Alelo CEO Lewis Johnson and NCSU Professor James Lester Receive Prestigious Award for Influential Paper on Pedagogical Agents

Entitled “Animated pedagogical agents: Face-to-face interaction in interactive learning environments,” the paper laid the groundwork for a wide range of educational products that incorporate animated agent technology.

LOS ANGELES, CA – MAY 02, 2017

The International Foundation for Autonomous Agents and Multiagent Systems (IFAAMAS) has selected a paper co-authored by Dr. Lewis Johnson of Alelo Inc., Prof. James Lester of North Carolina State University and the late Dr. Jeff Rickel of the University of Southern California to receive the 2017 Influential Paper Award. Entitled “Animated pedagogical agents: Face-to-face interaction in interactive learning environments,” the paper published in the year 2000 laid the groundwork for a wide range of educational products that incorporate animated agent technology.

The IFAAMAS Influential Paper Award recognizes publications that have made influential and long-lasting contributions to the field. Candidate award publications must have been published at least a decade prior to the year of award, and the judging panel seeks nominations from the community. The award will be formally presented at this year’s Autonomous Agents and Multi-Agent Systems conference in São Paulo, Brazil.

The paper introduced and surveyed a new paradigm for interactive learning environments by using animated pedagogical agents. It argued for combining animated interface agent technologies with intelligent learning environments, yielding intelligent systems that can interact with learners in natural, human-like ways to achieve better learning outcomes. The concept has become an essential element for engaging, effective learning experiences. For example, the first Marine battalion that returned from Iraq without any combat fatalities learned Arabic language and culture in an immersive Alelo learning game that was populated with pedagogical agents.

Dr. Johnson, Alelo’s CEO, said: “We are humbled and grateful to receive this prestigious award. Some of the ideas in the paper have become well established, especially in game-based learning environments. Others are only now being realized thanks to advances in immersive interfaces that enable rich face-to-face interaction between learners and technology.”

Prof. Lester added: “We deeply appreciate IFAAMAS’ recognition of this research. Since the paper’s publication almost two decades ago, it has been enormously gratifying to see pedagogical agents evolve into a mature technology that is finding broad application in education and training.”

The paper appeared in the International Journal of Artificial Intelligence in Education, and is one of the journal’s most frequently cited papers. Prof. Judy Kay, the journal’s co-editor-in-chief, said, “This work by pioneers and leaders of our field has provided the foundation for a whole new way to frame innovative educational software.” (Full citation: W.L. Johnson, J.W. Rickel, J.C. Lester, “Animated pedagogical agents: Face-to-face interaction in interactive learning environments.” International Journal of Artificial Intelligence in Education 11, 47-78. 2000.)

The paper was one of two recognized by IFAAMAS in 2017. The other was by Prof. Justine Cassell of Carnegie Mellon University and colleagues, entitled “Animated conversation: Rule-based generation of facial expression, gesture and spoken intonation for multiple conversational agents,” published by SIGGRAPH in 1994.

Animated agents play a prominent role in Alelo’s products and solutions. Virtual role-players give learners opportunities to develop and practice their communication skills, and assess their performance and level of mastery. Virtual coaches provide feedback with a human-like touch, to encourage and show empathy. Alelo’s new Enskill platform now provides learning solutions incorporating animated agents to learners around the world. Dr. Lewis Johnson, CEO of Alelo, adds, “Enskill is the foundation of our ambitious expansion into educational markets.”


For more information, contact:

Alelo Inc.
+1 310-574-7500

Alelo Inc.
+1 310-807-5786 7517


IFAAMAS is a non-profit organization whose purpose is to promote science and technology in the areas of artificial intelligence, autonomous agents and multiagent systems. Website

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