Conversational Agents: Betty and The Narrator

A Demonstration with Hands-on Experience

Collette Curry, Manchester Metropolitan University

Monday October 7th 2013 from 6 p.m.-7.30 p.m. (with refreshments provided from 5 p.m. onwards) at the British Computer Society London Office, 5 Southampton Street, London. The nearest underground stations are Covent Garden, Embankment and Temple.

This is a free event, open to all, but prior registration is needed to gain entry to the building.

The emphasis will be on a demonstration with hands on experience. Our aim is to allow the maximum number of people to interact both with 'Betty', the reminiscence aid and 'The Narrator', which knows a lot about the history of HMS Ark Royal. Both systems are based on research carried out at Manchester Metropolitan University by Collette Curry and others.

'Betty' encourages conversation and reminiscence with participants. She learns from the conversation and allows each participant to build up a user dictionary of themes and subjects which can be recalled in future conversations. Use of a specially devised ontology for reminiscence coupled with the WordNet corpus allows the agent to converse about a wide range of relevant subject matter. 'Betty' has been successfully used in experiments which tested for improved well-being and also improvements in ageing memory in older people through conversational stimulation. An additional benefit is the sharing of information with family members who can then take part in the reminiscence session with the participant.

For 'The Narrator', creative writing is imported directly into the agent and added to the knowledge base about the Ark Royal, thus allowing the pupil interacting with the agent to create their own story and to direct what happens next. This is a development from scripted adventure games and has proved very popular with pupils experimenting with the system (many of whom had special needs).

The session will start with an introduction to Betty and The Narrator. This will be followed by the hands-on sessions using laptops in small groups which will last about an hour (rotating between different related activities every 5-10 minutes):

- creating a chatbot using a provided framework
- meeting Betty the conversational agent and interacting with her (various versions, web and local)
- meeting The Narrator chatbot and interacting with him (web based)
- creative writing and importation to a chatbot framework for The Narrator

The event will end with a question and answer session.

An online registration form is available at