Meet the Coaches – Tech Episode 1

Meet the Coaches: Francois

Bringing to life the Council of Coaches is a tremendous technical challenge – from the overall architecture of the virtual agent platform, the automatic generation of coaching actions, to the intricate details in defining automatic gaze behavior between the virtual characters on screen. Today we focus on something less technical, but all the more important – the coaches themselves!

In Council of Coaches we try to create virtual coaches that are memorable, interesting characters that our end-users look forward to interacting with. In order to achieve that, we believe it is important that the characters feel authentic – that there is a strongly defined personality that permeates through everything that the character says.

Today, let’s meet one of our coaches…

Francois Dubois

First sketch of Francois, the Chef.

His grandfather was a chef, his father was a chef, so there was never any doubt as to what Francois was to become when he grew up. Francois did turn out to become a very successful chef, but his heart was never really truly into it.

Now that Francois is older, he has set his life priorities straight, and has come to terms with his feelings that he utterly hates preparing fancy dishes for the rich, entitled and fancy people that used to visit his Michelin Star restaurant in France.

And so, Francois finally wanted to do something truly useful for the world. Because food and cooking are the only things he knows, he has decided to become a Diet Coach in the Council of Coaches. Although Francois isn’t a “health expert” per se, he can talk for hours about healthy and delicious meals.

Growing up under the immense pressure of his family’s Chef lineage, Francois is rather incapable of talking about his emotions and feelings, and thus has grown a habit of changing the subject to food whenever things get too emotionally complicated.”

– From the Story of Francois Dubois

Designing Francois…

With the character biography above, our graphic designer set out to give Francois a face (and body!). One of the first sketches here on the right highlights the “Chef” aspect of Francois really well.

First when I read Francois’s description, I already had a couple of ideas on how to design his look. First, I wanted to explore a bit the “chef” side of his personality and envisioned him strictly as a fancy chef but also kept some of the typical features in the description, like the beret and decided to add a moustache and the round glasses in order to emphasize his personality.” – Andreea Bondrea

Second sketch of Francois, the former Chef.

Although, Francois has kind of denounced his past official chef live, we felt that it didn’t fit his character to be wearing a full chef apron. So, a second sketch (left) shows Francois in a more casual outfit, which we felt suited Francois much better.

I was happy with the result but I wanted to explore a different side of him too. That’s how we came up with the second design, the “cooler” version of Francois, as a retired chef, focused mostly on healthy eating, and not on fancy dishes. We ditched the typical chef costume in exchange for an apron and a more laid-back personality. I decided to keep the beret, moustache and the round glasses as I think they suit his character really well and make his look more unique. I also decided that Francois should be a bit more fit… as a healthy eating adept, he should be setting an example for others.” – Andreaa Bondrea

Finally, what would a chef (or diet coach) be without his kitchen?! Besides the design of the our virtual coaches, we equally value the design of the environment and the user interfaces that help our users interact with the coaches. Below you see a snapshot of Francois in his natural habitat – his kitchen! For more details on the environment and user interface design, keep an eye on our blog!

Francois in his natural habitat – his kitchen…

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