Guest lecture on Natural Language Interactions with Virtual Human Counselors: Stefán Ólafsson, 26 April 2023
Wednesday, 26 April 2023, 3PM CEST/ 1PM GMT
About Stefán Ólafsson
Stefán Ólafsson is an assistant professor at the department of computer science at Reykjavik University (RU). He received his Ph.D. in Personal Health Informatics from Northeastern University, Boston, in 2021 and holds a master’s degree in Language Technologies from the University of Iceland. During his Ph.D., Stefán’s research focused on designing, developing, and evaluating virtual human agents for counseling and education in healthcare, with a particular focus on dialog and conversation management. As a member of RU’s Center for Design of Intelligent Agents and Center for Research on Engineering Software Systems, he continues to conduct research in this area, at the intersection of human-computer interaction, natural language processing, and health sciences.
About the Lecture
Healthcare services worldwide are overstretched, and access to treatment and staff are seen as some of the biggest challenges. Additionally, mental health is on the rise to become the biggest primary health concern. Scalable software solutions driven by progress in natural language processing (NLP) and artificial intelligence (AI) have the potential to meet these challenges. One example of the application of these technologies in healthcare is consultations with virtual humans. This includes conversational agents, similar to the now nearly ubiquitous personal assistants, such as Alexa or Google Home, as well as embodied conversational agents, software artifacts that have a virtual human or social robot embodiment.
This lecture will provide an overview of the research on natural language interactions with virtual human counselors and their application over the past two decades, highlighting their promises and challenges. Contemporary research and applications in this area will be discussed, for example, conversational agents using large language models in safety-critical domains, such as healthcare. Contemporary NLP and AI methods have been successful at natural language understanding, question answering, and text generation; however, they may produce artifacts that contain biases, errors, and lapses in common sense, which can negatively affect usability, trust, and ultimately users’ safety. Moreover, conversational agents that use these methods may come across as competent and trustworthy, increasing the potential for harm. Finally, future trends and potential areas of research and application will be explored.
We are pleased to invite you to join this guest lecture. Registration is not required. Please be aware that we will be recording this guest lecture and will be making it available in our teaching library. If you have any questions, please contact Ivana Cabalzar (firstname.lastname@example.org) prior to the start of the guest lecture.
Prof. Dr. Tobias Kowatsch, Associate Professor for Digital Health Interventions, Institute for Implementation Science in Health Care, University of Zurich; Director, School of Medicine, University of St.Gallen (HSG); Scientific Director, Centre for Digital Health Interventions (CDHI), ETH Zurich & HSG; Principal Investigator, Future Health Technologies programme, Campus for Research Excellence and Technological Enterprise (CREATE), Singapore-ETH Centre, Singapore
Prof. Dr. Elgar Fleisch, Professor of Information Management, ETH Zürich; Professor of Technology Management, University of St.Gallen; Advisory Board Member, CDHI, ETH Zürich & University of St.Gallen; Principal Investigator, Future Health Technologies programme, Campus for Research Excellence and Technological Enterprise (CREATE), Singapore-ETH Centre, Singapore
Prof. Dr. Florian von Wangenheim, Professor of Technology Marketing, ETH Zurich & Advisory Board Member, CDHI; Principal Investigator, Future Health Technologies programme, Campus for Research Excellence and Technological Enterprise (CREATE), Singapore-ETH Centre, Singapore