, grants from the W. M. Keck Foundation and NSF INSPIRE, IIS-1547178), the Petitto Brain and Language Lab for Neuroimaging (BL2) at Gallaudet University, additional scientists from three universities, and spanning four disciplines, aim to solve this problem with a revolutionary learning tool called the Robot AVatar thermal-Enhanced prototype, or RAVE. 

Led by Petitto with funding from two (2) three-year research grants from the W.M. Keck Foundation and the National Science Foundation (NSF-INSPIRE), RAVE is a robot-avatar learning tool that senses when babies’ emotional-attentional interest is most engaged and “ready to learn” (with Thermal Infrared imaging and eye-tracking). Information about the baby’s emotional interest is then sent to the avatar to begin signing rhythmic nursery rhymes in American Sign Language and engage in other social interactions and contingent (meaningful) two-way conversations. When babies are disinterested, the system signals the avatar to stop the language conversation. 

These scientific achievements permit for the first time the advancement of a machine-human device that can (1) engage in socially contingent rudimentary conversations with young babies (ages 6-12 months), and, crucially, (2) provide natural language when babies are most ready to learn. The leading outcome goal of RAVE is to produce an augmentative learning tool that makes available natural language patterns to young babies during the precise critical or sensitive periods in early brain and behavior development when they need it most.  

Learn more about the RAVE Learning Tool Prototype and Petitto's Brain and Language Laboratory for Neuroimaging, BL2.