The first day of the Advances of Computer Entertainment 2008 Conference in Yokohama was dedicated to keynotes and to a dinner so we attendees got a chance to socialize a little.
Professor Tomio Watanabe (Okayama Prefectural University) gave in his keynote Human-Entrained Embodied Interaction and Communication Technology an exposé of a number of interesting projects. Several of them took a stance from body languange, and particularly the act of nodding in agreement.
Nodding dolls were placed in different environments in order to make the person performing a communication act feel more secure. Nodding dolls were placed among students in a class, and in studios where a radio DJ could get some approving body language around her in an environment where she otherwise talks in the void. In another example nodding sunflowers were projected in the back of a classroom for to support a teacher… and also small nodding artificial flowers are produced, these now being available in toy stores all around Japan (I saw them in shops the day before I left Japan). Also a chair was tried out that rock in a way that makes the person sitting in it not being able to help nodding. The rhythm of these nods is steered by sound input according to speech patterns. The project I could see an immediate use for was InterChat where the rhythm of a persons typing governs the body language of the avatar. I’d love to try that out.
I was picturing how it would be to have a little group of dolls in the classroom when I lecture… I wonder how the students would feel about that… I think we might feel a bit silly all of us, but it could be fun!
Professor Watanabe could show that people in an environment where the group are enthusiastic are more susceptible to the message being propagated. Which made me associate to the course I took many years ago in social psychology were I learned how easily manipulated we humans are. I’m not sure Watanabe's tests made differences in opinion change versus how much knowledge was soaked up with and without nodding dolls, but that could be interesting to learn.
I was impressed by the range of experiments that had been conducted on the nodding gesture. Way to go!
This is a link to the pictures of the slides I took while listening.