TRACKSIDE DEIRA - THE VIRTUAL HORSE RACE REPORTER

Abstract: DEIRA is an agent framework that has been employed as the basis for embodied conversational agents in the deomains of horse racing commentary, robosoccer commentary and virtual storytelling. DEIRA was originally started as a design project by Almer Tigelaar, Thijs Alofs, Fran├žois Knoppel and Danny Oude Bos and has had modularity at the core of its design. In the initial domain of horse racing commentary it has won both the Jury and Public Awards at the GALA competition at IVA 2007, making use of SAPI 5.1 TTS engines and a flexible commentary generation system. Since then, it has been generalized to support easy implementation of agent systems for different domains.

Description

The original challenge for which DEIRA was developed was the GALA competition at IVA2007, for which an agent that reported on a virtual horse race in real time needed to be created. Based on information provided by horse race enthusiasts, a modular system was designed to meet the information needs and to try to match their expectations for such a reporter.

DEIRA uses an event driven modular design to transform the raw incoming data to agent behavior. The input module for a domain detects the interesting events and enters these into a queue that manages these events as events keep coming in, giving priority to the more important ones and removing invalidated events. In turn, the processing modules then embellish the event with data that is ultimately used by the output module to drive an external application to show the intended behavior.

To produce engaging commentary, a powerful productive context-free grammar is used, which for the horse racing domain generates over a thousand different sentences. The specification of the grammar is done in a simple text file, with conditional applicability of the rules, which allows for specifying behavior for arbitrary emotional states of the agent and for specific event parameters.

With the emotional state of the agent being central to the processing and output modules, DEIRA maintains an emotional state over several emotional dimensions, based on variable predispositions and the emotional effects of the events generated by the input module.

Maintaining an emotional state allows the speech to be adapted in speed, pitch, volume and any parameter the employed TTS engine supports as well as selecting animations appropriate for the agent as it comments on the events that are taking place.

Other input domains

After having proved its value within the domain of (virtual) horse racing commentary DEIRA has been extended to incorporate the Virtuele Voetbal Commentator, which was designed to provide commentary for Robosoccer matches. With the VVC being a student project, in part inspired by DEIRA, adaptation was straightforward and done within a timeframe of 8 hours.

The Narrator part of the Virtual Storyteller (VS) was linked to DEIRA in a similar fashion, with DEIRA delivering the stories generated by the VS. The very different domain of storytelling posed very different demands on how events were dealt with. The ease with which these demands were met shows the versatility of the system as a framework. In the future, the facilities provided by the modular structure of DEIRA can be further exploited to improve the delivery of the stories.

Future Development

Besides the development of DEIRA for the Virtual Storyteller, the framework is freely accessible and available under the LGPLv3 license. Students of HMI are more than welcome to put DEIRA to their use in any Embodied Conversational Agent application they wish to develop.

Links

Sponsors

Awards

Demonstration

Original DEIRA horse race commentary:

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DEIRA telling a story:

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DEIRA robosoccer commentary:

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Publications related to this showcase are:

2008

Contributions to Proceedings

F.L.A. Knoppel, A.S. Tigelaar, D. Plass-Oude Bos, T. Alofs and Z.M. Ruttkay Trackside DEIRA: A Dynamic Engaging Intelligent Reporter Agent (Demo paper). in Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference on Autonomous Agents and Multi-Agent Systems (AAMAS08), L. Padgham, D. Parkes, J. Mueller and S. Parsons (eds), volume 1, The International Foundation for Autonomous Agents and Multiagent Systems (IFAAMAS), Estoril, pp. 1681-1682, 2008 [pdf] [bibTeX] [e-prints] 

F.L.A. Knoppel, A.S. Tigelaar, D. Plass-Oude Bos, T. Alofs and Z.M. Ruttkay Trackside DEIRA: A Dynamic Engaging Intelligent Reporter Agent (Full paper). in Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference on Autonomous Agents and Multi-Agent Systems (AAMAS08), L. Padgham, D. Parkes, J. Mueller and S. Parsons (eds), volume 1, The International Foundation for Autonomous Agents and Multiagent Systems (IFAAMAS), Estoril, pp. 112-119, 2008 [pdf] [bibTeX] [e-prints]