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Thursday, November 26, 2009

The FearNot! software - ECIRCUS

VICTEC (Virtual ICT with Empathic Characters), a European framework V project was carried out between 2002-2005. The project considered the application of 3D animated synthetic characters and emergent narrative to create improvised dramas to address bullying problems for children aged 8-12 in the UK, Germany and Portugal. One of the main aims of the project was to develop synthetic characters that could, through their appearances, behaviours and features allow the user to build empathic relations with them. The project’s pedagogical objectives were met through the design and implementation of interactive, episodic and emergent virtual dramas where children were exposed to bullying scenarios in a safe school-based Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). The FearNot! application software (Fun with Empathic Agents to Achieve Novel Outcomes in Teaching) developed during the project aimed to enable children to explore physical and relational bullying issues and coping strategies through empathic interactions with synthetic characters. In order to achieve these objectives, FearNot! provides children with various scenarios about bullying behaviour, that promote engagement and believability with synthetic characters in a social interaction [Figure 1].
Extensive evaluations of the FearNot application with over 1,000 children were carried out to consider children’s engagement with the synthetic agents, and their empathic responses to the characters and the scenarios. Individual interaction styles in relation to bullying behaviour, and children’s Theory of Mind abilities were also explored.  

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