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Embodied Conversational Agent

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The paper by Cassell discussed about three concepts - representation, intelligence and interaction in an embodied conversational agent (ECA). ECA is a system developed to keep the interaction as human as possible - information being conveyed in human understandable modes such as voice, internal representation being modality independent, and system representation also being human. The author established that interactions between an interactional and a propositional intelligent agent are capable of creating very intelligent interactions with humans. Rea and Clippy were interesting examples to read and learn about.

Paper by Nass and Moon argued that people apply “mindless social rules and expectations to computers”. With a series of experiments, the authors established that using the CASA paradigm, people applied social categories and other over learned social behaviour to computers, indirectly making them “Social actors” rather than “smart agents”. In complete contrast, was the paper from Shechtman and Horowitz, which argued that users behave differently when they are informed about the opposite side - person or computer. If a human realised that they were interacting with another human, then there where multiple social behavioural variations observed, but if it was a computer, there was a much reduced affect on their reactions. This is opposite to what was observed by Nass and Moon and these two diverse views made it a very interesting read.

Mutlu detailed on how embodied agents use cues such as smile, gestures, voice commands etc., and when applied effectively, they can generate very positive outcomes. This is one feature I found very interesting because, even human beings pick up cues from one another while interacting, and hence, adding this would heighten the sense of rapport and interaction between a human and a smart agent. This study extended the idea of ECA established by Cassel and showed the importance of using cues to advance human-computer interactions to a more “trustable, social and human like manner”.



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