News / Blog

Milestone #1 Complete!

Thanks to an excellent project start and a lot of hard work in the first 6-month period of Council of Coaches, the first official Project Milestone “Initial Design and Requirements” was successfully completed at the end of February.

In the first six months of the project, the consortium has worked on gathering user requirements, performed state of the art literature research and described existing technology platforms that will be used in the development of the Council of Coaches prototypes. In Work Package 2, a vision on how the project will adopt a Responsible Research and Innovation approach is layed out (D2.1) and initial stakeholder analysis results are reported (D2.2). In Work Package 3, a literature overview on behaviour change theories and methods was done, serving as input for the initial design of the system’s Knowledge Base (D3.1). Similarly, in Work Package 4, a state of the art overview was compiled on sensing and profiling techniques – leading to an initial design of the Holistic Behaviour Analysis Framework (D4.1). In Work Package 5, the Dialogue and Argumentation Framework design and background was compiled and reported in D5.1, while in Work Package 6 work has been done on describing existing frameworks for creating the Embodied Conversational Coaches that will form the main Human Computer Interaction element in the Council of Coaches (D6.1). In this same time period, the project has prepared its first living draft of the Data Management Plan (D1.2) and its Innovation Management Guidelines (D1.3).


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What’s this all about?! An example coaching dialogue…

The main objective of this website is to show you, the reader, what we are doing in the Council of Coaches project. To illustrate the objective of the project a little better, we are working on improving our website to be more illustrative and informative. Today we’ve updated our Project page with some example dialogue that hopefully clarifies what we have in mind when we are talking about a “Council of Coaches”.

Consider the example dialogue below between four virtual coaches and a fictive user “Bob”…

Alice: Have you considered trying to quit smoking, Bob?
Ben: Quit smoking… quit drinking, quit doing all the fun things in life! Why don’t you quit whining?
Florence: What a stupid thing to say, Ben! Next thing you’re going to tell us all about your grandfather who smoked all of his live and lived to be a 100 years old!
Ben: Well, for your information… Florence. My grandfather was a heavy smoker and he did turn out to be 94 years old, so there.
Richard: Florence, Ben, cut it out, this isn’t about you or your grandfather, we are talking about Bob, perhaps he has anything to say here?
Bob: (Say Nothing)
Alice: Well, you know that smoking does not guarantee an early death. But Bob here recently got diagnosed with COPD, a condition that is almost always caused by long-term smoking. Although it may not be easy, it is very important to try and quit as a very first step in dealing with this.
Ben: Sure, I guess, you are the expert.
Richard: And it has a positive effect on your taste! Think about all the delicious things we could cook together and how excellent all the flavors will work out.
Bob: I am trying but find it difficult.


What this example portrays, is that even without any active participation of the user (e.g. the point where Bob chooses to say nothing), the discussion can continue with some arguments and background on the topic of smoking cessation. At the end of the example, when the user finally becomes engaged (“I am trying but find it difficult.“), our COPD Coach, Alice, will have to opportunity to continue the dialogue with e.g. advice on how to stop smoking.

I hope this example clarified some our thoughts behind the project. Stay tuned for more updates…

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In the Press: Council of Coaches @ University of Twente

The University of Twente has issued a press-release to announce the official start of the Council of Coaches project!

Growing old often comes with facing limitations. Prevention and a healthy lifestyle can be essential elements in preventing the negative effects of aging. Smart artificial intelligence can deliver additional benefits in this process. Together with partners from across Europe, the University of Twente (UT) and Roessingh Research & Development (RRD) will develop the Council of Coaches: a team of virtual coaches, supported by smart artificial intelligence, to motivate users in embracing a healthier lifestyle.

Visit the University of Twente – News Website to read the full press releases.

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Innovating and Sprinting and our first Workshop

Today our partners at Innovation Sprint organized a workshop entitled “Sprint #1: Shaking up the eHealth Industry in the New Digital Era“, bringing together experts and enthusiasts (and mostly both) from the eHealth world. Sofoklis Kyriazakos (CEO) and his team were kind enough to invite us to come visit them in Brussels to share our ideas on the future of virtual coaching and giving us the opportunity to present the Council of Coaches project in its very infant stage…

A big thank you to Innovation Sprint for the inspiring day. We’re travelling back to Twente tired, but inspired!

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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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