WebPersona: A Life-Like Presentation Agent for the World-Wide Web

Elisabeth Andre, Jochen Mueller, Susanne van Mulken and Thomas Rist

To exploit the enormous amount of information becoming available on the Infobahn, users need an easy, economical and efficient access to these resources without the need of extra training. The objective of the AiA project is the development of personal information assistents which facilitate user access to the global information highways. These assistants are characterized by their ability to retrieve relevant information, reorganize it, encode it in different media, such as text, graphics and animation, and to present it to the user as a multimedia presentation. Drawing upon the metaphor of a human secretary, the assistent appears as a virtual person. Our most recent application is a personalized travel agent.

The behavior of our WebPersona is partly determined by a script, and partly by the agent's self-behavior. Presentation scripts entail directions for the character concerning the display of media objects. Self-behaviors are indispensible in order to increase the Persona's believability. They comprise actions to enhance the character's vividness, e.g., to span over idle-time, actions to move the character to appropriate screen positions, and immediate reactions to external events, such as mouse gestures on the presented material.

In our talk, we will describe the methods employed for determining the behavior of presentation agents. The novelty of our approach is that presentation scripts are not stored in advance, but generated automatically from pre-authored document fragments and items stored in a knowledge base. Furthermore, we will report on the outcome of two empirical studies. The first study compares objective and subjective ratings of presentations with and without a Persona. The second study investigates the impact of life-like characters on the credibility of the presented materia.


Andre, Elisabeth, Rist, Thomas, Mueller, Jochen: Integrating Reactive and Scripted Behaviors in a Life-Like Presentation Agent, in: Proc. of the Second International Conference on Autonomous Agents (Agents '98), pp. 261-268, 1998. See: http://www.dfki.de/imedia/papers/agents98.ps.gz

S. Van Mulken, E. Andre and J. Mueller, The Persona Effect: How Substantial Is It, in: Proc. of HCI '98, 1998. See: http://www.dfki.de/imedia/papers/hci98.ps.gz

Online Demo available under: http://persona.dfki.de:8080/