News / Blog

Councillors on Tour: Stockholm Edition

On July 15th, three of our Council of Coaches PhD students, from the University of Twente, Sorbonne University and Roessingh Research and Development went to Stockholm, Sweden to present their research posters. They attended the Workshop for Intelligent Conversation Agents in Home and Geriatric Care Applications, which was held in conjunction with the Federated AI Meeting.

The research papers, presented as posters, were the following:

  • R. Bangalore Kantharaju and C. Pelachaud: Towards Developing a Model to Handle Multiparty Conversations for Healthcare Agents. This focused on the work on building a conversation model for the virtual coaches and on effects of virtual agents on user’s persuasion.
  • G. Huizing, R. Klaassen, and D. Heylen: Designing and Developing Lifelike, Engaging Lifestyle Coaching Agents and Scenarios for Multiparty Coaching Interaction. This focused on the design and development of the coaches, scenarios and dialogues, as well as the plans to investigate interactions between several coaches and the user.
  • Beinema, H. op den Akker, and H. Hermens: Creating an Artificial Coaching Engine for Multi-domain Conversational Coaches in eHealth Applications. This focused on the development of software that should automatically decide which coaching strategies and goals the coaches use for each user specifically.

Many thanks to the organizers of this Workshop and to beautiful Stockholm for hosting us!


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Help out Council of Coaches in this Online Experiment

At Council of Coaches we were wondering – how do we create the perfect virtual agent? At this moment, we are experimenting with cutting them out of stone, but we are really shooting in the dark… We need your help!

Our team of researchers have prepared an online questionnaire to get your input on Virtual Agent design (and your input is greatly appreciated)!

Click here to take the online survey!

(The survey is available in English and in Dutch)



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People Behind the Council of Coaches – Episode 4

In today’s episode of “The People Behind Council of Coaches”, we present the team from Roessingh Research and Development (RRD).

Roessingh Research and Development

In Enschede, not far from the campus of the University of Twente and next to the Roessingh Centre for Rehabilitation, Roessingh Research and Development (RRD) is located. Both geographically, and organisationally close to the university and the rehabilitation centre. RRD is the biggest centre in the Netherlands where a wide range of disciplines such as rehabilitation medicine, movement sciences, psychology, physiotherapy, biomedical sciences and computer sciences work together under a single roof on current and future innovations in rehabilitation and chronic care. As an internationally recognised scientific research institute, RRD occupies a unique position between the university and healthcare practice.
RRD cooperates with the other project partners on many facets of the project such as the user requirements and evaluation processes, management and dissemination, and agent design. They are also the responsible partner for the development of the Shared Knowledge Base and the design of the coaches’ coaching strategies.

Today we are introducing the diverse team of people at RRD that are working on the Council of Coaches project.

Harm op den Akker

Harm is the project’s Technical Coordinator and was in charge of coordinating the project’s proposal. As such, Harm is poking his nose into all aspects of the project.

“I knew that the Horizon 2020 call PM-15 was an extremely competitive call. Soon after the proposal was submitted it became clear that there were a total of 186 competitors. This made it all the more exciting when we heard that the project was accepted for funding. We started working on this proposal such a long time ago, starting with a brainstorm session with many colleagues from RRD and the University of Twente. The “Council of Coaches” idea stuck. An idea that was very much inspired by the advisors in the video game Civilization II, that I used to play obsessively as a child. It’s a truly amazing opportunity to bring this idea to live, and I’m truly grateful for the consortium’s level of enthusiasm with which we are jointly tackling the ambitious challenges set out in the project’s plan.”

Lex van Velsen

At RRD Lex is mostly involved in developing new service models for telemedicine, identifying end-user needs, and writing design specifications. Furthermore, Lex is also involved in testing for end-user acceptance, and usability and user experience.

“I will apply the full range of skills and experience to the Council of Coaches project. The concept of having multiple coaches is intriguing but also a challenge as it is completely new. Who should offer these coaches? How do they interact with formal caregivers (like the family doctor, physiotherapist) and informal caregivers? How do we blend the online care of Council of Coaches with the offline care given in hospitals? It is these questions that have my full interest and which I hope to answer with the RRD team. Next, we will optimize the interaction between end-user and set of coaches during multiple iterations. I’m looking forward to seeing how patients and older adults interact with multiple coaches.”

Dennis Hofs

“I work at RRD as a software developer in various projects. Mostly I am working on mobile apps for Android, connecting to wearable sensors, and backend services and databases. What I like about this, is that I am involved in many facets of software development, such as usability, integration, performance and security. Within the Council of Coaches project I will support in the development of the shared knowledge base. Because of my background in Human Media Interaction it is fascinating to see this project evolve.”

Marijke Broekhuis

Marijke is currently doing a PhD at RRD on the usability of eHealth technology that supports the general wellbeing and healthy lifestyle of older adults.

“With a background in behavioural sciences, I find it very interesting to study end-user groups and to know more on how eHealth technologies can support the routines and habits in the daily lives of people. For the Council of Coaches project, this means mapping the health journey of older adults and getting insights in their daily life situations in which the Council of Coaches could assist older adults in adopting a healthy lifestyle. This information can be used to gather user requirements and to evaluate the usability of the prototypes against those requirements.”

Silke ter Stal

“Due to my background in Creative Technology and Human Media Interaction I am interested in how technology can be used as a medium to support and enrich people’s lives. At RRD I am currently doing a PhD focusing on the design of embodied conversational coaches within eHealth applications. In the Council of Coaches project, I am working on the creation of interesting characters that engage the user and I am researching the interaction between the user and the coaches. I believe it is essential to involve the user throughout this process in order to eventually create a rich experience for the user!”

Tessa Beinema

Tessa started her PhD research at RRD in September of 2017, when the Council of Coaches project started.

“One of the challenging aspects of the project is to create coaches that are able to provide coaching that adapts to each specific user. While for a human coach it can be very natural to decide on: ‘What do you want to have this person achieve, why, and how?’, for a virtual agent this is something we have to model before they are able to do it. This process requires knowledge on behaviour change, but also technical knowledge. That interplay between humans and computers and the challenge to create effective virtual coaches by making sure the content is as optimal as possible is what fascinates me.”

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Milestone #2 Complete!

A little delayed update, but very good news nonetheless: the second project milestone has been achieved!

The first functional prototype of the Council of Coaches system is released as a working demonstrator that can be downloaded and run with a double-click. A video of the demonstrator was also published on the project’s YouTube Channel. Is it amazing? Yes and no. Yes, because under the hood, major technical progress has been made in the integration of complex technical subsystems: the GRETA virtual agent platform of Sorbonne Universities and the ASAP virtual agent platform of the University of Twente communicate with each other and can both be instructed by the Dialogue Game Execution Platform from the University of Dundee. First steps are also made to integrate “couch specific” components: the knowledge base and holistic behavior analysis framework. On the other hand, this demonstrator might not impress the members of our target audience as much as we would like. We are aware of that. But for a three month development phase, much has been achieved. The next six months leading up to the second functional demonstrator and next project milestone will be devoted to technical improvements, but most importantly to creating an outstanding user experience for our end users.

Please take a look at a video of our first demonstrator below:

Furthermore, with this milestone, we have released a number of Public Documents, documenting important project progress:

  • D3.2: Initial coaching actions and content
  • D6.2: Initial user interface design for Home and Mobile UI
  • D7.1: System architecture and design of APIs
  • D7.2: Initial functional prototype

We look forward to sharing additional updates with you over the summer period. If you want to stay up to date with all the latest info, please follow our @Council_Coaches Twitter Account.

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Council of Coaches Position Paper Presentation @ ICT4AWE

For those of you who couldn’t make it to Funchal to join the ICT4AWE Conference, we have made the presentation available to view at your leisure!

If you’re interested in reading the paper – it is now available online at the ScitePress Digital Library.

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