Relational Agents Improve Engagement and Learning in Science Museum Visitors

  • Timothy Bickmore
  • Laura Pfeifer
  • Daniel Schulman
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 6895)


A virtual museum guide agent that uses human relationship-building behaviors to engage museum visitors is described. The agent, named “Tinker”, appears in the form of a human-sized anthropomorphic robot, and uses nonverbal conversational behavior, empathy, social dialogue, reciprocal self-disclosure and other relational behavior to establish social bonds with users. Tinker can describe exhibits in the museum, give directions, and discuss technical aspects of her own implementation. Results from an experiment involving 1,607 visitors indicate that the use of relational behavior leads to significantly greater engagement by museum visitors, measured by session length, number of sessions, and self-reported attitude, as well as learning gains, as measured by a knowledge test, compared to the same agent that did not use relational behavior. Implications for museum exhibits and intelligent tutoring systems are discussed.


Relational agents social interfaces interactive installation embodied conversational agent intelligent virtual agent pedagogical agent intelligent tutoring system 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Timothy Bickmore
    • 1
  • Laura Pfeifer
    • 1
  • Daniel Schulman
    • 1
  1. 1.College of Computer & Information ScienceNortheastern UniversityBostonUSA

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