Verbal Interactions with Embodied Conversational Agents

Jonathan Ehret
Doctoral Consortium at ACM International Conference on Intelligent Virtual Agents (IVA) 2022

Embedding virtual humans into virtual reality (VR) applications can fulfill diverse needs. These, so-called, embodied conversational agents (ECAs) can simply enliven the virtual environments, act for example as training partners, tutors, or therapists, or serve as advanced (emotional) user interfaces to control immersive systems. The latter case is of special interest since we as human users are specifically good at interpreting other humans. ECAs can enhance their verbal communication with non-verbal behavior and thereby make communication more efficient. For example, backchannels, like nodding or signaling not understanding, can be used to give feedback while a user is speaking. Furthermore, gestures, gaze, posture, proxemics, and many more non-verbal behaviors can be applied. Additionally, turn-taking can be streamlined when the ECA understands when to take over the turn and signals willingness to yield it once done. While many of these aspects are already under investigation from very different disciplines, operationalizing those into versatile, virtually embodied human-computer interfaces remains an open challenge.

To this end, I conducted several studies investigating acoustical effects of ECAs' speech, both with regard to the auralization in the virtual environment and the speech signals used. Furthermore, I want to find guidelines for expressing both turn-taking and various backchannels that make interactions with such advanced embodied interfaces more efficient and pleasant, both when the ECA is speaking and during listening. Additionally, measuring social presence (i.e., the feeling of being there and interacting with a ``real'' person) is an important instrument for this kind of research, since I want to facilitate exactly those subconscious processes of understanding other humans, which we as humans are particularly good at. Therefore, I want to investigate objective measures for social presence.

» Show BibTeX

author = {Ehret, Jonathan},
booktitle = {Doctoral Consortium at the 22nd ACM International Conference on
Intelligent Virtual Agents},
title = {{Doctoral Consortium : Verbal Interactions with Embodied
Conversational Agents}},
year = {2022}

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