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Could OpenPose be used to measure learner body language and engagement at work?

Have you ever been guilty of resting your eyes for a minute or slumping over in a moment of boredom during a course or lesson? Sometimes, it’s just too hard to hide those telltale signs that you’re not engaged.

A human teacher might overlook them, either because they can’t notice everything or they’re happy to overlook a little bit of poor body language. Try and sneak that past a machine, forget about it! In some ways, that’s where we are with OpenPose.

What is OpenPose?

In the simplest terms, it’s a piece of code or technology that monitors and interprets body language. It’s been around since 2017 and, as the name suggests, it measures people’s posture but it can also track hand and finger movements.

Since it first emerged, talk over its usage has ranged from detecting pedestrian movements for self-driving cars and finding the hidden links in renaissance paintings (yes, really!). But the one that caught our eye was its use in EduSense at Carnegie Mellon University, where they’re assessing things like student posture and lecturer actions. With more people working remotely and learning away from the office, it led us to an interesting question.

How could OpenPose be used in e-learning and workplaces?

It might seem intrusive and it would probably put some people on the defensive, so let’s start with a positive. Try to think of it as Big Brother is watching you, but only because they want to improve your experience.

If you’re not engaged with a type of content, maybe they’ll suggest something better? If it’s clear that each time you watch a video that’s over 30 minutes you slowly slump and end up with your head in your hands, it’s probably not the right format for you. Maybe you need a more interactive style, where you’re asked questions to break up the video? Or you could use your learning platform to deliver short videos with quizzes at the end?

How about in group settings? If you’ve got a huge number taking an online session, and the vast majority seem to be disinterested, maybe you need to rethink the format. It might take you more time, but if smaller classes with a discussion element ensure that more people are engaged then it’s probably worth it.  

This is just with hindsight and analytics in mind, but what if you were able to harness the power of OpenPose in realtime!? If you had someone on hand to tell you that your delivery was going down like a lead balloon, you might be able to switch it up before you lose them altogether. It certainly sounds better than plodding along to a sea of sad-looking faces!