Virtual Humans

Virtual Beings as Storytellers

For a couple of years now (and a central theme of my doctoral research), I have experimented with the use of Virtual Humans/Embodied Conversational Agents as virtual storytellers in immersive environments within the context of African orature.

Traum’s (2009) definition of ECAs best encapsulates the use of such digital entities for storytelling as envisioned in this study. Traum (2009) defines virtual humans as:“artificial agents that include both a visual body with a human-like appearance and a range of observable behaviours, and a cognitive component that makes decisions and control the behaviours to engage in human-like activities.”

The overarching objective of this work is to develop a product using technical approaches that can overcome the limitations of legacy media in recreating African oral storytelling experiences. This is positioned to be an effective strategy in maintaining the performative and participatory elements of orature that cannot be given full effect via legacy media.

With the rise of immersive technologies such as VR and advances in animation and gaming technologies, it is premised that ECAs can engage users in conversational contexts that mimic face-to-face interactions between people.