A Pedagogical Agent for Psychosocial Intervention on a Handheld Computer

W. Lewis Johnson, Catherine LaBore, and Yuan-Chun Chiu

Embodied conversational agents (ECA) have potential as facilitators for health interventions. However, their utility is limited as long as people must sit down in front of a computer to access them. This paper describes a project that is deploying an ECA on a handheld computer, and using it to assist in a psychosocial intervention aimed at providing training in problem solving skills. The agent is based upon the virtual trainer/counselor in the pedagogical drama Carmen’s Bright IDEAS, adapted for handheld use and for interaction with a human caregiver. The system will go into clinical trails in August of 2004. The paper discusses the design and technical issues involved in the transition from laptop computer to handheld device and from 3rd-person view to first-person interaction, and the plan for evaluation. The clinical trial is designed both to evaluate psychosocial outcomes and to assess user preferences in ECA interaction modalities over the course of multiple sessions of use.

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