RELATIONAL AGENTS GROUP
Relational Agents are computer agents designed to form long-term, social-emotional relationships with their users. We are investigating the use of these agents in task domains in which human-agent relationships actually improve task outcomes, such as in coaching, counseling, psychotherapy and healthcare.

A Virtual Coach to Increase Physical Activity in Overweight Adults

Over two-thirds of Americans are currently overweight or obese. Poor adherence to recommended levels of exercise is a major contributory factor. The goal of this study is to integrate a wearable activity monitor from FitSense with a home-computer-based relational agent to provide daily physical activity counseling for overweight adults.

We conducted a randomized trial involving 70 overweight adults over a 12 week intervention period. All participants were asked to wear a FitSense ActiPed to track activity and were provided access to a website to view their personal step counts and activity level. Intervention participants were additionally asked to meet three times per week with a relational agent coach on their home computers. There was a significant decline in mean daily step count of 1025 between the first three weeks and the final three weeks of the study in control subjects (p=0.011). In contrast step count in the intervention group was maintained over the 12 weeks of the study.

This project was funded by and performed in collaboration with Partners Center for Connected Health.

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