More Than Just a Pretty Face: Conversational Protocols and the Affordances of Embodiment

in Knowledge-Based Systems

Justine Cassell, Tim Bickmore, HannesVilhjalmsson, & Hao Yan

Prior research into embodied interface agents has found that users like them and find them engaging. However, results on the effectiveness of these interfaces for task completion have been mixed. In this paper, we argue that embodiment can serve an even stronger function if system designers use actual human conversational protocols in the design of the interface. Communicative behaviors such as salutations and farewells, conversational turn-taking with interruptions, and describing objects using hand gestures are examples of protocols that all native speakers of a language already know how to perform and can thus be leveraged in an intelligent interface. We discuss how these protocols are integrated into Rea, an embodied, multi-modal interface agent who acts as a real-estate salesperson, and we show why embodiment is required for their successful implementation.