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Design and Evaluation of Virtual Human Mediated Tasks for Assessment of Depression and Anxiety

Egede, Joy O; Jaiswal, Shashank; Galvez Trigo, Maria J; Price, Dominic; Elliot, Natasha; Nixon, Neil; Krishnan, Deepa B; Morriss, Richard; Liddle, Peter; Greenhalgh, Christopher; Valstar, Michel

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Transitional Assistant Professor

Shashank Jaiswal

Maria J Galvez Trigo

Natasha Elliot

Clinical Associate Professor in Adult Mood Disorder

Deepa B Krishnan

Professor of Psychiatry and Community Mental Health

Peter Liddle

Michel Valstar


Virtual human technologies are now being widely explored as therapy tools for mental health disorders including depression and anxiety. These technologies leverage the ability of the virtual agents to engage in naturalistic social interactions with a user to elicit behavioural expressions which are indicative of depression and anxiety. Research efforts have focused on optimising the human-like expressive capabilities of the virtual human, but less attention has been given to investigating the effect of virtual human mediation on the expressivity of the user. In addition, it is still not clear what an optimal task is or what task characteristics are likely to sustain long term user engagement. To this end, this paper describes the design and evaluation of virtual human-mediated tasks in a user study of 56 participants. Half the participants complete tasks guided by a virtual human, while the other half are guided by text on screen. Self-reported PHQ9 scores, biosignals and participants' ratings of tasks are collected. Findings show that virtual-human mediation influences behavioural expressiveness and this observation differs for different depression severity levels. It further shows that virtual human mediation improves users' disposition towards tasks.

Conference Name 21st ACM International Conference on Intelligent Virtual Agents (IVA ’21)
Conference Location Virtual Event, Kyoto, Japan
Start Date Sep 14, 2021
End Date Sep 17, 2021
Acceptance Date Jun 17, 2021
Online Publication Date Sep 14, 2021
Publication Date Sep 14, 2021
Deposit Date Aug 10, 2021
Publicly Available Date Sep 14, 2021
Publisher ACM
Pages 52-59
Series Title ACM International Conference on Intelligent Virtual Agents
Book Title IVA '21: Proceedings of the 21st ACM International Conference on Intelligent Virtual Agents
ISBN 9781450386197
Keywords CCS CONCEPTS • Human-centered computing → User studies; • Applied com- puting → Health informatics; • Computing methodologies → Artificial intelligence KEYWORDS virtual humans, embodied conversational agents, ECAs, depression, anxiety, mental
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