IWC05 - Relational Agents 1 It's just like you talk to a...

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Relational Agents 1 “It's just like you talk to a friend” Relational Agents for Older Adults Timothy W. Bickmore, PhD Assistant Professor of Medicine Medical Information Systems Unit Boston University School of Medicine Lisa Caruso, MD, MPH Assistant Professor of Medicine Geriatrics Boston University School of Medicine Kerri Clough-Gorr, MPH, DSc Candidate Geriatrics Boston University School of Medicine Tim Heeren, PhD Professor of Biostatistics Boston University School of Public Health Submitted to Interacting with Computers special issue on HCI and the Older Population Corresponding author: Timothy W. Bickmore 720 Harrison Ave. #1102 Boston, MA 02118 bickmore@bu.edu Phone: 617-638-8170 FAX: 617-638-8858
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Relational Agents 2 Abstract Relational agents—computational artifacts designed to build and maintain long- term social-emotional relationships with users—may provide an effective interface modality for older adults. This is especially true when the agents use simulated face-to- face conversation as the primary communication medium, and for applications in which repeated interactions over long time periods are required, such as in health behavior change. In this article we discuss the design of a relational agent for older adults that plays the role of an exercise advisor, and report on the results of a longitudinal study involving 21 adults aged 62 to 84, half of whom interacted with the agent daily for two months in their homes and half who served as a standard-of-care control. Results indicate the agent was accepted and liked, and was significantly more efficacious at increasing physical activity (daily steps walked) than the control. Keywords Relational Agent, Embodied Conversational Agent, Geriatric, Exercise, Health
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Relational Agents 3 Executive Summary Relational agents are computational artifacts designed to build and maintain long- term social-emotional relationships with users. In this work, the agent takes the form of an animated character that simulates face-to-face conversation with users, so that both verbal and nonverbal relationship-building behavior can be used. Such agents are hypothesized to be effective in applications in which human-human relationships are crucial to task outcomes, such as in health care, counseling, and education. Relational agents are also thought to be especially effective in interactions with older adult users. Simulated face-to-face conversation with an animated character provides older adults with a familiar and non-threatening interface. Furthermore, when the agent uses relationship-building behaviors users become more engaged over the long term, they may adhere more to the agent’s recommendations, and they may feel less socially isolated. In this study a relational agent was developed that plays the role of an exercise advisor that interacts with users on a daily basis for two months to motivate them to exercise more through walking. The agent uses synchronized synthetic speech and nonverbal behavior to talk to users, while users select their utterances from a dynamically-updated multiple-choice menu. Dialog was scripted using augmented
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This note was uploaded on 02/24/2010 for the course COMM 4400 at Cornell University (Engineering School).

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IWC05 - Relational Agents 1 It's just like you talk to a...

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