Research: VASA - Virtual Assistents and their Social Acceptability

The VASA project (2011-2012) aimed to develop a personalizable and adaptive conversational agent to be used as an organizing assistant for daily tasks for older people and people with cognitive impairments. The project was a cooperation with the v. Bodelschwingh Foundation Bethel, the renowned diaconal health care foundation headquartered in Bielefeld. VASA investigated the requirements and capabilities of cognitive interaction technology for assisting people with special needs in everyday situations. This is mediated by a virtual agent, which offers an intuitive and natural interaction with the technical system; conversation replaces difficult manual handling processes. Moreover, the agent embodies the system's 'identity', generating a social presence, which increases the acceptance of system-generated suggestions, facilitates a perception of personalized assistance, and enables the perception of continued interaction with the agent as a mutual familiarization process.
In particular, VASA strived to ensure the setup of a maximally robust interaction system for elderly people in cooperation with v. Bodelschwinghsche Stiftungen Bethel, providing a multi-modal interface for informing and discussing about the daily schedule and an interface for video communication with care personnel and relations. As a platform, a conversational virtual character is combined with an intuitive touch-screen interface for disambiguation of uncertain topics.
VASA was aiming to investigate the personalization capabilities in this interaction paradigm, and, subsequently, longer-term effects of agent-side initiative and the application of increasingly certain user preferences on the trust in this quotidian assistive agent.

Yaghoubzadeh, Kramer, Pitsch & Kopp (2013): "Virtual Agents as Daily Assistants for Elderly or Cognitively Impaired People" , IVA2013 [bib] [pdf]
Yaghoubzadeh & Kopp (2012): "Toward a Virtual Assistant for Vulnerable Users: Designing Careful Interaction" , SMIAE2012 [bib] [pdf]
Yaghoubzadeh & Kopp (2011): "Creating familiarity through adaptive behavior generation in human‐agent interaction" , IVA2011 [bib] [pdf]
Yaghoubzadeh (2011): "FamCHAI: An Adaptive Calendar Dialogue System" , UMAP2011 [bib] [pdf]
Schlangen et al. (2010): "Middleware for Incremental Processing in Conversational Agents" , SIGdial2010 [bib] [pdf]
Sadeghipour et al. (2009): "Social Motorics - Towards an Embodied Basis of Social Human-Robot Interaction" , HCRS2009 [bib] [pdf]

Ramin Yaghoubzadeh —
+49 521 106 12141 — Social Cognitive Systems, CITEC, Office 2.039