eCoach: Avatar-Guided Decision Aid for Prostate Cancer

Mark Riedl, Scott Robertson, Rob Solomon
Amelia Lambeth

This study employs gaming technologies and techniques to create an intelligent encapsulated conversational agent (ECA) to act as a virtual coach who will lower the cognitive effort required by prostate cancer patients to understand key aspects of decision-making, provide more appropriate reference points from which patients more accurately interpret personal risk, and frame information to optimize the patient's chances of applying his own preferences and values to the decision at hand. A stylized, animated ECA will have a brief, focused conversation with a patient in order to explain, in layman's terms, the various treatment options and their risks and benefits and ask questions to assess the patient's medical literacy and values preferences, for example, the patient may value interventions with lower risk of side effects over being cancer-free.

The eCoach ECA is being developed with the Unity3D game engine and uses gaming AI tools such as behavior trees to model a dialog and ECA behavior. The patient will respond to each ECA question by selecting from among several predetermined answers and the history of patient answers will determine how the conversation unfolds. For example, if the ECA determines that the patient is not sure about the risks and benefits of the various treatment options, it will spend more time explaining what these are as well as ask questions to assess knowledge of them afterward.

This study represents a multidisciplinary collaboration between Emory University's School of Medicine, the College of Computing and the Interactive Media Technology Center (IMTC) at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Maribeth Gandy

We are a team of interactive media experts that includes computer scientists, electrical engineers, and graphic artists. IMTC is a multimedia research center at the The Georgia Institute of Technology. IMTC has grown and adapted to meet the needs of business and industry in the USA and abroad by developing and using multimedia technology for enhancement of their core business. IMTC's mission is to assist companies in developing advanced multimedia systems while educating students in multimedia technologies and techniques.

The center also works closely with faculty in a number of other units at Georgia Tech and with numerous other organizations that share and support multimedia technology. For example, IMTC collaborates with The Georgia Center for Advanced Telecommunications Technology, a joint research effort that includes Georgia Tech, Emory University, the Medical College of Georgia, Georgia State University, and The University of Georgia.