Sustaining users’ attention while they visit a website or when they interact with a training course is an important endeavor that can directly impact a company’s bottom line or learning.
I just finished reading the book Human Attention in Digital Environments and of specific interest was the chapter Attention-Aware Intelligent Embodied Agents by Benoît Morel and Laurent Ach.
In this blog, I use the example of the avatar of Le Louvre Museum Web site provided by the authors to describe the physical features and attributes an avatar may possess to capture users’ attention.
Before exploring this example, let me provide you with a short overview of the book.
Human Attention in Digital Environments was published by Cambridge Press University in 2011. This book addresses the results of the AtGentive project, an international research project sponsored by the European Commission.
“The book explores the idea that attention has a key role to play in the design of future technologies and proposes that such technologies may be adapted to better support human activity in environments where, along with other people, a growing number of devices compete for people’s limited attention” explains Claudia Roda, editor of the book.
In their chapter Attention-Aware Intelligent Embodied Agents, Benoît Morel and Laurent Ach, respectively CEO and CTO of Cantoche, describe how an avatar may react according to end-users’ attention states and how these agents may adapt their interventions to encourage end users to participate actively in virtual environments such as collaboration platforms or e-learning modules.
Benoît and Laurent identified several features that are important to capture and maintain users’ attention. I briefly mentioned the 4 main features of an avatar in a previous article. Those 4 main features are the visual appearance, behavior, voice, and interaction between the avatar and the environment. Let’s look at the avatar of the Le Louvre Museum website that I will analyze according to Benoît and Laurent’s chapter. First, check out this short video that introduces the Avatar’s mission on the website.
The character named Dominique Vivant-Denon (the first director of Le Louvre museum) was designed by François Place in 2007. The Avatar is animated and empowered using the Living Actor™ technology.
The avatar is characterized by his appearance and behaviors
Since the first impression immediately determines the way users will interact with an avatar and the application, the designers at Le Louvre proposed a 2D cartoonish avatar idea to Cantoche for further development and animation. The avatar was originally created to encourage children to be curious about Le Louvre and to teach them about the museum and its art collection. Notice the strong, dominant color on the avatar—blue. Blue is considered by many people to be a cool color evoking relaxation and encouraging feelings of communication and peace. The velocity of the avatar’s behavior contrasts with this calming color to capture users’ attention. This balance between the calm impression and the fast rhythm of the avatar’s movements creates a fantastic partnership between the avatar and user as the avatar is not too dominant nor too submissive. Behaviors are not just useful to indicate something important on the website, but in this case designers also use the full body to establish rhythm and to emphasize a message. Facial fidelity is generally limited to better focus attention on how emotions are conveyed through the use of the full body.
The Importance of the Voice
To win their users’ attention, designers worked on every detail and feature including the voice of the avatar. Vocal parameters such as the rhythm of speech and changes of intonation give the user confidence in the avatar and give the avatar persuasive power. When you interact with the avatar of Le Louvre, you notice that everything is very well synchronized among behaviors, speech rhythm, intonation, and the application itself.
The avatar interacts with its environment
Users may select the presence of the avatar not just at the beginning of a scenario but at any time during the visit or application use. As you can see in the video, designers played with different sizes and positions of the avatar within the space of the webpage. The avatar for Le Louvre is resizable and displayed in different shots which can be moved over the interface and disappears when asked.
We can see how every detail is important when designing avatars for human attention as they influence users’ perceptions by creating immediate credibility in an effort to win users’ acceptance and attention.
If you’d like to know more about maintaining users’ attention, I invite you to read the book, Human Attention in Digital Environments, edited by Claudia Roda.
See you again soon,
This post is also available in: FRENCH