Seminars & Colloquia

Jonathan Gratch

Institute for Creative Technologies, University of Southern California

"How to bond with computers: The role of emotion in game design and human-computer interaction"

Wednesday April 23, 2008 01:00 PM
Location: 1229, EB2 NCSU Centennial Campus
(Visitor parking instructions)

This talk is part of the Future of Games Series


Abstract: "The future of games isn't so much about what technology you use, but how that technology facilitates games that create an emotional response in the player." -- Yannis Mallat, CEO Ubisoft Montreal

The last decade has seen an explosion in our understanding of the role emotion plays in human cognition and social interaction. Recent findings in psychology and neuroscience have emphasized emotion’s distinct and complementary role in human cognition when contrasted with the traditional computer science conceptions of intelligence such as decision theory, game theory and logic. Rather than viewing emotion as irrational, contemporary research emphasizes emotion’s functional role in understanding and engaging with their physical and social environment, and there is growing interest in exploiting these findings to expand classical rational models of intelligent behavior, improve computer interfaces, and inform a more "human-centered" approach to computer system design.

In this talk, I will review current findings on the intrapersonal and interpersonal function of emotion and its potential role in enhancing human-computer interaction. In particular I will discuss how computational systems can recognize, understand and respond to human emotions. I will present empirical evidence that computer generated characters can establish an emotional connection with users. I will then discuss how these findings inform our design of "serious games" that engage human users in socio-emotional interactions for training, psychotherapy and education.

Short Bio: Dr. Jonathan Gratch ( is the Associate Director for Virtual Humans Research at ICT and a research associate professor of Computer Science at the University of Southern California. He completed his Ph.D. in Computer Science at the University of Illinois in Urban-Champaign in 1995 with a focus on machine learning, planning and cognitive science. His research addresses the creation of virtual humans (artificially intelligent agents embodied in a human-like graphical body) and cognitive modeling. He studies the relationship between cognition and emotion, the cognitive processes underlying emotional responses, and the influence of emotion on decision making and physical behavior. He has worked on a number of applications of virtual agents, including considerable experience in the research and development of automated and semi-automated agents in training. Dr. Gratch is the Vice President of the HUMAINE Association for Emotion and Human-Computer Interaction, Associate Editor of the journal Emotion Review, and the author of over 100 technical articles.

Special Instructions: For more information on the Future of Games speaker series, see

Host: R. Michael Young, Computer Science/Digital Games Research Center

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