role: user experience design, 3D design, team leader(BT) work: roleplay software prototype, user trial partners: BT, Hi8us Midlands, Maverick TV, Birmingham University
Edrama enables groups of learners to take part in online role-plays, in facilitated learning scenarios. The edrama research project explored the integration of an AI character and animated avatars with an existing 2D platform. These were tested in user trials with young people in July and October 2006.
Edrama supports online role-play for up to 5 participants, who each take on the role of a virtual character within a specific learning situation. A facilitator or director guides the action, developing the scenario and leading it to a conclusion. In it's original design, avatars are static 2D sprites overlayed on an image backdrop. Communication is supported by text chat.
Within the research project, I led the design and development of a 3D component which was integrated into the existing Flash application. The 3D component was built using BT's proprietary 3D rendering platform TARA (Total Avatar Rendering Architecture) and supported animated avatars with emotional expressions. Avatar behaviour corresponded to emotions automatically detected in the participants' dialogue. Behaviour included: gaze direction to look at the current speaker, neutral poses, and animated body language to suggest emotional states - such as angry, happy and bored.