The friendly facial expressions, the soothing hand gestures, the coolly intelligent voice: Put them all together, and she is both disarmingly lifelike and surprisingly persuasive.

And while she can’t actually shake your hand in greeting, the unnamed, computer-generated character and her troupe of animated friends can be judiciously designed for online learning – at least if one Florida State University researcher’s vision becomes a reality.

Amy L. Baylor, an associate professor of instructional systems and director of FSU’s Center for Research of Innovative Technologies for Learning (RITL), is working to give computers a human “face,” and her results have shown that such characters can dramatically enhance the ability of computers to serve as learning tools for people of all ages.