People with a fear of social situations are often labelled as loners, but social phobias are actually very common. For example, how many of us get anxious about speaking in front of a large crowd? 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.