Peer Buddy or Expert? – On the Avatar Design of a Virtual Coach for Obesity Patients

Weimann, Thure
Fischer, Martin
Schlieter, Hannes
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Morbid obesity in association with comorbidities is a considerable burden for the healthcare systems worldwide. Long-term weight loss maintenance requires sustainable behavioral changes but poor adherence is a significant problem in obesity care today and patients often relapse. Prior research has found conversational agents with of a humanoid representation (avatar) embodying the role of a virtual coach useful for the interface of health behavior change support systems. Regarding the avatar design, the coach could, e.g., take the role of an obese “peer buddy” or a lean “expert”. Based on requirements and design principles derived from the literature, the present study investigates how the avatar should be designed. Therefore, two patient surveys were conducted to evaluate static and dynamic representations of potential coaches. The results suggest that patients welcome the concept and lean “expert” coaches might be more suitable in an obesity context. Design implications for future research are derived and discussed.
Health Behavior Change Support Systems (HBCSS), avatar, embodied conversational agent, obesity, virtual coaching
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