Small Talk and Conversational Storytelling In Embodied Conversational Interface Agents

T. Bickmore, J. Cassell
Gesture and Narrative Language Group
MIT Media Laboratory
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{bickmore, justine} Cassell

People engage in small talk and conversational storytelling to provide information in engaging ways and to serve interpersonal goals such as building rapport and credibility. Embodied conversational interface agents, that represent the computer in its interaction with human users by way of a graphical humanoid body on a screen, can also profitably engage in these behaviors. We describe the ongoing development of an embodied conversational interface agent that is capable of multimodal input understanding and output generation and operates in a limited application domain in which both social and task-oriented dialogue are important. We discuss our plans for adding small talk and conversational storytelling capabilities to the system, and the unique requirements these phenomena place on the understanding, discourse planning, and generation components of a real-time conversational interface.