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Handling User Interruptions in an Embodied Conversational Agent

N.T. Crook‚ C. Smith‚ M. Cavazza‚ S. Pulman‚ R. Moore and J. Boye


We present a mechanism for handling ``barge-in'' interruptions from a user who is engaged in a 'social' conversation with an Embodied Conversational Agent (ECA). The ECA is designed to recognise and be empathetic to the emotional state of the user. Occasionally, the ECA will attempt to positively influence the user's emotional state through the conversation. A characteristic of these conversations is that both the user and the ECA will at times speak long, multi sentence utterances as the conversation progresses. The generation of long utterances from the ECA creates opportunities for the user to barge-in whilst the ECA is speaking. Furthermore, the long ECA utterances may even provoke a user interruption since they often include advice to the user about how they should deal with difficult or stressful situations that have arisen. This paper outlines an approach to handling user barge-in interruptions in conversations with an ECA and describes its implementation in the Companions English demonstrator.

Book Title
Proceedings of the AAMAS International Workshop on Interacting with ECAs as Virtual Characters‚ accepted for a special issue of the Journal of Multimodal User Interfaces
10th May
27 – 33