New Ohio State University research suggests that the simulated emotions of digital characters on web sites might have a real impact on the potential customers that view and interact with them.
The study, appearing in the International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, found that digital characters might be better merchants if they act consistently happy, even if the products they're selling—such as novels—are heart-wrenchingly sad.
Li Gong , an assistant professor of communication who conducted the research, believes his study of digital characters is important for many applications, especially electronic commerce, learning, and entertainment.
Many Web sites feature digital human-like characters, also called avatars or agents. These digital humans can help put a face on Web sites that sell products. Although the characters can “read” text with a certain emotion, such as happy or sad, they can't automatically detect emotion from sentence to sentence with today's technology. And that can affect how well they perform..
Gong's research suggests people are more influenced by happy characters.
Gong believes the work might also significantly impact the computer gaming industry, which uses countless computer characters. “People playing these games want characters to have emotion,” he said. Gong believes the explanation for this desire is that “emotion is an indispensable element in human communication” and is becoming more essential as the use of digital characters grows.
The research involved the emotionally expressive character called “ Baldi ,” an animated human face who can also talk using text-to-speech software. Baldi, created by the Perceptual Science Lab at the University of California, Santa Cruz, can synchronize its lips perfectly to a passage of text while reading aloud in a way that conveys a specific emotion.
In this study, one “sad” version of Baldi consistently frowned and sounded sad while reading both sad and happy book reviews for participants. Another “happy” version always smiled and sounded happy while reading both happy and sad book reviews for other participants. The happy Baldi spoke quickly with a high voice and with more range in pitch while the sad version spoke in a lower, slower tone with little change in pitch.
When it came to having Baldi read reviews, Gong found study participants preferred the “happy” version compared to the “sad” talking face, regardless of whether the actual book review was happy or sad.
“When a digital character can't pick up emotional cues in text, it's better to be happy, even if the topic or product is sad,” Gong said. “The age-old idea that positivity outweighs negativity also applies here.”
But the reactions of putting on a happy face didn't end there. “Participants said they were more likely to read a book presented by the happy face compared to the sad one,” Gong said. The participants liked a happy Baldi more, felt it was more competent, and trusted it more than they did a sad version.
Although participants' responses to Baldi were lukewarm overall, Gong believes the happy face's stronger influence is an important finding. “Baldi is a laboratory version that looks quite strange. It's not a customer-friendly version,” Gong said. “But this fact makes the findings more powerful because people should react more strongly to realistic-looking characters you find on the Internet.”
While the research has immediate applications for talking faces, Gong is already looking into other aspects of digital characters.
In an upcoming study to be published in the April issue of Human Communication Research , Gong and Stanford University's Clifford Nass looked more closely at the humanness of characters. The researchers mixed and matched Baldi's face and a real person's videotaped face with a human voice or computerized voice.
The results? Mismatched talking faces—such as a human face speaking with a computerized voice or a computerized face speaking with a human voice—made participants less likely to share personal information compared to consistently matched versions.
As for the future, Gong is currently researching digital humans in the context of race. He believes investigating how people perceive the race of digital characters will shed new light on understanding the strengths and boundaries of racial beliefs and attitudes.
“Digital characters are becoming increasingly important as more kids grow up with computers,” Gong said. “Over a decade ago people started paying attention to digital beings. There's been a strong linear expansion of their use that we can't ignore.”
Li Gong | EurekAlert!
WAKE-UP provides new treatment option for stroke patients | International study led by UKE
17.05.2018 | Universitätsklinikum Hamburg-Eppendorf
First form of therapy for childhood dementia CLN2 developed
25.04.2018 | Universitätsklinikum Hamburg-Eppendorf
The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.
Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...
A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.
The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...
At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.
At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...
There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?
At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
25.05.2018 | Event News
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering
25.05.2018 | Life Sciences