Conversational agents and robots

Keywords: chatbot, artificial intelligence, conversational agents, social robots 

Dialogue systems, chatbots, social agents, or more formally, conversational agents are computer programs that converse with a human in a natural way using communication channels such as speech, text, but also facial and full body gestures.  Siri, Alexa and Cortana are popular examples of generalist agents catering for a broad range of topics. Specialist agents, on the other hand, focus on one constraining topics, for example offering support in therapy or training.  They can be effective as they have the advantage of understanding the situation and the goal to achieve very well. Other well-known conversation agents are social robots and intelligent virtual agents. They are embodied conversational agents (ECA), which, compared to their voice-only colleagues, have the ability to use non-verbal communication. Research on conversational agents focuses on constructing these agents and establishing an empirically grounded understanding of them, their interaction with humans, and how they can ultimately cause certain outcomes in areas such as health, entertainment, and education. An important question, here is also how we can establish an agent that people trust, motivate them, but also can explain its advice. 

Related Projects:
The group is internationally known for its work in this area, working on projects such as support agents for PTSD patients (, social phobia patients, and insomnia patients, but also for robots for diabetic children. ( and for elderly (

Related tracks: ST, DST

Related courses: 



Related key publications:

  • Tielman, M. L., Neerincx, M. A., & Brinkman, W. P. (2019). Design and evaluation of personalized motivational messages by a virtual agent that assists in post-traumatic stress disorder therapy. Journal of medical Internet research, 21(3), e9240.
  • Skantze, G., Hjalmarsson, A., & Oertel, C. (2014). Turn-taking, feedback and joint attention in situated human-robot interaction. Speech Communication, 65, 50-66.
  • Qu, C., Brinkman, W. P., Ling, Y., Wiggers, P., & Heynderickx, I. (2014). Conversations with a virtual human: Synthetic emotions and human responses. Computers in Human Behavior, 34, 58-68.
  • Looije, R., Neerincx, M. A., & Cnossen, F. (2010). Persuasive robotic assistant for health self-management of older adults: Design and evaluation of social behaviors. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 68(6), 386-397.