A Companionable Agent

A Companionable Agent

Roberta Catizone (University of Sheffield, U.K.) and Yorick Wilks (University of Sheffield, U.K.)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-617-6.ch013


Companions are agents devised to accompany users day by day building long-term relationships with them. They do not only assist users for particular tasks in sporadic times, but they provide more support and have more information to adapt themselves to each users’ needs. Currently, these agents and their possibilities are being researched as a part of an EU project, which is described in this chapter.
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2. The Senior Companion System

The Senior Companion (SC) prototype (Wilks, 2007, 2008; Wilks et al., 2008) was designed to make a rapid advance in the first two years of a project so as to be the basis for a second round of prototypes embodying more advanced ML. This strategy was deliberately chosen to avoid a well-known problem with experimental AI systems: that a whole project is spent in design so that a prototype never emerges until the very end, which is then never fully evaluated and, most importantly, nothing is ever built upon the experience obtained in its construction.

The central function of the SC is engaging the user in discussion about their photographs: where and when they were taken, details about the people in them and their relationship to the user and each other. The SC extracts and stores facts obtained from the user’s input and is able to pick up discussion with the user where the system left off in later user sessions. In addition to allowing reminiscing, the SC also permits the user to do basic photo management including selecting particular images or groups of images by pointing and organizing the photos by means of a dialogue.

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