The Nature of Human Conversations

Understanding the Nature Through Observation and Synthesis

Conversation is a core natural function of human beings, which allow us to interact with others and organize societies. The recent advancement of social neuroscience indicates that human brain is mostly optimized for social activities (Gazzaniga, 1985; Brothers et al., 2002), and it has been evolved to survive social environments (Dunbar, 1998).

Leonardo da Vinci emphasized the importance of the combination of scientific and engineering endeavors to understand nature, meaning that a complete understand of nature requires a whole process from observation and analysis of the nature to a creation of a synthesized product representing a certain aspect of nature. He called it “full-science“, requiring a certain level of abstraction of the nature. Following the scientific process, I attempt to abstract the social phenomena in terms of conversational protocols exchanged among humans through their bodies. Embodiment plays an important role in this context because embodiment functionally equivalent to a human body is a crucial factor to interpret and synthesize the conversational protocols. Such a way would allow realizing a “conversationally smart” agent (Cassell, 2000). Furthermore, our social environment doesn’t always exist as a pair of persons, but sometimes as a group. As Dunbar, an anthropologist, argued that human brain evolved to survive and reproduce in large and complex social groups (Dunbar, 1998), social intelligence most likely appears in the nature of group. While traditional research of embodied conversational agents have focused on a dyadic situation, it can be expanded to group dynamics models.

From observation to synthesis
Research Process – From Observation To Synthesis

Humans talk with humans. From our birth to death, we all talk with others everyday. Such daily phenomena are eagerly desired by us for well-being. Today, significant numbers of advanced countries are facing serious population aging. According to the Annual Report on the Aging Society in Japan (Cabinet Office, 2014), the population aging rate (over 65 years old) in 2013 was up to 25.1%, and pursuing quality of life (QOL) has been a major policy goal. The demographic change (rapid population aging resulting from the decline in the birth rate) itself is not negative phenomenon, but as Peter Drucker pointed out, it is one of opportunities of innovation (Drucker, 1984). We have investigated continuously at one of daycare centers in a suburb of Tokyo. As the result, we realized that communication is desired for its own in such facilities and communicating with other people could cure even depression and dementia. Conversation with other person has been a killer application of human cognition.

Break-ups” by Ted Tremper

Designing Socially Expressive Conversational Media

Conversation is a killer application and most easy-to-use interface for human cognition. By following the design principle, I invent the design principle of socially intelligent conversational media to support and entertain human lives in the century, not to simply replace humans with AI. It is a truly new medium worth to think its sophistication in our society. Marshall McLuhan proposes that a medium could affect the society where it plays a role not only by the content delivered over the medium, but also by the characteristics of the medium itself (McLuhan, 1994). A conversational robot should also involve its own message in it as a medium with its own characteristics of communication protocols. The way of content deliveries should be realized along conversational protocols shared with human interlocutors. Utterances cannot be interpreted and articulated without such conversational protocols.

Layered Architecture Design of Conversational Systems

Research Projects

SARA (Socially Aware Robot Assistant)

SARA is a Socially-Aware Robot Assistant that interacts with people in a whole new way, personalizing the interaction and improving task performance by relying on information about the relationship between the human user and virtual assistant.

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Group Facilitation Strategies

We present a framework for facilitation robots that regulates imbalanced engagement density in four-participant conversation as the forth participant with proper procedures for obtaining initiatives. Four is the special number in multiparty conversations. The three-participant conversation is the minimum unit where the participants autonomously organize a multiparty conversational situation. The fourth participant is the first person who can objectively observe the conversational situation…

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Expressive Opinion Generation

SCHEMA can speak representative opinions eloquently described, which are associated with current topics. All sentences that SCHEMA is talking about were automatically abstracted and generated from the Web. Based on conversational contexts, SCHEMA can switch several algorithms, including “Standard order”, “Short length first order” and “Diverse expressions first order”…

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SCHEMA Robotic Platform Design

As a robotic platform for multiparty conversation facilitation, we present the design of SCHEMA robot. In order to participate in multiparty conversational situations, and be recognized as a ratified participant, a robot needs to have capabilities to exchange conversational protocols, which include organizing participation structure, transmitting messages, and turn-taking…

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