Users may perceive virtual characters as more emotionally expressive when idle animations are active

In a study conducted in 2021, researchers investigated the influence of idle motion on the perception of emotion expressed by virtual characters. In the primary task, 32 participants had to watch ten visual-only video clips of a virtual character showing different intensities of pain, with or without body neutral animation, and assess that pain perception by choosing one of two labels “Mild pain” or “Very intense pain”. Authors created the video-clips with the 3D software Blender and the facial expressions with the Paul Ekman FACS framework. They used motion capture to recreate a natural oscillation of the body. The analytical approach involved comparing perceived intensity of the pain expression in the idle and still condition, using a two-tailed paired t-test. Confounders like vision level were controled. Among other hypothesis, the primary hypothesis which posited that the presence of subtle movements would affect how intensely the virtual character’s facial expression of pain is perceived, was supported by the results with a moderate (p. 4) effect size. This overview provides a concise synthesis of the most relevant results. For more details, please refer to the article page.

Add natural postural oscillations to a virtual character as it may enhances the perception of its emotions, evoking a greater empathic response from users.

Treal, T., Jackson, P. L., Jeuvrey, J., Vignais, N., & Meugnot, A. (2021). Natural human postural oscillations enhance the empathic response to a facial pain expression in a virtual character. Scientific Reports, 11(1).

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