Project Description

NECA is a project funded by the European Commission under the Information Society Technologies Programme (IST-2000-28580). NECA promotes the concept of multi-modal communication with animated synthetic personalities. A particular focus in the project lies on communication between animated characters that exhibit credible personality traits and affective behavior. The key challenge of the project is the fruitful combination of different research strands including situation-based generation of natural language and speech, semiotics of non-verbal expression in situated social communication, and the modelling of emotions and personality.

NECA's workplan comprises the development of dedicated components, such as components for emotive speech synthesis, generation of combined speech and nonverbal expressions, and components which perform reasoning about a character's emotional disposition. These components form the building blocks of the generic NECA application platform. This platform will provide the basis upon which specific applications can be built. To demonstrate and assess the feasibility and usefulness of the NECA concept, two different application scenarios will be developed. The first, the Socialite scenario is a new approach for bringing Internet users in contact with each other. The users choose among a set of available agents, instruct them about their personal preferences and send them into a virtual world where the agents will try to get in contact with other agents and determine whether they like to meet them again. The goal for individual users is to optimally design and support their avatars in order to make them as popular as possible. The second demonstrator, the eShowRoom, is a prototype of a new showroom for the products of online shops. The visitors of the showroom will receive product information by watching two or three agents discuss the product among value dimensions relevant for the product. In order to minimize risks due to the fast moving sector of Internet-technologies, especially in relation to speech synthesis, the NECA consortium proposes a two-stage development cycle.

Milestones and expected results: The core end products of NECA will be 1) the NECA platform which allows for the development of applications with affective conversational characters, 2) the Socialite, a multi-user web-application in the social domain and 3) the eShowRoom which demonstrates a novel approach to the presentation of products in eCommerce applications. The project will also make significant contributions to research on conversational synthetic characters, multi-modal communication, and affective speech synthesis.


NECA develops a new generation of mixed multi-user / multi-agent virtual spaces populated by affective conversational agents. The agents will be able to express themselves through synchronised emotional speech and non-verbal expression. The emerging NECA platform will provide a basis for the development of new Internet applications with emotional agents.

Have a look at our demonstrators:
Socialite mock-up