Avatars as storytellers: affective narratives in virtual museums

Abstract

This article explores the affective potential of virtual humans in virtual museum (VM) environments. Three avatars (personifying a curator, a guard, and a visitor, respectively) have been employed as storytellers introducing participants to the emotive story behind a historical sculpture. The emotional responses of a test group have been correlated to a range of factors, namely, the role acted by the virtual storytellers, the subjects’ own stance on cultural heritage, gender, and predispositions towards the sense of presence and affective responses. We review research related to the topic of presence and social presence in VMs, and position our experimental procedure as well as the findings of our study in this context. Theoretical frameworks, such as the Expectancy Violations Theory are used to interpret the key findings, which have not always confirmed the initial hypotheses. The outcome of our study may inform the design of avatars-as-storytellers in VMs on the basis of their affective potential, given the results of the study and, more importantly, the theoretical investigation of the factors, which conditioned the emotional responses observed.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    ViMM (Virtual Multimodal Museums) Definition of a Virtual Museum, at https://www.vi- mm.eu/2018/01/10/the-vimm-definition-of-a-virtual-museum/

  2. 2.

    https://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/arria-and-paetus

  3. 3.

    Heeter further elaborates on the term positing that “Social presence refers to the extent to which other beings (living or synthetic) also exist in the world and appear to react to you” (1992).

  4. 4.

    https://www.nvidia.com/en-us/geforce/products/10series/geforce-gtx-1060/

  5. 5.

    https://www.oculus.com/rift/

  6. 6.

    https://www.vicon.com/

  7. 7.

    https://www.adobe.com/gr_en/products/fuse.html

  8. 8.

    https://www.mixamo.com/

  9. 9.

    https://www.maxon.net/

  10. 10.

    The 3D exhibit has been downloaded from https://sketchfab.com/3d-models/arria-et-ptus-louvre-museum-e5dc1871b7654429b883b9e04c8418c4 and was uploaded by Benjamin Bardou.

  11. 11.

    https://unity.com/

  12. 12.

    Lip synching was carried out using SALSA LipSynch (https://crazyminnowstudio.com/) which performed real-time lip synching based on automatically analyzing the sound file of the actors’ voices recorded while narrating the story of Arria during the motion capture sessions.

  13. 13.

    The motion capture system used was on Vicon’s solutions (https://www.vicon.com/) while the eye blinking was carried out using SALSA LipSynch (https://crazyminnowstudio.com/).

  14. 14.

    That is, avatars looking at the direction of users as they were mostly static, at a certain point, during narration.

  15. 15.

    A video of an indicative experimental session illustrating the viewing perspective of the immersed user can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DAiUtIuoiXk

  16. 16.

    https://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/arria-and-paetus

  17. 17.

    zarcrash.x10.mx/Questionnaire_Avatars_as_Storytellers.pdf

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Funding

This research is co-financed by the Greece and the European Union (European Social Fund- ESF) through the Operational Programme “Human Resources Development, Education and Lifelong Learning 2014-2020” in the context of the project “Social Interaction in Virtual Reality Environments” (MIS 5004223).

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Correspondence to Stella Sylaiou.

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Sylaiou, S., Kasapakis, V., Gavalas, D. et al. Avatars as storytellers: affective narratives in virtual museums. Pers Ubiquit Comput (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00779-019-01358-2

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Keywords

  • Virtual museums
  • Virtual reality
  • Virtual guides
  • Avatars
  • Social presence
  • Emotions
  • Storytelling
  • Persuasiveness