Behavioral issues epidemics, can virtual characters be there to help?

February 19, 2013
5:00pm - 6:00pm
Halligan 111
Speaker: Christine Lisetti, College of Engineering and Computing at Florida International University , Director of the Affective Social Computing Laboratory


200 Boston Ave, ste 2310

With the increasing prevalence of behavioral issues (obesity, alcoholism, substance use), healthcare and medicine have recently focussed on finding health-promoting lifestyle interventions for health and well-being, in addition to their traditional focus on treating contracted diseases.

At the same time, embodied conversational characters (ECAs) are emerging as having the potential to provide natural human-computer interactions in a variety of contexts, e.g. intelligent tutoring systems, serious games, and computer-based health promotion interventions. ECAs dialog and multimodal expressiveness abilities render them innately accessible to interact with - for technical and non-technical users alike.

In this talk we describe some of the promises and challenges of building ECAs who can deliver behavior change interventions. We discuss the design and implementation of the prototype of an avatar- based health system aimed at increasing people access to an effective evidence-based intervention that supports motivation toward behavior change. We focus particularly on the need for the ECA to express some level of empathy during these interactions, and present early evaluation results regarding user's acceptance of the ECA's, and of the ECA's perceived empathic ability.


Christine Lætitia Lisetti is an Associate Professor in the School of Computing and Information Sciences (SCIS) in the College of Engineering and Computing at Florida International University (USA), and the Director of the Affective Social Computing Laboratory ( She received her Ph.D. in Computer Science from Florida International University in 1995. In 1996 she received the Individual Research Award from the National Institute of Health (NIH) to conduct her Post-Doctoral Fellowship jointly in Computer Science and Psychology at Stanford University.

Christine Lisetti is one of pioneers in Affective Computing, the recentresearch field which lies at the intersection of Artificial Intelligence(AI) and Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) in Computer Science, of emotion and personality theories in Psychology, and of social interaction and health promotion in Communication. Her long- term research goal is to create digital and engaging socially intelligent agents that can interact naturally with humans via expressive multi-modalities in a variety of contexts involving socio- emotional content (e.g. empathetic health coach, social companion, cyber-therapy, intelligent tutoring system, serious game). Her most recent research interests involve research in expressive virtual characters capable of effectively delivering behavior change interventions. Christine Lisetti is on the founding Editorial Board of the IEEE Transactions on Affective Computing. She has published numerous research articles, and has been key note speaker at international conferences. She has received research grants from federal agencies both in Europe and in the USA, such as the European Commission (EC), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institute of Health (NIH), NASA Ames, US Army STRICOM, the Office of Naval Research (ONR); as well as from industry such as Intel, Microsoft, STMicroelectronics. Christine Lisetti regularly serves as a research expert for the National Science Foundation (USA), for the “Agence Nationale de la Recherche” (FRANCE), for the “Fonds de Recherche sur la Nature et les Technologies” (CANADA), and for the European Commission (BELGIUM).