14thAnnual Conference of the International Speech Communication Association

Lyon, France
August 25-29, 2013

Avatar Therapy: An Audio-Visual Dialogue System for Treating Auditory Hallucinations

Mark Huckvale, Julian Leff, Geoff Williams

University College London, UK

This paper presents a radical new therapy for persecutory auditory hallucinations ("voices") which are most commonly found in serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia. In around 30% of patients these symptoms are not alleviated by anti-psychotic medication. This work is designed to tackle the problem created by the inaccessibility of the patients' experience of voices to the clinician. Patients are invited to create an external representation of their dominant voice hallucination using computer speech and animation technology. Customised graphics software is used to create an avatar that gives a face to the voice, while voice morphing software realises it in audio, in real time. The therapist then conducts a dialogue between the avatar and the patient, with a view to gradually bringing the avatar, and ultimately the hallucinatory voice, under the patient's control. Results of a pilot study reported elsewhere indicate that the approach has potential for dramatic improvements in patient control of the voices after a series of only six short sessions. The focus of this paper is on the audio-visual speech technology which delivers the central aspects of the therapy.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Huckvale, Mark / Leff, Julian / Williams, Geoff (2013): "Avatar therapy: an audio-visual dialogue system for treating auditory hallucinations", In INTERSPEECH-2013, 392-396.