Affiliations: Tilburg center for Cognition and Communication (TiCC), School of Humanities, Tilburg University, PO Box 90153, 5000 LE Tilburg, The Netherlands. E-mails: R.J.H.Mattheij@tilburguniversity.edu, M.Nilsenova@uvt.nl, E.O.Postma@uvt.nl
Note:  Corresponding author. Tel.: +31 13 466 8192; E-mail: R.J.H.Mattheij@tilburguniversity.edu, Contact details: room D 417, PO Box 90153, 5000 LE Tilburg.
Abstract: Future Intelligent Environments will feature fixed and mobile display screens with socially-aware virtual embodied agents. This paper addresses the potential of virtual embodied agents to generate a social connection with the inhabitants of Intelligent Environments. The goal of the study is to explore to what extent users mimic the behavior of an interactive agent. An experiment is conducted in which participants interact verbally with a virtual embodied agent. During the interaction, both the vocal pitch and the affective facial expressions of the agent are locally manipulated and the consecutive vocal and facial expressions of the participants registered. Computational analyses of the recorded expressions reveal vocal and facial mimicry as a sign of unconscious affect recognition and social connection. The implications of these results regarding the design of future Intelligent Environments are discussed.
Keywords: Mimicry, embodied agent, facial expressions, imitation, pitch, social signals