Master of Science, Program in Media Arts and Sciences, 1997.
This thesis presents a collection of techniques for integrating character and setting with software agent communication. "Animist Interface" supplements and supplants traditional interface elements such as plain-text dialogue boxes, static images and monotone audio to create a richer, more cinematic messaging environment. The techniques animate subtle nuances on the periphery of the user's attention to increase the bandwidth of computer/user communication.
The problem area is defined by two questions: First, how can we use character-based interfaces to make agent communication more efficient, meaningful, and enjoyable? Second, how can cinematographic techniques for directing, supporting and presenting character and setting inform this interface? Several principles of Animist Interface are explored, including the use of lightweight characters for communication, the scaling of prominence with relevance, and the use of virtual lighting and camera-work within an interface.
Simple software agents were created, which communicate proactively with the user in the form of characters or through cinematic techniques. Three "functional sketches" were used to put these ideas into practice:
1. An anthropomorphic interface;
2. A system based on background video imagery;
3. a project that combines virtual camera techniques, lighting and simple 3-D characters.
Further directions and an outline for a future project/user-study conclude the thesis.
Get the entire thesis in PDF form (484 KB).