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published: March 2004
Interactive Character as a Virtual Tour Guide to an Online
Session: Virtual Companions
In real museums, visitors may find the help of a human tour guide in order to guide them through the exhibition and present information tailored to their interests. Accordingly, online museums could also benefit from digital 'life-like' characters in order to guide users to virtual tours and to customize the tour information in accordance to users' interests. Digital characters have been explored in online museum websites with different degrees of interaction and modes of communication (Bertoletti et al., 2001; Adams et al., 2001; Isbister et al., 1999). Such researches, however, do not explore interactive "conversational" characters. Our main interest is in a tour-guide character that provides tour information through dialogue with the user. Our research developed an interactive conversational character that establishes a 'character-user' dialogue while guiding the user through the virtual tour. The tour-guide character provides tour information and responses to users' textual inputs by speaking through audio output and gesturing accordingly. Moreover, the tour-guide character attempts to provide adaptive guidance, to perform engaging storytelling and to promote user's participation through the virtual tour. In this paper, we describe the experiment focusing on the creation of the paths for the dialogue flow and on the character's knowledge database. We further describe the system's implementation and evaluation; and, finally, discuss some evaluation conclusions.