Advancing intuitive human-machine interaction with human-like social capabilities for education in schools




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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 765955

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ESR1 – Social context effects on expressive behaviour of embodied systems

Early-Stage Researcher: Rebecca Stower

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My name is Rebecca and I am from Brisbane, Australia. My background is in psychology, with a specific interest in developmental and social psychology. In 2016, I completed my Bachelor of Psychological Science (Hons I) from the University of Queensland, Australia. After graduating, I worked in a start-up company as a researcher designing population-wide interventions for behaviour change. Being part of the start-up community in Brisbane gave me the opportunity to interact with research and development in other more technology-oriented fields, including robotics and AI. As my exposure to these topics grew, I became more and more curious into how psychology could potentially relate to this area and its cross-disciplinary applications.

I am now currently a doctoral student in psychology under the supervision of Professor Arvid Kappas at Jacobs University Bremen as part of the ANIMATAS project. My research interests mostly centre on the ‘human’ side of human-robot-interaction in terms of the social processes that occur when people interact with social robots. In particular, I am interested in the operationalisation of social and non-social robot behaviours to understand how robot embodiment affects user’s social motivations.

Main host institution: JacobsUni

Supervisor: Arvid Kappas (JacobsUni), in association with Catherine Pelachaud (UPMC)

Secondment institution: UPMC

Objectives: This ESR project will aim to model the moderating and generative role of social context on nonverbal expressive displays. It will consist of a consideration of explicit and implicit social context, the social relationship of agent and social context (e.g., moderator, peer), and cultural differences, in the mapping of internal affective states to expression on the one hand, as well as empathic responding to the social environment (e.g., interaction partner) on the other. There are two types of theories describing social modulation of expressions 1) display-rule type (e.g., Ekman’s neuro-cultural theory), or 2) behavioural ecology type (e.g., Fridlund). The project shall be relevant to both frameworks. Specifically, a joint framework shall be developed that can be used to modulate expressive behaviour in real time taking into account emotional states, task context, and social context (who is present and what is the relationship of sender to social context). Expression will be implemented via the virtual agent Greta platform that allows modelling of embodied conversational agents ECAs. ECAs can display a large variety of socio-emotional behaviours, be reactive to user’s behaviours and actions, be synchronized, and mimic and adapt their behaviour to that of users’. Emotional state will be based on an established framework, such as FAtiMA. 


Expected results: Completed PhD dissertation, software and algorithms for modelling socially-context sensitive facial behaviour, peer-reviewed publications, international journal and conference publications

For further information, contact: Arvid Kappas

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