The Affective Guide
The Affective Guide is a guide with personality and beliefs, to provide guidance and engaging interaction during a tour visit. It addresses the frustration that usually occurs in the interaction with an emotionless computerised system that does not react sensitively to userís feelings. A prototype version of the Affective Guide has been developed. The `Los Alamos' site of the Manhattan Project was chosen as the narrative domain, where the buildings are mapped onto Heriot-Watt Edinburgh campus buildings. All stories are therefore related to the `Making of the atomic bomb'. The Manhattan Project was chosen because it contained many characters with different personalities and ideologies that can be used as Affective Guides.
The System Architecture
The Affective Guide is implemented on a PDA, taking advantage of the expanding mobile technologies such as Wi-Fi wireless hotspots and bluetooth access points. Multiple modalities are used to complement each other and focus the userís attention on the information presentation. Userís position is determined by a Global Positioning System while userís orientation is calculated based on previous and current location information. User inputs through the graphical user interface (GUI) and receives output by means of text, speech and a 2D animated talking head.
Prior to a tour, there is an ice-breaking session where the guide extracts information about the userís name and interests. It chooses attractions that match the userís interests and plans a route to the destinations in such a way that it is the shortest route possible. It then navigates the user to the chosen locations by giving directional instructions as well as presenting the user with an animated directional arrow. The guide will notify the user upon arrival at a destination and start the storytelling process. Since tourist information is location-dependent by nature, the system links electronic data to actual physical locations, thereby augmenting the real world with an additional layer of virtual information. A server performs the processing and holds the guideís memories, both long-term and current, and sends the results of processing to the PDA on demand.
A ĎHead upí approach is adopted as stories are presented using speech allowing the user to have full
appreciation of the attraction visited. The text is also displayed on
the screen allowing the user to read any information missed in the
speech. The user is given the flexibility to
stop the speech if they are not interested in the currently presented
story. User can also ask the guide to pause, resume or repeat the
current story. Furthermore, acknowledgement and notification using
both speech and message boxes are provided periodically to reduce long
idle states and as an assurance to the user that the system is operating
as intended. If the user is attracted to a site which is not in the
pre-planned route, they can activate the storytelling process manually.
If information is available, the guide will start the narration process.
The core element of this research is the emotional architecture of the guide, The Emergent Emotion Model which is biologically inspired, based on the 'PSI' model. Our interest lies in modelling the conditions for the emergence of emotions and not programming emotions. The model regulates the guide's emotions, behaviour and beliefs, allowing the guide to adapt flexibly to the interaction environment. The emotions of the Affective Guide are not explicitly defined but emerge from modulation of information processing such as perception, intention selection, planning and memory access. The emerging emotions avoid rigidness in behaviour and provide more colour to the resulting emotions, expressed through a 2D character. By adapting its behaviour, the guide's emotional responses mirror those of biological systems, consistent with what a human might expect, hence should seem plausible to a human.
Furthermore, this research moves away from the concept of a guide that recites facts about places or events towards a guide that utilises improvisational story-telling techniques. At every step, the Affective Guide decides what to tell dynamically. The guide takes the user's responses plus its own beliefs, interests and its current memory activation into consideration during narrative construction. It does not only tells stories based on its own experiences and point of view, but attempts to evoke empathy in the user. It attempts to persuade the user to think in the way it thinks, that is, to put the user in its own shoes. By seeing things from the guideís perspective coupled with his/her own knowledge and understanding, a user will be able to analyse, enquire, reflect, evaluate and use the source of information critically to reach and support conclusions. More detail about the Intelligent Storytelling System.
A video of the Affective Guide in action can be found here.