Non-Verbal Communication in Collaborative Virtual Environments

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Expressive Agents: Non-verbal Communication in Collaborative Virtual Environments Fabri M
Leeds Metropolitan University Department of Computing The Grange, Beckett Park Leeds, LS6 3QS +44-113 2835161

Moore DJ
Leeds Metropolitan University Department of Computing The Grange, Beckett Park Leeds, LS6 3QS +44-113 2837556

Hobbs DJ
University of Bradford Department of EIMC Richmond Road Bradford, BD7 1DP +44-1274 236135

m.fabri@lmu.ac.uk

d.moore@lmu.ac.uk

d.hobbs@bradford.ac.uk

ABSTRACT
The premise of this paper is that agent technology in collaborative virtual environments (CVEs) may be enriched by incorporating an emotional channel alongside the conventional informational content, and that this would be best achieved through an associated visual human embodiment or avatar. Since humans express emotion in faceto-face encounters primarily through facial expression, an investigation was undertaken in order to establish how such expressions might be effectively and efficiently captured and represented in an avatar. The study involved consulting sociopsychological research relating to face-to-face encounters, followed by a controlled experiment to investigate user ability to interpret the faces of the avatars pre-prepared to express specific emotions. Effectiveness was demonstrated through good recognition rates for all but one of the emotion categories, and efficiency was established since a reduced feature set was found to be sufficient to build the successfully recognised core set of avatar facial expressions.

suggest that emotions are also an important factor in decisionmaking, problem solving, cognition and intelligence in general [37], [30], [9], [10]. Collaborative Virtual Environments (CVEs) aim to reintroduce emotional and social context to distance communication whilst at the same time offering a stimulating and integrated framework for conversation and collaboration. Users can become actively engaged in interaction with the virtual world and with other inhabitants. Again, in a distance learning discipline, this high-level interactivity with the users' senses, is seen as an essential factor for effective and efficient learning [40].

1.1 Non-Verbal Communication in Society
The term "non-verbal" is commonly used to describe all human communication events that transcend the spoken or written word [28]. Argyle [2] sees non-verbal behaviour taking place primarily through facial expression, bodily contact, gaze (and pupil dilation), spatial behaviour gesture, clothing and appearance, body posture, and non-verbal vocalisation. When two parties interact, they monitor and interpret each other’s emotional expression [41]; hundreds of expressive movements are employed every day as part of the social interaction events of a typical day [33], and their correct use is an essential part of our social competence and skills. Non-verbal communication typically serves to repeat, contradict, substitute, complement, accent, or regulate verbal communication [28]. Kendon [27] argues that employing nonverbal means of expression is not even necessarily dependent upon the use of verbal language - non-verbal communication can be separate from, and in principle equal to or more effective than speech. Dittrich et al [12] consider the ability to judge the emotional state of others an important goal in human perception, and it is stressed that from an evolutionary point of view, it is probably the most significant function of interpersonal perception. Since different emotional states are likely to lead to different courses of action, it can be crucial for survival to be able to recognise emotional states, in particular anger or fear, in another person. All the different channels for non-verbal communication - face, gaze, gesture, posture - can in principle be mediated in CVEs. For the current experimental study, however, the focus was on

1. PROBLEM CONTEXT
Current forms of electronic communication generally lose the...
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