Animated virtual agents to cue user attention: comparison of static and dynamic deictic cues on gaze and touch responses

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This paper describes an experiment developed to study the performance of virtual agent animated cues within digital interfaces. Increasingly, agents are used in virtual environments as part of the branding process and to guide user interaction. However, the level of agent detail required to establish and enhance efficient allocation of attention remains unclear. Although complex agent motion is now possible, it is costly to implement and so should only be routinely implemented if a clear benefit can be shown. Pevious methods of assessing the effect of gaze-cueing as a solution to scene complexity have relied principally on two-dimensional static scenes and manual peripheral inputs. Two experiments were run to address the question of agent cues on human-computer interfaces. Both experiments measured the efficiency of agent cues analyzing participant responses either by gaze or by touch respectively. In the first experiment, an eye-movement recorder was used to directly assess the immediate overt allocation of attention by capturing the participant’s eyefixations following presentation of a cueing stimulus. We found that a fully animated agent could speed up user interaction with the interface. When user attention was directed using a fully animated agent cue, users responded 35% faster when compared with stepped 2-image agent cues, and 42% faster when compared with a static 1-image cue. The second experiment recorded participant responses on a touch screen using same agent cues. Analysis of touch inputs confirmed the results of gaze-experiment, where fully animated agent made shortest time response with a slight decrease on the time difference comparisons. Responses to fully animated agent were 17% and 20% faster when compared with 2-image and 1-image cue severally. These results inform techniques aimed at engaging users’ attention in complex scenes such as computer games and digital transactions within public or social interaction contexts by demonstrating the benefits of dynamic gaze and head cueing directly on the users’ eye movements and touch responses.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)299-308
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal on Advances in Intelligent Systems
Issue number3&4
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • Agents
  • Digital interface
  • Touch interface
  • Computer animation
  • Reaction time
  • Eyetracking


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