University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Computer Laboratory Wednesday Seminars > “I want to tell you a joke. Are you ready?” – Implementing automated pun generation for children with complex communication needs.

“I want to tell you a joke. Are you ready?” – Implementing automated pun generation for children with complex communication needs.

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Timothy G. Griffin.

The STANDUP project has developed interactive software which allows children with complex communication needs (CCN) to generate novel punning riddles. Typically developing children enjoy jokes and riddles, offering an opportunity to practise language, conversation and social interaction skills during childhood. CCN restricts the opportunities to play with language, and this in turn restricts the development of linguistic, communicative and social skills. Children with CCN do access pre-stored humour using existing AAC devices. However, independent access to novel language is difficult. The STANDUP project was initiated to address this problem by designing an interactive software program to allow child to generate and tell novel puns. The project has involved the design and implementation of a pun generator which creates puns using joke templates and computational resources which have information about concepts, words, their relationships to each other and additional details such as rhyming information. The interface provides appropriate functionality for users with physical and language impairments, allowing users to initiate the generation of puns using different levels of complexity. For example, requesting ‘any joke’ will generate an arbitrary joke constrained by user settings such as vocabulary and joke complexity. At the simplest level, this will result in a joke such as: “What do you call a spicy missile?” … “A hot shot.” At a more complex level, the user may choose to generate a joke by choosing a topic word. This seminar will discuss the role of humour in the development of language skills and introduce the audience to the techniques employed to involve therapists, teachers and adults who use aided communication in the design of a software language playground for children with CCN . Results from a ten-week intervention programme with nine children with CCN will also be presented.

Biography Dr. Annalu Waller is a rehabilitation engineer who has worked in the field of Augmentative and Alternate Communication (AAC) since 1985. She established the first AAC assessment and training centre in South Africa in 1987. Her doctoral research highlighted the need to provide access to conversational narrative in AAC systems. She has published widely in the areas of story telling and the design of effective AAC devices. Dr Waller is a lecturer in the School of Computing at Dundee University.

This talk is part of the Computer Laboratory Wednesday Seminars series.

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