While the people we interact with every day have distinct personalities, volatile emotions and fascinating quirks, our computers remain the eminently logical boxes they were in the days of vacuum tubes. But people still treat their computers as if they were people. How many times do you beg your computer for mercy, hoping to retrieve some lost data, or curse at it when it gives you an error message? After years of computers forcing humans to think like machines, autonomous animated agents hold promise for a better way: allowing machines to interact like people.
This site discusses a unique sub-class of animated agents known as Interactive Animated Pedagogical Agents (herein referred to as "agents" or "pedagogical agents"). They are "Interactive" in that you can speak to them, and they can speak back. "Animated" refers to their physical embodiment…they have faces and bodies, use gestures to communicate, and can move around a computer screen. "Pedagogical" simply implies they are designed to teach, and "Agent" connotes that they are semi-autonomous: they have goals and make their own decisions on what actions to take to achieve their goals…a programmer hasn't pre-defined every action for them.