Relational Agents

Relational Agents Group   Timothy Bickmore








Exercise Advisor ("Laura") Images

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Relational Agents are computational artifacts designed to build and maintain long-term, social-emotional relationships with their users. Central to the notion of relationship is that it is a persistent construct, spanning multiple interactions, thus Relational Agents are explicitly designed to remember past history and manage future expectations in their interactions with users. 

Since face-to-face conversation is the primary context of relationship building for humans, this work focuses on relational agents as a specialized kind of embodied conversational agent, which are animated humanoid software agents that use speech, gaze, gesture, intonation and other nonverbal modalities to emulate the experience of human face-to-face conversation. 

Recent work  demonstrated the ability of relational agents to establish and maintain relationships with people over a series of interactions. In this effort, the agent played the role of an exercise advisor designed to motivate  users to exercise more. One hundered subjects participated in a six-week study longitudinal study (four week intervention and two week follow up) to determine the efficacy of this agent. Results indicate that the agent was successful at creating and maintaining a trusting, caring relationship with users and increasing their desire to continue interacting with it.