Professor Bickmore is interested in the development and study of relational agents, computer agents designed to build and maintain long-term, social-emotional relationships with people. In order to use the same myriad cues that people use when relating to each other, he builds agents that are capable of emulating face-to-face interaction with people, including the use of hand gestures, facial expressions, and body posture, in addition to speech.
These agents are effective for tasks in which long-term interactions and personal relationships are known to be important, such as in education, sales and marketing, and particularly in healthcare. Professor Bickmore has conducted communication studies of health provider-patient interactions to develop new approaches to dialogue planning that can address both the behavioral intervention and social aspects of the interactions. He has also developed animated agents that can emulate this behavior and use appropriate nonverbal behavior in their simulated conversations with patients. In addition, he has conducted several clinical trials to evaluate the efficacy of the resulting systems.