Seniors’ Acceptance of Virtual Humanoid Agents

  • Anna Esposito
  • Terry Amorese
  • Marialucia Cuciniello
  • Antonietta M. Esposito
  • Alda Troncone
  • Maria Inés Torres
  • Stephan Schlögl
  • Gennaro CordascoEmail author
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Electrical Engineering book series (LNEE, volume 544)


This paper reports on a study conducted as part of the EU EMPATHIC project, whose goal is to develop an empathic virtual coach capable of enhancing seniors’ well-being, focusing on user requirements and expectations with respect to participants’ age and technology experiences (i.e. participants’ familiarity with technological devices such as smartphones, laptops, and tablets). The data shows that seniors’ favorite technological device is the smartphone, and this device was also the one that scored the highest in terms of easiness to use. We found statistically significant differences on the preferences expressed by seniors toward the gender of the agents. Seniors (independently from their gender) prefer to interact with female humanoid agents on both the pragmatic and hedonic dimensions of an interactive system and are more in favor to commit themselves in a long-lasting interaction with them. In addition, we found statistically significant effects of the seniors’ technology savviness on the hedonic qualities of the proposed interactive systems. Seniors with technological experience felt less motivated and judged the proposed agents less captivating, exciting, and appealing.


Assistive technologies Virtual agents Aging well Agent’s appearance User’s requirements and expectations 



The research leading to the results presented in this paper has been conducted in the project EMPATHIC (Grant N: 769872) that received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.

Open image in new window


  1. 1.
    Theng Y-L, Paye A (2011) Interactive digital social activity space for the elderly and positive ageing. Designing with and for the elderly: an interactive digital social activity space addressing elderly loneliness and IADIS, Society and Human BeingsGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Munoz RF, Cuijpers P, Smit F, Barrera AZ, Leykin Y (2010) Prevention of major depression. Annu Rev Clin Psychol 6:181–212CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    McDaid D, Curran C, Knapp M (2005) Promoting mental well-being in the workplace: a European policy perspective. Int Rev Psychiatry 17(5):365–373CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Hawley MS, Cunningham SP, Green PD, Enderby P, Palmer R, Sehgal S, O’Neill P (2013) A voice-input voice-output communication aid for people with severe speech impairment. IEEE Trans Neural Syst Rehabil Eng 21(1):23–31CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Parker SG, Hawley MS (2013) Telecare for an ageing population? Age Ageing 42(4):424–425CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Prescott TJ, Epton T, Evers V, McKee K, Hawley M, Webb T, Benyon D, Conran S, Strand R, Buning M, Verschure P, Dario P, Group T (2012) Robot companions for citizens: roadmapping the potential for future robots in empowering older people. In: Bridging research in ageing and ICT development final conference, Springer-Verlag, PragueGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Gallego-Perez J, Lohse M, Evers V (2013) Robots to motivate elderly people: present and future challenges. In: Proceedings of IEEE international workshop on robot and human interactive communication, pp 685–690Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Davis FD (1989) Perceived usefulness, perceived ease of use, and user acceptance of information technology. MIS Q 13(3):319–340CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Giuliani MV, Scopelliti M, Fornara F (2005) Elderly people at home: technological help in everyday activities. In: Robot and human interactive communication. ROMAN 2005 IEEE international workshop, Nashville, TN, USA, 13–15 AugustGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Esposito A, Schlögl S, Amorese T, Esposito AM, Torres MI, Masucci F, Cordasco G (2018) Seniors’ sensing of agent’s personality from facial expressions. In: Proceedings of ICCHP, 2018Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Gong L, Nass C (2007) When a talking-face computer agent is half-human and half-humanoid: human identity and consistency preference. Hum Commun Res 33(2):163–193Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Sträfling N, Fleischer I, Polzer C, Leutner D, Krämer NC (2010) Teaching learning strategies with a pedagogical agent: the effects of a virtual tutor and its appearance on learning and motivation. J Media Psychol: Theor, Methods, Appl 22(2):73–83CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Ring L, Utami D, Bickmore T (2014) The right agent for the job? The effects of agent visual appearance on task domain. In: Proceedings of international conference on intelligent virtual agents (IVA 2014). LNCS, 8637. Springer International Publishing, pp 374–384Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Guadagno RE, Blascovich J, Bailenson JN, Mccall C (2007) Virtual humans and persuasion: the effects of agency and behavioral realism. Media Psychol 10(1):1–22Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Kong H (2013) Face interface will empower employee. IJACT 5(15):193–199Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Oh SY, Bailenson J, Krämer N, Li B (2016) Let the avatar brighten your smile: effects of enhancing facial expressions in virtual environments. PLoS ONE 11(9):e0161794. Scholar
  17. 17.
    Cordasco G, Esposito M, Masucci F, Riviello MT, Esposito A, Chollet G, Schlögl S, Milhorat P, Pelosi G (2014) Assessing voice user interfaces: the vAssist system prototype. In: Proceedings of 5th IEEE international conference on cognitive infocommunications, pp 91–96Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Yaghoubzadeh R, Kramer M, Pitsch K, Kopp S (2013) Virtual agents as daily assistants for elderly or cognitively impaired people. In: Proceedings of international workshop on intelligent virtual agents (IVA 2013). LNCS, 8108. Springer International Publishing, pp 79–91Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Straßmann C, Krämer NC (2017) A categorization of virtual agent appearances and a qualitative study on age-related user preferences. In: Proceedings of international conference on intelligent virtual agents (IVA 2017). LNCS, 10498. Springer International Publishing, pp 413–422Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Hassenzahl M (2014) AttrakDiff(tm). Internet resource
  21. 21.
    Hassenzahl M (2004) The interplay of beauty, goodness, and usability in interactive products. Hum-Comput Interact 19:319–349CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Signorelli A (2011) Antropologia culturale, 2nd edn. McGraw-Hill, Milano, pp 209–213Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Cereghetti DM, Kleanthous S, Christophorou C, Tsiourti C, Wings C, Christodoulou E (2015) Virtual partners for seniors: analysis of the users’ preferences and expectations on personality and appearance. In: CEUR workshop proceedings, vol 1528, pp 7–10Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anna Esposito
    • 1
  • Terry Amorese
    • 1
  • Marialucia Cuciniello
    • 1
  • Antonietta M. Esposito
    • 2
  • Alda Troncone
    • 1
  • Maria Inés Torres
    • 3
  • Stephan Schlögl
    • 4
  • Gennaro Cordasco
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Psychology, and IIASSUniversità degli Studi della Campania “Luigi Vanvitelli”NaplesItaly
  2. 2.Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e VulcanologiaNapoliItaly
  3. 3.Universidad del País Vasco UPV/EHU, Speech Interactive Research GroupBilbaoSpain
  4. 4.Department Management, Communication & ITMCI Management Center InnsbruckInnsbruckAustria

Personalised recommendations