Life-like Characters for the Personal Exploration of Active Cultural Heritage
This talk will focus on perspectives and problems that arise when using virtual life-like agents to entertain and inform human visitors in an instrumented environment. In this respect issues of interleaving presentations of mobile devices and stationary devices are addressed in a typical situation of educational entertainment: the visit to a museum. Some of the salient elements of the described work are the emphasis on multi-modality in the dynamic presentation and coherence throughout the visit. The adopted metaphor is a kind of contextualized TV-like presentation, useful for engaging (young) visitors. A life-like character leads through the presentations of both mobile and stationary devices. On the mobile device, personal video-clips are dynamically generated from personalized verbal presentations; on the larger stationary screens, distributed throughout the museum, further background material and additional information is provided by the virtual presenter. The use of life-like characters on portable devices has to be carefully weighted because of the small dimension of the display. Nevertheless, there are specific roles that a properly designed character can play on a mobile device to improve the level of engagement with the presentation. In particular, two roles will be explained, the role of a presenter and an anchorman. When playing the role of the presenter, the character introduces new media assets and uses pointing gestures. When playing the role of the anchorman, the character just introduces complex presentations without interfering with them any further. The anchorman provides a context in which different presentation parts make sense. The character also supports the seamless integration of the mobile devices’ small screen and large screens available in the museum. Similar to a TV-presenter who walks around the studio to present different content, the character is able to move between the mobile device and the large screen. Besides the specific role that the character may play, it is also a metaphor for the actual interests of the visitor. By providing different characters and giving the visitor the choice between them, the different views on the exhibits are transparently conveyed and selected. The talk will also discuss the general technical opportunities for the realization of virtual agents in instrumented environments and will give some perspectives towards the use of virtual inhabitants in those spaces. The described work is part of the PEACH (Personal Experience of Active Cultural Heritage) project and is joint work with Oliviero Stock and Massimo Zancanaro from ITC-IRST in Trento.