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Senior Researchers

Patrick Gebhard

Background: Patrick is a Research Fellow and Principal Researcher at the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence GmbH (DFKI) in Saarbrücken, Germany. Since 2007, he is head of the Affective Computing group in the Cognitive Assistants department. His research focuses on Affective Computing, a sub-field of Artificial Intelligence centered on human emotional intelligence and its employment for Human-Computer Interaction. He has fully coordinated or taken work package leads in several national and European research projects. He acquired a long-term experience with computational models for affect and social behavior and their employment to model socially interactive agents and their evaluation.
Research Interests: Computationally Modelling of Affect and Social Behavior, Socially Interactive Agents, Social Training
In the group: Management of projects and research. Responsible for computational models of emotion, emotion regulation, and social behavior models for socially interactive agents.

Tanja Schneeberger

Background: Tanja finished her Masters in Psychology in 2014 in the Department of Industrial and Organizational Psychology. Before joining the ACG in 2015, Tanja was a working in the Automotive Group at DFKI. At the moment, she is finishing her PhD on affect induction with socially interactive agents.
Research Interests: Relationship between Human and Socially Interactive Agent
In the group: In experimental studies, in which we transfer aspects of human-human-interaction to human-agent-interaction my goal is to find out which role virtual agents can play for humans and how a successful relationship between an agent and a human can be created.
Fabrizio Nunnari
Background: Fabrizio got a Ph.D. in Computer Science in 2005 on real-time 3D data visualization. From 2005 to 2012, he worked between academia and industry as research programmer. Since 2013, Fabrizio is a researcher at DFKI.
Research Interests: Real-time 3D Interactive Applications, Generation and Animation of Virtual Humans
In the group: Fabrizio (aka FN, aka Finnland) takes care of everything related to the generation and animation of virtual humans and on the animation of virtual interpreters for Sign Language. Also working on the intersection between virtual humans and personality perception.

Dimitra Tsovaltzi
Background: Since 2020, Dimitra is a Senior Researcher at DFKI in Saarbrücken, Germany. In 2016, she was awarded the german degree of Habilitation (post-doctoral degree) for the Learning sciences from the Educational Technology and Knowledge Management department at  Saarland University, where she held a faculty position until 2019. Before that, in 2010, she was awarded her interdisciplinary Ph.D. in automating feedback through schema theory for technology enhanced learning from the department of Informatics in collaboration with the Learning Sciences, Saarland University, and worked as part of the E-Learning group at DFKI.
Research Interests: Dimitra is interested in shaping societal change through technological support for group processes. She has been working on designing technologies to support the interplay of socio-emotional and cognitive factors for learning and group interaction, focusing on awareness tools, possibilities for dynamic scripting. 
In the group: Dimitra works on models for socio-emotional interactions to leverage socio-emotional awareness for affective computing. This includes conceptual and empirical research taking into account technical requirements for development.
Janet Wessler
Background: Janet is a Senior Researcher at DFKI in Saarbrücken (Germany) since 2021. Since 2016, she has worked as a postdoctoral researcher Social Psychology Group of the Psychology Department at  Saarland University. In 2016, she earned her Ph.D. in the Social Cognition Group of the Psychology Department at University of Salzburg (Austria). Her dissertation was about the influence of psychological distance on interpersonal synchrony in human-human interactions, especially on emotions and gestures. 
Research Interests: Janet is interested in nonverbal processes during social interactions, like emotional expressions, synchrony and mimicry, and how these processes can shape relationship, behavioral and even economic outcomes (e.g., in negotiations).
In the group: Janet works on how findings of human-human interactions can be transferred to human-agent interactions, and how they contribute to building a trustful relationship with a virtual agent.

Junior Researchers

Chirag Bhuvaneshwara
Background: Master in Embedded Systems with a particular focus on Machine Learning, Computer Vision and Computer Graphics. Started as a Research Assistant in ACG in July 2020 and is now a full-time researcher at ACG.
Research Interests: Machine Learning for Human Computer Interaction
In the group: Extended the Visual Scenemaker tool to function as a Wizard of Oz controller in psychological studies. Facilitating the deployment of Visual Scenemaker as a service using cloud technologies. Applying ML to recognize the basic Ekman expressions in images.

Mirella Hladký

Background: Mirella joined the ACG in 2015 during her Bachelor’s studies. At the moment, she is a Master student of Psychology.
Research Interests: Cues of emotion and emotion regulation, Human-computer-relationship & -interaction
In the group: Mirella researches how to make interactions with computers, especially virtual characters and robots, more natural regarding emotional and social aspects. Her responsibilities include leading studies and analysis of emotions and behavior.

Bernhard Hilpert

Background: Master in Psychology. Bernhard has been a Research Assistant at the Affective Computing Group from March 2017 to September 2019. He returned to the ACG in June 2020.
Research Interests: Designing models of Human Affect and Behaviour and researching them in settings of Human Computer Interaction
In the group: Bernhard researches how virtual agents influence human perception and affect in interaction situations. Further, he designs conceptual computational models  for Affect and Emotion. His responsibilities include experimental design, operationalization and conduct of studies, literature research for interaction modeling and taking care of methodology and interpretation of results.

Ann-Kristin Thurner

Background: Diploma in Psychology, Psychotherapist (Psychodynamic)

Research Interests: Ann-Kristin is interested in the relationship between agents and humans and how agents can support in difficult life situations. 

In the group: Ann-Kristin joint the ACG in 2020, supporting with her profound knowledge in emotion and emotion regulation due to her experience in psychotherapeutical practice. 

Lara Chehayeb

Background: B.Sc. in Environmental Health; Teaching Diploma; Master in Educational Technology. Worked previously as an educator and managed different community development projects.

Research Interests: Overcoming individual differences in Affective Computing; the significance of socio-emotional and cognitive factors in various contexts


Research Assistants

Rhythm Arora
Background: Currently pursuing Masters in Computer Science. Rhythm joined the Affective computing group as a research assistant in 2020. Prior to that she was working as a Software Developer at CISPA.
Research Interests: Human Computer Interaction, Artificial Intelligence, Software Engineering, Multimodal dialog Interaction.
Daksitha Withanage Don
Background: Daksitha is currently studying masters in Embedded Systems. He worked as Research and Innovation engineer in Sri Lanka. Thereafter, he worked as a Research assitance for Cerence Inc (before Nuance) for two years. Then he joined ACG group in November 2020.
Research Interests: Multimodal Interaction, Machine Learning for Human computer interaction, Advance driver assistance systems (ADAS).
In the group: Working with YALLA platform to develop virtual 3D characters which can virtual interpreters for Sign Language. 

Evelyn Beyer

Background:  B.Sc. in Psychology; Currently pursuing masters in Psychology focusing on industrial & organizational, applied social and clinical psychology. Working as an intern and research assistant in DFKI since 2019 with a short interruption. 
Research Interests: Human-Computer Interaction & Human-Agent Interactions and the effects of emotions and trust. Developing a model for trust in human-agent-interaction, autonomous drive, virtual jobinterview training 
In the group: Examined shame, shame regulation and psychological mindedness in her Bachelor’s Thesis. Assisted in several experiments conducted in the ACG, e.g., on developing a trust model for human-agent-interaction. 


Alexandra Alles
Background:  Master student of Psychology. Working as a research assistant in DFKI since 2017. With a short interruption, she is part of the group since 2018. 
Research Interests: Human-Computer Interaction & Human-Agent Interactions and the effects of emotions and trust. 
In the group: Helping in the research process of empirical studies of the affective computing group.

Manuel S. Anglet

Background: B.Sc. in Computer Science, currently working toward M.Sc. in Computer Science.

Research Interests: Manuel is interested in social interaction, sensors and machine learning.

In the group: Manuel joined 2018, working on the Visual Scene Maker tool and the integration of Social Signal Processing in VSM.

Sebastian Beyrodt

Background: B.A. in Philosophy at the University of Stuttgart. Prior research experience in Research & Development on the topic of Human-Robot Interaction and Human-Computer Interaction between 2018 and 2021. Joined the ACG group in March 2022.

Research Interests: Human-Robot Interaction, Human-Computer Interaction, Relationship between Humans and Technology, Emotions and Affect

In the group: Working as research assistant on the MITHOS and MindBot Project


Leon Christidis

Background: B.Sc. in Psychology, Currently postgraduate in psychology with focus on clinical psychology, applied social psychology and developmental psychology. Prior research experience in experimental neuropsychology and applied statistical modeling. Joined the ACG as research assistant in January 2022.

Research Interests: Psychodynamic theory and therapy, interpersonal problems, synchrony measures, human-computer interaction, mixed effect models

In the group: Primarily working on the UBIDENZ project, data analysis in R for various projects with focus on data wrangling and inferential statistics, tutor for emotion theory and social computing (term 22/23)

Anna Lea Reinwarth

Background: Bachelor student of Psychology. Prior research experience in social psychology. Joined the ACG as a research assistant in October 2021.

Research interests: Synchrony, accessibility of interactive agents, implications of discriminatory biases in deep learning

In the group: Primarily working on the UBIDENZ and MITHOS projects, helping the research process with literature searches (including research on synchrony, attachment style, trust, and working alliance), assisting with conducting experiments, managing the social media accounts of the group. Tutor for emotion theory and social computing (term 22/23)


Lenny Händler

Background: Bachelor Student in Computer Science, joined the ACG group in 2018.

Research Interests: Modeling interactions with computational systems.

In the group: Works on the Visual Scene Maker.

Sarah Hoffmann
Background: B.Sc. in Computer Science, joined the ACG group in 2020.
Research Interests: Human-Computer Interaction, Artificial Intelligence
In the group: Extending the Visual SceneMaker tool
Jessica Lackas
Background: B.Sc. in Computer Science, M.Sc. in Educational Technology, joined the ACG in 2020.
Research Interests: Jessica is interested in how socio-cognitive factors and emotion regulation influence individual, as well as, collaborative learning and performance.
In the group: Working on models of interactions with the aim of inducing a flow state in collaborators.

Matthias Hock

Background: B.Sc. in Computer and Communications Engineering, currently working toward M.Sc. in Computer Science.

Research Interests: Matthias is interested in artificial intelligence and probabilistic modeling, and applications to emotions.

In the group: Matthias has been in the group since 2018, working on various things related to the Visual Scene Maker tool, helping with teaching (seminar, lecture), and whatever else comes up.

Lydia Rupp

Bachelor’s degree in psychology

Passionate literature analyst and conceptual thinker. Assisted in several experiments conducted in the ACG.

Anke Hirsch

Master’s degree in psychology

Examined the impact of room color and light in virtual environments in her Bachelor Thesis. Studied virtual characters and their personality in her Master Thesis. Worked on several experiments conducted in the ACG making use of her experience as amateur actor. 

Alvaro Cepero

Master’s degree in Computer Science

Made virtual characters and robots more social. Worked on Baxter and  Visual SceneMaker.

Zhenqiang Guo

Master’s degree in Computer Science and Communications Engineering

Worked on the interactions between social agents and humans and the StickmanFX and Reeti agents.

Beka Aptsiauri

Bachelor’s degree in computer science

Created 3D version of Stickman and Virtual Reeti.