CS-ME Seminar:Trainable Interaction Models for Embodied Conversational..
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  • CS-ME Seminar:Trainable Interaction Models for Embodied Conversational..

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Title: Trainable Interaction Models for Embodied Conversational Agents

Speaker: Mary Ellen Foster, Interaction Lab, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Date/Time: Feb 11, 2015 - 12:40-13:30 

Place: FENS G032


Abstract: Human communication is inherently multimodal: when we communicate with one another, we use a wide variety of channels, including speech, facial expressions, body postures, and gestures. An embodied conversational agent (ECA) is an interactive character -- virtual or physically embodied -- with a human-like appearance, which uses its face and body to communicate in a natural way. Giving such an agent the ability to understand and produce natural, multimodal communicative behaviour will allow humans to interact with such agents as naturally and freely as they interact with one another, enabling the agents to be used in applications as diverse as service robots, manufacturing, personal companions, automated customer support, and therapy.

To develop an agent capable of such natural, multimodal communication, we must first record and analyse how humans communicate with one another.  Based on that analysis, we then develop models of human multimodal interaction and integrate those models into the reasoning process of an ECA.  Finally, the models are tested and validated through human-agent interactions in a range of contexts. 

In this talk, I will give three examples where the above steps have been followed to create interaction models for ECAs. First, I will describe how human-like referring expressions improve user satisfaction with a collaborative robot; then I show how data-driven generation of facial displays affects interactions with an animated virtual agent; finally, I describe how trained classifiers can be used to estimate engagement for customers of a robot bartender.


Short Bio: Mary Ellen Foster is a Research Fellow in the Interaction Lab at the School of Mathematical and Computer Sciences at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland. She received her Ph.D. in Informatics from the University of Edinburgh, and has previously worked in the Robotics and Embedded Systems Group at the Technical University of Munich and in the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh. Her research interests include embodied communication, natural language generation, and multimodal dialogue systems. In particular, she is interested in designing, implementing, and evaluating practical artificial systems that support embodied interaction with human users, such as embodied conversational agents and human-robot dialogue systems. She has worked on European and national projects including COMIC, JAST, ECHOES, JAMES, and EMOTE.


Contact: Kamer Kaya