Animist Interfaces

Richard Lachman

Glorianna Davenport
Research Supervisor

The Animist Interface responds with characteristic behaviors or environmental ambience to information it gleans about a computational system. These behaviors extend the language of the computer and the awareness of the user.

Animist Agents are defined as agents who make visible their knowledge about the state of a computational system through an "animist interface."

For instance, an animist agent might exhibit levels of exhaustion as it drags in files from a far away server; another might belligerently challenge the user who tries to open an applet which the agent feels is untrustworthy; still another ambient agent makes the screen glow green if it felt in proximity to a virus.

"Animist Interface" explores the use of character and embodiement in computer interface. Computers are moving towards a more pro- active role in our lives, capable of suggesting, tracking, logging and creating more subtle messages than traditional interface tools (dialogue boxes, single-tone beeps, full-text descriptions, "General Error Type -11") can support. Through the use of a sort of avatar for the processes and decisions of the computer, we hope to create more meaningful, comfortable and efficient levels of human/computer interaction. This project will create several working prototypes that model this style of interaction. The emphasis will be on making all features of the computer-characters relevant to communication (rather than the "cute" animation-style of existing work in this field). The environment will be that of common applications and activities under Windows '95/NT.

Lachman R (1997).
Animist Interface: Experiments in Mapping Character Animation to Computer Interface
MIT MS Thesis.
Lachman R (1997).
Experiments in Mapping Character Animation to Computer Interface
IJCAI Workshop on Animated Interface Agents. Nagoya, Japan. August 1997
Lachman R (1997).
Maitre-D: A Site-Based Agent for Web-Page Recommendation."
IC Technical Report. January 1997.