TalkTive: A Conversational Agent Using Backchannels to Engage Older Adults in Neurocognitive Disorders Screening

by   Zijian Ding, et al.

Conversational agents (CAs) have the great potential in mitigating the clinicians' burden in screening for neurocognitive disorders among older adults. It is important, therefore, to develop CAs that can be engaging, to elicit conversational speech input from older adult participants for supporting assessment of cognitive abilities. As an initial step, this paper presents research in developing the backchanneling ability in CAs in the form of a verbal response to engage the speaker. We analyzed 246 conversations of cognitive assessments between older adults and human assessors, and derived the categories of reactive backchannels (e.g. "hmm") and proactive backchannels (e.g. "please keep going"). This is used in the development of TalkTive, a CA which can predict both timing and form of backchanneling during cognitive assessments. The study then invited 36 older adult participants to evaluate the backchanneling feature. Results show that proactive backchanneling is more appreciated by participants than reactive backchanneling.


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