Intelligent virtual agents (IVAs) have been researched for years and recently many of these IVAs have become commercialized and widely used by many individuals as intelligent personal assistants. The majority of these IVAs are anthropomorphic, and many are developed to resemble real humans entirely. However, real humans do not interact only with other humans in the real world, and many benefit from interactions with non-human entities. A prime example is human interactions with animals, such as dogs. Humans and dogs share a historical bond that goes back thousands of years. In the past 30 years, there has been a great deal of research to understand the effects of human-dog interaction, with research findings pointing towards the physical, mental, and social benefits to humans when interacting with dogs. However, limitations such as allergies, stress on dogs, and hygiene issues restrict some needy individuals from receiving such benefits. More recently, advances in augmented and virtual reality technology provide opportunities for realizing virtual dogs and animals, allowing for their three-dimensional presence in the users' real physical environment or while users are immersed in virtual worlds. In this dissertation, I utilize the findings from human-dog interaction research and conduct a systematic literature review on embodied IVAs to define a research scope to understand virtual dogs' social and behavioral influences in augmented and virtual reality. I present the findings of this systematic literature review that informed the creation of the research scope and four human-subjects studies. Through these user studies, I found that virtual dogs bring about a sense of comfort and companionship for users in different contexts. In addition, their responsiveness plays an important role in enhancing users' quality of experience, and they can be effectively utilized as attention guidance mechanisms and social priming stimuli.


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Graduation Date





Welch, Gregory


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Engineering and Computer Science


Computer Science

Degree Program

Computer Science




CFE0008879; DP0026158





Release Date

December 2021

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)

Restricted to the UCF community until December 2021; it will then be open access.