Using virtual agents to cue observer attention
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This paper describes an experiment developed to study the performance of virtual agent motion cues within digital interfaces. Increasingly, agents are used in virtual environments as part of the branding process and to guide user interaction. However, the level of agent detail required to establish and enhance efficient allocation of attention remains unclear. Although complex agent motion is now possible, it is costly to implement and so should only be routinely implemented if a clear benefit can be shown. Previous methods of assessing the effect of gaze-cueing as a solution to scene complexity have relied principally on manual responses. The current study used an eye-movement recorder to directly assess the immediate overt allocation of attention by capturing the participant’s eye-fixations following presentation of a cueing stimulus. We found that fully animated agents speed up user interaction with the interface. When user attention was directed using a fully animated agent cue, users responded 35% faster when compared with stepped 2-image agent cues, and 42% faster when compared with a static 1-image cue. These results inform techniques aimed at engaging users’ attention in complex scenes such as computer games or digital transactions in social contexts by demonstrating the benefits of gaze cueing directly on the users eye movements, not just their manual responses.