Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Computer Science Professor Wins $157,000 NSF Grant to Study Narrative Intelligence

Stephen WareUniversity of New Orleans computer science professor Stephen G. Ware has been awarded a one-year $157,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to teach computers how to tell and adapt stories automatically for training simulations and video games.

Ware, an assistant professor of computer science, and his students in his Narrative Intelligence Lab will try to address a specific computer storytelling problem. They will research how a computer uses reason about what characters know and do not know, and how their knowledge changes over time.

“People tell stories all the time, but computers have a hard time with this task,” Ware said. “This model of character beliefs will eventually be used in an intelligent training simulation that uses interactive stories to teach best practices to people like police officers.”

According to Ware, current state-of-the-art technologies assume that every character knows everything accurately all the time, but this is rarely the case in real stories. When characters don't know something, or when they believe the wrong things, it can lead to interesting narratives where characters communicate, teach, learn and deceive one another, Ware said.

If successful, the research sets the stage for improved interaction between computers and humans in areas such as smartphone assistants, online games and educational software. 

The funding for this project is provided through the National Science Foundation's Early-concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER) program, which is designed to support experimental new research that could lead to exceptional advances in science and technology.

The Narrative Intelligence Lab in the computer science department at the University of New Orleans is a highly interdisciplinary research group that investigates how computers can use narrative to interact more naturally with people. The lab combines research in artificial intelligence, narrative theory and cognitive science to create computational models of narrative. These models allow machines to understand, generate, adapt and tell stories.

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