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Impacting the social presence of virtual agents by scaling the fidelity of their speech and movement

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2015-02-19, Dept. of Computer Science, University of Hamburg

Impacting the social presence of virtual agents by scaling the fidelity of their speech and movement

Abstract: Virtual agents are constructs that fulfill human or human-like roles in virtual environments, but are directly controlled by software instead of real humans. They have use cases such as presenting information, demonstrating actions or simulating a social environment. If a real person perceives them as sufficiently human-like, they may induce social phenomena like empathy, competition or conversational turn taking, even if the person is consciously aware that the agent is purely virtual. This thesis explores the influence of technical fidelity on perceived social presence in terms of the virtual agents’ speech and movement. Both of these two variables were assigned different implementations of varying technical sophistication, from text-to-speech output to fully recorded voices and from a completely rigid idle body to a high-quality relaxed idle animation based on motion capturing data. The various combinations were tested in an experiment using a head-mounted virtual reality display in order to measure their influence on perceived social presence. This thesis describes the experiment and its results.

This document marks the conclusion of my master's degree. The VR focus was a completely new perspective for me and I'm glad I got this opportunity before leaving Hamburg.

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