Emotionally Expressive Virtual Agents – Developing a playful VR App for Teaching Diagnosis of Mental Disorders


Lab Course (Forschungsprojekt)


To participate, please send an application to Linda Graf

Kick-Off Date: Thursday, October 13th, 11:00 - 12:00; Room: LE 120

Diagnosing mental disorders requires extensive practice for psychiatry students to succeed in diagnosing and dealing with patients, especially young patients. This exercise is usually practiced by reading case studies or using simulation patient programs. However, the latter often lacks standardization and depends on the actor’s performance as it is highly complex (Wuendrich et al., 2012). An innovative approach is using Virtual Reality (VR) technology and virtual characters that simulate patients (Mavrogiorgou et al., 2021). That approach should provide the possibility to interpret the behavior of the virtual patients regarding their body language and facial and verbal expressions. Therefore, it is a standardized and safe diagnostics practice and allows the opportunity to create various cases simultaneously. Furthermore, VR offers a high degree of immersion and thus also a sense of presence. Therefore, feeling social presence with virtual patients can enhance the sensation and recognition of emotions. Moreover, VR has several advantages that may improve the student’s motivation to practice the diagnosis: For example, one can use it anywhere, anytime.

In this research course, students will develop a VR application based on previous research prototypes. The application will include emotionally virtual characters that simulate the patient and playful interactions with these characters to practice diagnosing mental disorders (especially depression). Students will develop the application using the Unity engine and Blender in a group of master students. The focus will be on the concept of playful interactions and the conduct of conversations with virtual patients. In collaboration with the LVR-Klinikum Essen, students will work directly with the target group.

Target Audience

MA Komedia, MAI