# PRE2020 4 Group4

Coco, The Computer Companion

# WARNING! THIS IS NOT THE FINAL REPORT DUE TO TECHNICAL PROBLEMS

## Group Description

### Members

Name Student ID Department Email address
Eline Ensinck 1333941 Industrial Engineering & Innovation Sciences e.n.f.ensinck@student.tue.nl
Julie van der Hijde 1251244 Industrial Engineering & Innovation Sciences j.v.d.hijde@student.tue.nl
Ezra Gerris 1378910 Industrial Engineering & Innovation Sciences e.gerris@student.tue.nl
Silke Franken 1330284 Industrial Engineering & Innovation Sciences s.w.franken@student.tue.nl
Kari Luijt 1327119 Industrial Engineering & Innovation Sciences k.luijt@student.tue.nl

### Logbook

See the following page: Logbook Group 4

## Subject

We want to analyze and design an AI robot companion to improve online learning and working from home problems like diminished motivation, loneliness and physical health problems. In order to address these problems we will introduce you to Coco, the computer companion. Coco will be an artificially intelligent and interactive agent that users can easily install on their laptop or PC.

## Problem Statement and Objectives

### Problem Statement

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic that emerged at the beginning of 2020, everyone's lives have been turned upside down. Working from home as much as possible was and still is the norm in many places all around the world and it applies to office workers, but also to college-, university-, and high school students. It is also expected that working from home will still be a thing in the post-pandemic world. In the post-pandemic world, working online will be combined with working physically in school or in the office [1].

However, even though there might be benefits from working in a home office, there are also many disadvantages that are critical to everyone's health, motivation, and concentration. Multiple studies have found such effects, both mental and physical, because of the work-from-home situation [2] [3].

Mental issues that might arise are emotional exhaustion, but also feelings of loneliness, isolation and depression. Moreover, because people have a high exposure to computer screens, they can experience fatigue, tiredness, headaches and eye-related symptoms [4]. Additionally, people exercise less while working from home during the pandemic. This can have effects on metabolic, cardiovascular, and mental health, and all this might result in higher chances of mortality [3] .

Other issues are related to the concentration and motivation of the people that are working from home. Office workers that work at home while also taking care of their families have lots of problems with staying on one task, because they want to run errands for their families [4] . In addition to this, it requires greater concentration for home office workers during communication [5]. Students have also indicated to experience a heavier workload, fatigue and a loss of motivation due to COVID-19 [6]

Because of the shift to working online, it is expected that all these mental- and physical health problems will still be present in the post-pandemic world. According to our first survey, primarily students experience the negative effects of working from home. Because of this we changed the user group to exclude office workers and we will focus on finding a solution for college-, university-, and high school students during this project.

### Objectives

Our objectives are the following:

1. Help with concentration and motivation (study-buddy)
2. Improve physical health
3. Provide social support for the user

## USE: User, Society and Enterprise

### Target user group

The user groups for this project will be office workers, college-, university-, and high school students, since these groups experience the most negative effects of the restrictions to work from home. There are several requirements for each group, most of them are related to COVID-19. First of all, there are some requirements relating to mental health. It is important for people to have social interactions from time to time. Individuals living alone could get mental health issues such as depression and loneliness due to the lack of these social interactions, caused by the restrictions [4]. It is also important for people to be able to concentrate well when they are working and that they can maintain their motivation and focus. Studies show that due to COVID-19 students experience a heavier workload, fatigue and a loss of motivation [6]. Considering the physical health, it is important that students and office workers are physically active and healthy. Some problems for the physical health of students and employees can arise from working from home. People that have an office job often do not get a lot of physical exercise during their workhours, but quarantine measures have reduced this even more [4]. This can affect cardiovascular and metabolic health, but even mental health [3]. In addition to this, the increased exposure to computer screens since the outbreak of COVID-19, especially applicable to high school students, can result in tiredness, headache and eye-related symptoms [4]. Hence, students and employees should become more physically active to improve their physical (and mental) health.

### Secondary users

When people use Coco, they should gain better concentration and motivation and better physical health than without the computer assistant. Moreover, people that might feel lonely can find social support in Coco. Parents of the students will also profit from these aforementioned benefits of Coco, because they need to worry less about their children and their education, as Coco will assist them while studying.

Besides parents, teachers will profit from Coco too. Since Coco will help the students with studying, the teachers can focus on their actual educational tasks.

Moreover, co-workers and managers will profit from their colleagues using Coco. Coco can help the workers maintain physical and mental health which in turn leads to a better work mentality and environment

### Society

When people use Coco the computer companion they will have better, concentration, motivation and better mental and physical health. This means that a lot of people in the society will have a higher well-being which in turn results in a healtier society. Moreover, because people work and study better both companies and the schools will have better results.

### Enterprise

There are two main stakeholders for enterprises. Coco needs to be developed and this is where a software company comes in. Such a company will develop the virtual agent and will sell licenses to other companies. These companies are the other stakeholders and are interested in buying Coco for their employees or students. This could be small enterprises that want to buy a license for a small group of employees, but also large universities that want to provide the virtual agent for all their students. The effects for the software development company will be economic, since they will earn money with selling the Coco software licenses. For the interested companies, buying the license will mean that their employees’ physical and mental health will increase i.e., the primary users’ benefits.

## Approach

In order to address the consequences and improve health and motivation in home-office workers, we will introduce to you Coco, the computer companion. Coco will be an artificially intelligent and interactive agent that users can easily install on their laptop or PC.

Concerning the mental health of users, a main problem is loneliness. It has been researched before what the impact of robotic technologies is on social support. Ta et al. [7] have found that artificial agents do not only provide social support in laboratory experiments but also in daily life situations. Furthermore, Odekerken-Schröder et al. [8] have found that companion robots can reduce feelings of loneliness by building supportive relationships.

Regarding the physical well-being of users, the use of technology could be useful to improve physical activity. As stated by Cambo et al. [9], using a mobile application or wearable that tracks self-interruption and initiates a playful break, could induce physical activity in the daily routine of users. Moreover, Henning et al. [10] have found that at smaller work sites, users’ well-being improved when exercises were included in the small breaks.

Finally considering the productivity of users, a paper by Abbasi and Kazi [11] shows that a learning chatbot systems can enhance the performance of students. In an experiment where one group used Google and another group used a chatbot to solve problems, the chatbot had impact on memory retention and learning outcomes of the students. The same research as mentioned before from Henning et al also showed that not only the users’ well-being, but also the users’ productivity would increase in the presence of a chatbot[12]. Moreover, as has been researched in an experiment of Lester et al. [13], the presence of a lifelike character in an online learning environment can have a strong influence on the perceived learning experience of students around the age of 12. Adding such an interactive agent to the learning process can make it more fun, next to the fact that the agent is perceived to be helpful and credible[13].

### Method

At the end of the project, we will present our complete concept of the AI companion. This will include its design and functionality, which are based on both literature research and statistical analysis of send-out questionnaires. The questionnaires will be completed by the user group to make sure the actual users of the technology have their input in the development and analysis of the companion. Moreover, the user needs and perceptions will be described. The larger societal and entrepreneurial effects will also be taken into account. In this way, all USE-aspects will be addressed. Finally, a risk assessment will be included, as limitations related to the costs and privacy of the product are also important for the realization of the technology. These deliverables will be presented both in a Wiki-page and final presentation. A schematic overview of the deliverables can be found in Table 1.

Table 1: Schematic overview of the deliverables

Topic Deliverable
Functionality Literature study
Results questionnaire 1: user needs
Design Results questionnaire 2: design
Example companion

### Milestones

During the project, several milestones are planned to be reached. These milestones correspond to the deliverables mentioned in the section above and can be found in table 2.

Table 2: Overview of the milestones

Topic Milestone
Organization Complete planning
Functionality Complete literature study
Responses questionnaire 1: user needs
Complete analysis questionnaire 1: user needs
Design Responses questionnaire 2: design
Complete analysis questionnaire 2: design
Design of the companion

### Survey

To find out more about the group of people that will be most interested in having a virtual companion, a survey will be conducted. This survey is meant to specify the target group and to get to know their preferences regarding the functionality of the virtual agent. The survey consists of 21 questions about Coco divided into the topics demographics, general computer work, productivity, tasks of a VA, privacy and interest. The link to the survey can be found here and the analysis of the survey can be found here.

## Research

### State of the Art

Productivity agents

As discussed by Grover et al. [14] multiple applications exist that focus on task and time management. They all try to assist their users but do so in different ways. “MeTime”, for example, tries to make its users aware of their distractions by showing which apps they use (and for how long). “Calendar.help”, on the other hand, is connected to its user's email and can schedule meetings accordingly. Other examples include “RADAR” that tackles the problem of “email overload” and “TaskBot” that focuses on teamwork.

Grover et al. mention how Kimani et al. [15] designed a so-called productivity agent, in an attempt to incorporate all the beforementioned applications with different functions into one artificially intelligent system. The conversational agent that they described focused on improving productivity and well-being in the workspace. By means of a survey and a field study, they investigated the optimal functionality of a productivity agent. Findings suggests four tasks that are most important for such agents to possess. These tasks include distraction monitoring, task scheduling, task management and goal reflection. [14]

With their research, Grover and colleagues [14] wanted to get more insight on the influence of anthropomorphic appearance in agents versus a simple text-based bot which lower perceived emotional intelligence. Even though productivity was increased with the presence of a chatbot, outcomes suggest that there was no significant performance difference between the virtual agent and the text-based agent. Interaction with the virtual agent was however perceived to be more pleasant, supporting the idea that higher emotional intelligence in agents can reduce negative emotions like frustration [16]. The researchers also found that it is important that the appearance of the agent matches their capabilities, meaning that agents should only have anthropomorphistic looks if it can also act human-like. Other suggestions for improvement were focused on the agent’s inflexible task management skills and inappropriately timed distraction monitoring messages. Those last points especially will act as a guidance in designing an improved Agent System Architecture during this research. Grover et al. suggest including an additional dialog model into the agent architecture, which could be initiated by the user when they want to reschedule or change the duration of a task. They also suggest extending the distraction detection functionality and let users personalize their list of distracting websites and applications.

Companion agents

When going to the Play Store or App Store on your mobile phone, you can download “Replika: My AI Friend". This is a companion chatbot, that imitates human-like conversations. The more you use the app, the more it also learns about you. Ta et al. [7] investigated the effects of this advanced chatbot. They found out that it is successful in reducing loneliness as it resembles some form of companionship. Some other benefits were found as well. These include its ability to positively affect its users by sending positive and caring messages, to give advice, and to enable a conversation without fear of judgements.

Physical health agents

Cambo, Avrahami, & Lee [17] investigated the application “BreakSense” and concluded that the technology should let the user decide for themselves when to take a break. They discovered that in this way, the physical activity became part of their daily routine.

Computer assistants

Although these agents focus on specific tasks, there also exist personal computer assistants that are developed to help, for instance children, more generally with their daily activities. The study by Kessens et al. [18] investigated such a computer assistant, namely the Philips iCat. This animated virtual robot can show varying emotional expressions and fulfilled the roles of both companion, educator and motivator.

### Related Literature

General

An exploratory literature study has been performed in week 1. A list of these scientific papers, including short summaries stating their relevance, can be found here here.

Design of the Virtual Agent

In week 3 a separate literature study has been conducted, specifically focused on the design aspect of the virtual agent. As a result of this study, it is planned to form a scientifically grounded recommendation for the design of the virtual agent, based on the direction of all papers taken together.

An overview of the collected data regarding the design and appearance of the agent can be found here.

### Motivation for virtual agent

This section contains the motivation for the decision to develop a virtual agent instead of a physical robot. Several important aspects of Coco will be discussed to emphasise why we've chosen a virtual agent.

Pros and cons of a physically embodied agent

There are a few very clear pros for an embodied agent. Firstly, a physically embodied agent enhances social telepresence, which is the feeling of face-to-face interaction while a person is not physically present (e.g., using videocalls)[19]. According to Lee et al., an embodied agent is also able to provide affordance for proper social interaction, meaning that a physical robot has fundamental properties that determine its way of use [20]. These two things show that a physically present robot has is better able to provide good social interaction than a virtual agent since a virtual agent does not have these same affordances.

However, these arguments for a physically embodied agent can also be refuted. The social telepresence mentioned before decreases the smoothness of speech of the participant [19]. Besides this, Lee et al. found that if an embodied agent had anthropomorphic-physical embodiment, that humans had very high expectations of a robot. However, if the robot then did not have the ability to respond to touch-input, the high expectations dropped immediately, and they became frustrated and disappointed in the robot. This is in general a very negative effect of physical embodiment [20].

Also, an article by Ghazali, Ham, Barakova, & Markopoulos [21] examined social responses towards persuasive social agents in which they compared persuasive attempts delivered by an artificial (non-robotic) agent with a social robot. In their research they found that a physical robot with more social cues (human-like face, speech output and blinking eyes) causes a higher reactance in the user which in turn gives rise to negative feelings and thoughts. This higher reactance when a physical robot tries to persuade a human of doing a task, they comply less to the advice then when compared to a virtual agent.

Another con of physically embodied robots is that they are very expensive to develop and to maintain (the many embedded sensors and motors can make sure many technical difficulties arise). A paper on design of social robots from Puehn et al. compares a low-cost social robot ‘Philos’ to commercial social robots. Their design idea Philos has a commercial value of $3,000 and the associated software is free. But the more widely known, higher quality robots, like the animal robot Paro and humanoid robot Nao, cost way more than that, namely$6,000 and $15,000 respectively[22]. This shows that a very low-cost social robot will still be sold for$3,000, which probably won’t attract our user group, students.

Pros and cons of a virtual agent

The cons of a virtual agent are simply the pros of the physically embodied agent. Namely, an embodied agent enhances social presence and affordance for proper social interaction, which a virtual agent is obviously lacking.

A virtual agent also has quite some clear pros. Firstly, a virtual agent can process both spoken and written language and therefore it allows easier communication between Coco and its user. Especially as no confusions can arise due to accents or bad pronunciations of words. The communication software, for example language processing software, can very easily be updated.

Secondly, a virtual agent can be accessed at any time, and it does not have to be repaired, only updated [23].

Thirdly, a virtual agent can easily communicate with other applications on a laptop, computer or phone [23].

And lastly, as also stated in the cons of the physical embodied agent, the research by Ghazali, Ham, Barakova and Markopoulos [24] found that people have a lower reactance towards an artificially intelligent virtual agent and therefore more compliance when the virtual agent advises something.

Conclusion

The physically embodied robot and virtual agent can be compared on different subjects. The largest pro of a physically embodied agent is that it enhances social interaction, and you could say that that is of course favorable, since it has a positive influence on the students. However, since the target group of our research are scholars or students, we must consider their needs.

### Evaluation of Alternatives

As could be seen in the state of the art, there already exist multiple applications, agents or assistants. These all have different goals and objectives, among others to increase productivity, provide companionship or increase physical health. However, as far as we know there is not yet such a product on the market that combines all these purposes into one useful application. That is where Coco would come in.

As an example, we will approach the efficiency software CtrlWORK that works to prevent physical and mental fatigue for people who work behind a computer. This program was offered by the TU/e. However, from personal experience it has been found that this is not that efficient in practice. For instance, CtrlWORK focuses more on physical activity, which is disruptive if you are studying in a public space. Moreover, from survey 1 it has been found that there is not much interest in physical assistance among our target group. Furthermore, Coco has extra functions that CtrlWORK does not have. For example, Coco allows for textual communication as it is a chatbot, and it can help, among others, with planning and monitoring distractions.

Moreover, it can be concluded from the survey results survey results that such a virtual agent as Coco is desirable. People thought that Coco could help with their daily life rhythm, give feedback and make sure no tasks would be forgotten. For a more detailed explanation, we would like to refer you to section Analysis Survey 1.

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## Appendix

### Appendix A - Stata code analysis survey 1

Here the Stata code for the analysis of survey 1 can be found.

### Appendix B - Stata code analysis survey 2

Here the Stata code for the analysis of survey 2 can be found.