SimCoach: An Intelligent Virtual Human System for Providing Healthcare Information and Support

TitleSimCoach: An Intelligent Virtual Human System for Providing Healthcare Information and Support
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsRizzo, A., K. Sagae, E. Forbell, J. Kim, B. Lange, J. Buckwalter, J. Williams, T. Parsons, P. Kenny, D. R. Traum, J. Difede, and B. Rothbaum
Conference NameI/ITSEC 2011
Date PublishedNovember 2011
Conference LocationOrlando, Florida

Over the last 15 years, a virtual revolution has taken place in the use of Virtual Reality simulation technology for clinical purposes. Recent shifts in the social and scientific landscape have now set the stage for the next major movement in Clinical Virtual Reality with the "birth" of intelligent virtual humans. Seminal research and development has appeared in the creation of highly interactive, artificially intelligent and natural language capable virtual human agents that can engage real human users in a credible fashion. No longer at the level of a prop to add context or minimal faux interaction in a virtual world, virtual human representations can be designed to perceive and act in a 3D virtual world, engage in face-to-face spoken dialogues with real users (and other virtual humans), and in some cases they are capable of exhibiting human-like emotional reactions. This paper will present an overview of the SimCoach project that aims to develop virtual human support agents to serve as online guides for promoting access to psychological healthcare information and for assisting military personnel and family members in breaking down barriers to initiating care. While we believe that the use of virtual humans to serve the role of virtual therapists is still fraught with both technical and ethical concerns, the SimCoach project does not aim to become a "doc in box". Rather, the SimCoach experience is being designed to attract and engage military Service Members, Veterans and their significant others who might not otherwise seek help with a live healthcare provider. It is expected that this experience will motivate users to take the first step ­ to empower themselves to seek advice and information regarding their healthcare (e.g., psychological health, traumatic brain injury, addiction, etc.) and general personal welfare (i.e., other non-medical stressors such as economic or relationship issues) ­ and encourage them to take the next step towards seeking other, more formal resources if needed.