The latest development at the MIT Media Lab is a wooden rocking chair. The official name is the GrandChair. Its designer, Jennifer Smith, refers to it as an attentive embodied agent listener. The hardware consists of a comfortable rocking chair, a computer with a large display, and a video camera to record the action. When a person sits in the chair, the computer displays a simulated child who asks to be told stories (and tells some of her own). Using an array of sensors including voice-recognition, rocking speed sensors and pressure sensors in the chair, the virtual child reacts to the stories and even mirrors the body language of the story-teller. The system elicits longer and more detailed stories from people than when they speak to a tape recorder or respond to printed questions. New Scientist has a short summary of the research or you can read Jennifer's complete Thesis.