Summer Undergraduate Research Mentored Experience

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Dr. David Novick

Department of Computer Science

Rapport between humans and embodied conversational agents

Preferred major field of study or minimum required skills

  • Programming skills in an object-oriented language such as Java or C#
  • Curiosity
  • Strong verbal skills

Scholarly significance/intellectual merit

Dr. Novick’s research program focuses on interactive systems and, especially, building rapport in multimodal conversation. Current research projects include making conversations with embodied conversational agents (ECAs) more effective through modeling and implementing conversation control acts, and improving agent’s capacities to produce and understand gesture.

An ECA is a computer program that produces an intelligent agent that lives in a virtual environment and communicates through an elaborate user interface. How ECAs can build rapport with humans remains an open question, though. Human-agent communication cannot yet achieve the naturalistic and spontaneous communication that humans do unconsciously; familiarity-enabled ECAs are a step towards a more naturalistic human-agent conversation.

In the last two years, our team has built two major ECA-based systems that serve as test-beds for experiments that explore the effects of changes in ECA behaviors on perceived rapport.

Research question(s)

  1. Does increasing the gesture size, which is associated with increase in familiarity, lead humans to perceive increases in human-ECA rapport?
  2. What are the differences, if any, in ways in which extraverts and introverts produce and perceive gestures?
  3. What would be usable design and implementation for XML-based authoring tools for ECA systems?

Methods/techniques/instruments to be learned/utilized

Depending on the specific research project, things to be learned might include:

  • Modeling and game tools, such as Maya and Unity
  • Motion-capture and animation techniques
  • Building XML-based authoring tools
  • Experimental design and analytical methods for study of human production and perception of gesture
  • Statistical analysis of experimental results

Program Coordinator

Joseph Ramos - SURME Program Coordinator

Joseph "Joe" Ramos

Campus Office of Undergraduate Research Initiatives

(915) 747-6210