News / Blog

Council of Coaches Project Started!

September has arrived and the Council of Coaches project has officially started! First order of business: get together, get organized and get started. As with any Research and Innovation Action, an important first step is to start collecting requirements in order to form a clear picture of what our system will look like. Since we plan to release a first demonstrator of the Council of Coaches system within the upcoming 9 months, there is no time to waste.

The requirements and design philosophy in Council of Coaches is strongly based on the principles of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI), focusing on user and stakeholder engagement right from the very start of the project. Our partners at The Danish Board of Technology Foundation have plenty of experience in RRI, and the connection to end-users is ensured through Roessingh Research and Development and the University of Dundee’s School of Medicine.

However, we are not trying to build something from scratch. The project aims to develop a complex Multi-Agent Dialogue Platform that pushes the state of the art in virtual coaching through dynamic, engaging, group-based coaching sessions. Innovation such as this requires a form of technology push — a blend of state of the art technology, high-tech research, and a good amount of creativity.

Our technology push is based on a number of technology components that are brought into the project: the Holistic Behaviour Analysis Framework from the University of Twente‘s Centre for Monitoring and Coaching, the Dialogue Framework from University of Dundee, and the Greta Virtual Agent platform from the University Pierre and Marie Curie that will form the basis of the Human-Computer Interaction design.

Finally, with a view towards the future, the Polytechnic University of Valencia will work towards a proper design of how to tie all these technologies together, building on top of existing frameworks and standards, while Innovation Sprint will start the process of identifying viable exploitation plans in order to maximize the impact of the Council of Coaches.

We are all excited to start this journey and we hope to be able to show off the fruits of our work in the near future!

— Hermie Hermens (Council of Coaches Project Coordinator)

— Harm op den Akker (Council of Coaches Technical Coordinator)

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2 Positions at the University Pierre and Marie CURIE (France)

Our project partner, the University Pierre and Marie CURIE is hiring for the Council of Coaches project:

The European Horizon-2020 project Council of Coaches aims to develop a tool in which virtual embodied coaches form a team of experts that can discuss among themselves and with the user how the user could improve his healthy lifestyle behaviors. The project combines state of the art 3D Virtual Avatars with language and reasoning technology and applies this to the area of lifestyle and behavior change coaching.

The goal of the 2 openings (PhD or post-doc) is to design, implement and evaluate user/agent interaction with the team of virtual agents, the council of coaches (Home Interface). In particular it focuses on

Opening 1:

  • Modelling coaches with their own specific agenda and behavior style aiming at creating unique social relationships with users.
  • Adapting virtual coaches’ behavior to ensure that user maintains his involvement in the relationship with the coaches.

Opening 2:

  • Managing group interaction and turn-taking
  • Maintaining user’s engagement during the interaction with the coaches.

Specific attention will be given to the development of virtual coaches with a wide variety of behavioral characteristics and personality traits. Several studies have shown how low level features such as behavior expressivity and high level characteristic (e.g. personality traits ) affect user’s involvement in their interaction with the virtual characters and impact his performances (McRorie et al., 2011) (Paiva et al., 2017).

Agents will be endowed with the capacity to handle turn-taking in a dyad and in a multi-party scenario that involves human user and virtual agents. The exchange of speaking turns could be driven by the human or by the agents to ensure mixed initiative. It will also consider the role and social relationship between the user and virtual coaches.
The work in these positions will make use of and build upon the GRETA/VIB platform developed at UPMC (Pecune et al., 2014) for multimodal behavior generation and for visualizing virtual coaches.

To apply, email your CV, names of reference, and master grades to Catherine Pelachaud.

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3 PhD Positions on Multi-Party Virtual Coaching (Closed)

Applications are no longer accepted for these positions.

Do you want to put your talents at work to develop a new coaching concept? Do you want to work on an innovative project in an international environment? Are you excellent in what you do and do you have strong social skills?
Come and apply for one of three PhD positions available on Multi-Party Virtual Coaching!

In the context of the European Horizon-2020 project Council of Coaches, the University of Twente and Roessingh Research and Development are looking for three highly motivated PhD candidates to help shape the future of virtual coaching technologies in the healthcare domain. You will be working in a highly interdisciplinary and international research project – Council of Coaches. The project is an international collaboration between Universities and companies from the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, the United Kingdom, Spain and France (see the Consortium page). The project introduces a radically new virtual coaching concept based on multiple autonomous, embodied virtual coaches, which form together a personal council that coaches older adults towards a healthy lifestyle. Each coach has his own expertise, personality and style of coaching; they might not always agree with each other, but they all share a single goal: to support the user across every aspect of well-being, including physical, social, cognitive and mental support.

Positions

The three available PhD positions focus on three distinct, but aligned sub-tasks of the project:

  • Position #1: Smart Behavior Mining (University of Twente)
  • Position #2: Human-Computer Interfaces (University of Twente)
  • Position #3: Coaching Strategies and Knowledge Base (Roessingh Research and Development)

See the details of the three positions below. If you have any general questions about the vacancies or the project, please send an email to [email protected].

Position #1: Smart Behavior Mining

This PhD position will focus on the intelligent sensing, modelling and analysis of the user’s physical, emotional, cognitive and social behavior to nurture the dialogs, arguments and interactions with the virtual coaches. Behaviors will be derived from the user interaction with wearable and mobile devices, e.g., activity detection, mobility tracking, speech processing or facial expression recognition. Behavioral data will be mined over time to discover relevant patterns and to automatically detect behavior changes demanding a prompt or preventive intervention from the coach(es).

For additional information, contact: Oresti Banos ([email protected])

Applications are no longer accepted.

Position #2: Human-Computer Interfaces

For this PhD position, we are looking for a technical inclined master of science who is keen to do research and write a thesis in the field of intelligent multi-modal conversational interfaces. Besides research into multi-party dialogue with the virtual coaches, the research will contribute to design, implementation and evaluation of the Council of Coaches system indeed works: does interaction with the virtual coaches help them communicate their health-related problems? What are the factors that contribute to the efficacy of the concept? Applicants are expected to contribute and take responsibility for research and development related to:

  • Multi-modal User Interface Design for Mobile and Home applications: multimodal dialogues with multiple embodied conversational characters
  • Implementation of the prototypes: requires approved programming skills
  • Evaluation user experience and user satisfaction

For additional information, contact: Dirk Heylen ([email protected])

Applications are no longer accepted.

Position #3: Coaching Strategies and Knowledge Base

This PhD position is focused on a number of research questions that are on the cross-section between the technical- and social sciences. As an ideal candidate, you are expected to build up strong theoretical knowledge about motivation and coaching, as well as in personalization in Human-Computer Interaction design. You are able to apply this knowledge in the development of state of the art Human-Computer Interaction tools; formalizing and implementing coaching strategies that the virtual agents in the project should adopt. Ultimately you will be responsible for the content of the virtual embodied agents: the what, when and how of the agent’s interactions with the end-users. The position is highly interdisciplinary in nature and as such you are expected to collaborate and work together with our varied team of researchers and engineers. You have a strong technical background as well as a strong desire to build tools that can be used by- and offer real benefits to its users.

For additional information, contact: Harm op den Akker ([email protected])

Applications are no longer accepted.

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Website under development

Please bear with us as we’re moving to get our project website online. Unfinished pages, broken links, and textual errors are expected to be commonplace. Apologies for the inconvenience!

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