Artificial Intelligence Supported Non-Verbal Communication for Enriched Collaboration in Distributed E-Research Environments

Artificial Intelligence Supported Non-Verbal Communication for Enriched Collaboration in Distributed E-Research Environments

Paul Smith (National University of Ireland – Galway, Ireland) and Sam Redfern (National University of Ireland – Galway, Ireland)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-0125-3.ch007
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Abstract

In face-to-face work, discussion and negotiation relies strongly on non-verbal feedback, which provides important clues to negotiation states such as agreement/disagreement and understanding/confusion, as well as indicating the emotional states and reactions of those around us. With the continued rise of virtual teams, collaboration increasingly requires tools to manage the reality of distributed e-research and remote work, which is often hampered by a lack of social cohesion and such phenomena as participant multitasking. This chapter discusses important concepts and current issues related to remote research teams and discusses current research in the use of Automatic Facial Expression Recognition Systems (AFERS) in solving some of the inherent problems of the existing online collaboration tools used to support collaborative and distributed research and work. The later half of this chapter describes a proof-of-concept artificial intelligence based software agent (Emotion Tracking Agent, or ETA) developed by the authors for the monitoring of presence and the emotional states of co-workers in virtual research meetings. The agent is intended as an innovative solution to the impaired awareness and attention resulting from continuous task switching or multitasking behaviours of collaborating remote team members. The ETA was developed and integrated into a CVE (Collaborative Virtual Environment), where an initial study was conducted to analyse its benefits and impact on the communicating participants. This chapter describes the results of this study and their implications for the future of distributed e-research and remote work.
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Remote Work/Research And Multitasking

In the last decade the popularity of remote work amongst employees in many diverse employment sectors has increased significantly. This is largely due to the increase in availability of specialised information technology software and hardware allowing virtual meetings between increasingly larger groups of people to become possible, removing the restrictions which once curbed the organisation of work activities. Modern companies are outsourcing work contracts throughout the world and are no longer limited by the boundaries of on-site employees. The same can be said for research institutions and the concept of “virtual teams” is becoming a global phenomenon allowing researchers to carry out complex and ambitious projects regardless of their distance from their base of operations or their collaborators.

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