Playhub: Empathy, Emotion and Body Language

So on the 7th of March, I attended an interesting talk at Playhubs in Somerset house. First I must say that the building in itself is a lovely place, very grand and spacious, with great pubs and even an ice rink.

The talk was by my supervisors Marco Gillies and Sylvia Pan on Virtual Agents in Virtual Reality and the expression of emotion, empathy and body language.

It was a very interesting talk which went from the importance of Virtual agents and their use in different applications and study to the different and new techniques being utilised to create realistic movement. One of the new techniques that grabbed me was the use of actors/actresses to replicate realistic body language and gestures. It makes sense if one was to think about it. If I needed someone to show an emotion on cue I wouldn’t entrust it a random individual, it wouldn’t be realistic and may even come out awkward and mixed with other emotions(such as uncertainty as to if they’re doing right, and -knowing my friends, annoyance that they had to do it at all). Then there is the obvious human flaw that humans tend to overthink things.


Actors are trained to snap into a psychological state at a whim and those that have experience in theatre know how to express to a mixed crowd a certain emotion clearly if not in an exaggerated form. Though one can’t forget about the other issues such as cultural influence on the gestures and displays of emotion, it’s hard to generalise and choose an action to universally to be accepted as a certain state and expect everyone to receive it in its intended way. Then there’s also micro expressions which arguably could be said ‘speak louder than words’ and it’s what our bodies react to and acknowledge on a subconscious level(?). How do we strike a balance between that and expressing clear distinctive emotion? Is it even possible to marry them to have a real encounter with a virtual agent? Does this affect plausibility?

I’ll probably add more thoughts to this later.



Anyway here are the images from the night!


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