In our MIG 2013 paper “Evaluating perceived trust from procedurally animated gaze”, we investigated how well a simple gaze model conveyed how much a character appeared to trust the viewer. If the character trusts the player a lot, they spend the more time looking at the face; otherwise, they spend more time looking away. Check out the video to see a demo of the gaze model and the experiment platform we built in Unity to make it.
In the above work, we find that even with very fast animation clips, people naturally inferred attitudes from the character solely based on the proportion of time the character spent looking at the player. Specifically, gaze conveyed trust, interest, admiration, and friendliness to varying degrees.
Above, * represents significance at the 0.05, 0.01, and 0.001 probabilities, where the null hypothesis corresponds to a regression slope of 0 (e.g. a horizontal line). In other words, the steeper the slope which fits viewer rankings to time looking directly at the player, the more significant the result.
Given how straight-forward gaze is to implement, it’s clear that it’s an easy way to add personality to characters. Additionally, in the paper, we show that it’s also straight-forward to tie gaze to character attitudes which might vary dynamically while you play a game — all without needing additional voice acting, motion capture, scripting, and dialog. For example, suppose a player had a high reputation score with a character’s group, or that the player has spoken with the player multiple times, the character’s body language and voice tone could automatically reflect that. We also show how the gaze can vary probabilistically to look more natural, while still maintaining a desired proportion of time looking in a desired direction.