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