Campus and Community

Técnico researchers awarded at international conference

The work developed by the GAIPS/INESC-ID researchers Diogo Rato, Marta Couto and Rui Prada, was distinguished at the HAI 2021.

The paper entitled “Fitting the Room: Social Motivations for Context-Aware Agents” authored by Diogo Rato, Marta Couto and Rui Prada, researchers at the Intelligent Agents and Synthetic Characters Group (GAIPS) INESC-ID, won the “Best Paper Award” at the 9th International Conference on Human-Agent Interaction (HAI 2021).

The distinguished work presents a study on the conditions necessary for people to attribute social motivation to a virtual intelligent agent. “Our study shows that even in a minimalist scenario, where agents don’t have a human appearance, an external observer ascribes higher social motivations to agents that change their behavior based on the context defined by the physical location”, explains Rui Prada, professor at IST Department of Computer Science and Engineering (DEI). “This is true even when agents are alone, in simple scenarios, without objects or any semantic information about their function”, he adds.

Professor Rui Prada highlights “the results of this work reinforce the fact that people ascribe higher social motivations to agents that change their behavior according to their physical location”. “This must be taken into account when building artificial intelligence mechanisms for human-agent interaction. In other words, the behavior of artificial intelligence must change according to the physical context, which is part of the definition of the social context that generates the appropriate behavior”, says the professor.

According to the GAIPS researcher, “these observations are similar to our knowledge of the social sciences and strengthen the role that virtual agents can play in our society”. The next step will go through mechanisms to adapt the agents’ behaviors based on their surroundings.

The study was conducted with extreme rigor and used a significant sample size. “We discussed and proposed a new scale to assess the agent’s social motivations”, emphasizes professor Rui Prada, who believes that this might have contributed to winning the award. “Of course, the way this work is written is also very important. The quality of the presentation by Diogo Rato, PhD student at DEI and INESC-ID, might also have influenced the jury decision”, says the professor. Diogo Rato recalls “a vast majority of the papers presented at the conference focused on robotic agents, while ours explored the relationship between humans and virtual agents.”