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The relationship between visual abstraction and the effectiveness of a pedagogical character-agent

Haddad, H. and Klobas, J.E. (2002) The relationship between visual abstraction and the effectiveness of a pedagogical character-agent. In: First International Joint Conference on Autonomous Agents & Multi-Agent Systems, 15 - 19 July 2002, Bologna, Italy



Growth in Internet use and the market for online education have created a demand for computer-based delivery of educational content. Associated with this demand has been experimentation in development of character-agents with the potential to deliver educational content (e.g., Marriott et al. 2001; INTERFACE: Multimodal Analysis/Synthesis System for Human Interaction to Virtual and Augmented Environments 2000; Information Societies Technology, IST, Programme 1999). Much of this development has concentrated on achieving realistic or lifelike agents, yet there is little research on the relationship between the way in which a character-agent is represented and its effectiveness as a communicator. This paper describes research designed to investigate the influence of one aspect of character-agent representation, the degree of visual abstraction, on the effectiveness of information transfer to a user.

The research is being conducted in three phases. The first phase consists of a review of the practitioner and research literature in order to identify those characteristics of a character-agent associated in the field with a ‘good’ agent. On the basis of this review, we propose a model of the relationship between characteragent characteristics, developer and designer criteria for good quality, and effectiveness of character-agents. In the second phase, practitioner interviews are being used to confirm and extend our understanding of the theories-in-use which influence the ways in which character-agents are being designed. In the third phase, field studies informed by the theories-in-use represented in the model, as confirmed or extended by the interviews, will test the relationship between the degree of visual abstraction of a character-agent and its effectiveness in delivery of information to university students. This (written) paper provides an overview of the characteristics which emerged from the literature review and our proposed model of the relationships between them and the effectiveness of information delivery, then presents the results of initial analyses of the interviews with practitioners and describes the design of the experiments to be conducted during the next few weeks. The conference presentation will include more complete presentation of the interview results and the results of the initial field study.

Publication Type: Conference Paper
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