Document Type


Subject Area(s)

Computer Science and Engineering


In the study of agents on the Internet, we often ascribe to them human qualities, such as beliefs and intentions. These qualities are best understood as metaphors that give developers a way to talk about and design the capabilities and applications of agents. Despite all the progress in computing, users have been slow to accept the technology. They have often accepted what was thrown at them, but only under economic duress. Bringing the technology closer to their emotional needs might ease this resistance. So how can we put a human face on computing? Maybe by putting an animated face on it! Thus, an interface may consist of an agent, which has an explicit presence (for example, as an on-screen animated figure) and appears to have a personality. In computer human interfaces, especially for education and commerce where a large variety of people must deal with computers, an anthropoid agent might be more inviting. Depending on the situation, the agent might appear shy, friendly, stern, or knowledgeable. For example, people might better accept advice offered politely by a shy agent, or heed warnings uttered seriously by a stern agent. And they might be more likely to purchase goods or services offered by a friendly, knowledgeable agent that could appear empathetic to their needs.