“What Would You Like to Talk About?” An Evaluation of Social Conversations with a Virtual Receptionist

  • Sabarish Babu
  • Stephen Schmugge
  • Tiffany Barnes
  • Larry F. Hodges
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 4133)


We describe an empirical study of Marve, a virtual receptionist located at the entrance of our research laboratory. Marve engages with lab members and visitors in natural face-to-face communication, takes and delivers messages, tells knock-knock jokes, conducts natural small talk on movies, and discusses the weather. In this research, we investigate the relative popularity of Marve’s social conversational capabilities and his role-specific messaging tasks, as well as his perceived social characteristics. Results indicate that users are interested in interacting with Marve, use social conversational conventions with Marve, and perceive and describe him as a social entity.


Virtual Patient Social Dialogue Interface Agent Conversational Agent Interpersonal Distance 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Cassell, J.: Embodied conversational interface agents. Communications of ACM 43, 70–78 (2000)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Takeuchi, Y., Katagiri, Y.: Social Character Design for Animated Agents. In: ROMAN 1999 (1999)Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Reeves, B., Nass, C.: The media Equation: how people treat computers, televisions and new media like real people and places. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (1996)Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Coupland, J., Coupland, N., et al.: How are you?: Negotiating phatic communion, Language in Society 21, 207–230.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Schneider, K.P.: Small Talk: Analysing Phatic Discourse. Marburg, Hetzeroth (1988)Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Wheeless, L., Grotz, J.: The Measurement of Trust and Its Relationship to Self-Disclosure. Human Communication Research 3(3), 250–257Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Bickmore, T., Cassell, J.: How about this weather? Social Dialog with Embodied Conversational Agents. In: Proc. Of AAAI Symposium on Socially Intelligent Agents (2000)Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Rickenberg, R., Reeves., B.: The effects of animated characters on anxiety, task performance, and evaluations of user interfaces. In: Letters of CHI 2000, pp. 49–56 (2000)Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Kramer, N.C., Tietz, B., Bente, G.: Effects of embodied interface agents and their gestural activity. In: Rist, T., et al. (eds.) Intelligent Virtual Agents, pp. 292–300. Springer, Heidelberg (2003)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Zanbaka, C., Ulinski, A., Goolkasian, P., Hodges, L.F.: Effects of virtual human presence on task performance. In: Proceedings of the 14th International Conference on Artificial Reality and Telexistance (ICAT 2004), pp. 174–181 (2004)Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Kramer, N.C., Bente, G., Piesk, J.: The ghost in the machine. The influence of Embodied Conversational Agents on user expectations and user behavior in a TV/VCR application. In: IMC Workshop 2003, pp. 121–128 (2003)Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Oviatt, S., Darves, C., Coulston, R.: Toward adaptive Conversational interfaces: Modeling speech convergence with animated personas. ACM Trans. on CHI 3, 300–328 (2004)Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Thorisson, K.: Real-time decision making in multimodal face-to-face communication. In: Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Autonomous Agents, Minneapolis, MN, pp. 16–23 (1998)Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Cassell, J., Stocky, T., Bickmore, T., Gao, Y., Nakano, Y., Ryokai, K., Tversky, D., Vaucelle, H., Vilhjalmsson, H.: MACK: Media lab Autonomous Conversational Kiosk. In: Proc. of Imagina (2002)Google Scholar
  15. 15.
  16. 16.
    Bernsen, N.O., Dybkjaer, L.: Domain-Oriented Conversation with H. C. Andersen. Affective Dialogue Systems (2004)Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Kopp, S., Gesellensetter, L., Kramer, N.C., Wachsmuth, I.: A Conversational Agent as Museum Guide – Design and Evaluation of a Real-World Application. Intelligent Virtual Agents, 329–343 (2005)Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Babu, S., Schmugge, S., Inugala, R., Rao, S., Barnes, T., Hodges, L.F.: Marve: A Protoype Virtual Human Interface Framework for Studying Human-Virtual Human Interaction. Intelligent Virtual Agents, 120–133 (2005)Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Isbester, K., Doyle., P.: Design and Evaluation of Emboided Conversational Agents: A Proposed Taxonomy. In: AAMAS Workshop: Embodied Conversational Agents (2002)Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Raij, A., Johnson, K., Dickerson, R., Lok, B., Cohen, M., Stevens, A., Bernard, T., Oxendine, C., Wagner, P., Lind, D.S.: Interpersonal Scenarios: Virtual Real? In: Proc. of IEEE Virtual Reality 2006 (VR 2006), Alexandria, USA, pp. 59–66 (2006)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sabarish Babu
    • 1
  • Stephen Schmugge
    • 1
  • Tiffany Barnes
    • 1
  • Larry F. Hodges
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Computer ScienceUniversity of North Carolina at CharlotteCharlotteUSA

Personalised recommendations