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Evaluating Realism for Virtual Supporting Characters

published 18.Oct.12 by Carol Pfeifer/Tayzia Abattoir

I recently caught up with Catherine Zanbaka, PhD, Principal Research Engineer BAE Systems AIT.  Catherine shared  how she and a few other educators worked with a couple of PhD Students from UCSC and ran a study to test “Supporting Character Realism” (SCR) in a virtual bar in Second Life.  They had three different types of avatars — human controlled, bots, and those with SCR.

The abstract of the course was as follows:

Convincing and compelling virtual environments that are populated with rich characters demand consistent, nuanced, and realistic behavior that is integrated in the surrounding environment.  Inadequate and unscalable traditional Artificial Intelligence based approaches have made it impractical to apply this level of character depth and detail to large environments.  We introduce the concept of Supporting Character Realism (SCR) for virtual avatars by identifying the capabilities of agents which have the ability to work in tandem with traditional “main character realism” approaches by demonstrating consistent and nuanced behaviors that blend into the surrounding background environment.  Next, we propose several metrics for evaluating agents attempting to achieve this level of realism and test our proposed metrics in a rich social interaction experiment placed in a virtual bar amidst a variety of human and computer controlled patrons.  Finally, we gauge the performance of a set of both traditional scripted bots and prototype AI-driven agents designed to target our concept of SCR.  Our results show that SCR is not only a distinguishable and measurable metric of agent realism, but also a technically achievable goal within the reach of modern AI techniques.

Such research demonstrates one of the many ways educators can explore virtual environments for teaching, research, exhibiting, and more.  You can learn more about this fascinating research!

Check out the virtual bar used in the research as it is located on the NMC campus in Second Life.

If you are interested in a virtual campus of your own, check out the virtual properties that the NMC Virtual Campus has to offer.