Web Resources | Assignment
Comments | Teaching
The genre of fronting
online shopping sites with virtual sales agents seems to be
on the wane at the moment (perhaps an after-effect of the
dot.com crash). Miss
Boo can still be seen helping out, although she does not
feature nearly as much nor interact with the user like she
used to before. You can still get an impression of the style
of interaction she was designed to exemplify, though. Also
you could look at another kind of virtual agent (e.g. browse
the Agentry site or
watch Ananova) and ask the same questions, but in terms of
the kind of website this agent has been designed for (e.g.
a news site).
Many of the virtual agents are static and
speak via speech bubbles. This may make them appear less convincing.
Consider whether animated versions are more believable. For
example, is Ananova, who moves her face and mouth in interesting
ways to mimic talking, more believable?
Think about what the virtual agent does for
you. Do you even notice it? Does it make you laugh, feel cynical
or believe you are having an engaging interaction with the
When considering what the effect of an agent's
screen presence is on a user, think about how its context
influences you. For example, real sales assistants can often
be charming and entice you to buy clothes, because they say
they look so good on you. This ability to flatter and persuade
is very difficult to emulate online. Do you think it would
be possible to design a more flattering kind of agent that
could coerce users into making purchases? What else would
it take? Have a look at Rea and see whether she is convincing.