Interactive Public Service Advertisement

Interactive public service advertisement (PSA) aims to increase the impact of PSA by converting it into an embodied experience. It maps the audience’s body movement to that of a virtual character in PSA, increasing the effect of empathy toward the public issue and the subject.

The project is a master thesis project at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology.

PROJECT Timeline

Jan – June 2019


Social Change
Media Art


Qualitative Research · Analysis
PSA Scenario Design


Unity Kinect SDK
Adobe Fuse

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link to the thesis

Research Glimpse

“Current PSAs leaves audience as a third party – never enough for people to empathize on certain issues.” 

Research Background

Current PSA

Interacitve Public Service Advertisement

The advent of PSAs using new forms of digital media bring engagement of passersby beyond conventional media

Research Gap

Third-Person Point of View

Current practices were insufficient to cross the border where participants remained to be unconnected to the situation and the character.

Design Approach

“Put Oneself In Someone’s Shoes”

First-Person Point of View

Meddling the situation in the character’s point of view gives an indirect empathic relationship

Vala, Sequeira, Paiva, & Aylett (2007). FearNot! demo: A virtual environment with synthetic characters to help bullying

Embodied Interaction

Mapping participant’s body movement on to virtual character’s movement increases virtual body ownership illusion

Kilteni, K., Bergstrom, I., & Slater, M. (2013). Drumming in immersive virtual reality: The body shapes the way we play

Narrative Experience

A narrative storyline can also pave the way for further cognitive impact

Hand, S., & Varan, D. (2009). Interactive Stories and the Audience : Why Empathy is Important

Research Questions

Will mapping the body movement of the participant on the character of the PSA show the impact on cognition, empathy, sympathy, and perceived seriousness, and behavior of the participant?
Will the different embodiment levels from subtle, medium to strong, bring change in cognition and behavior?
Will characteristics of certain PSA topics or characters appearing in PSA influence the participant’s experience?
What will be the design considerations for designing an embodied interactive PSA?

Design Process

Co-design Workshop


To explore how people react and embody themselves to the character of the PSA


Three groups of interaction designers

  1. Introductin (15 min)

  2. Ideation on interactive PSA scenario on child abuse issue (25 min)

  3. Focus Group Interview (20 min)

materials provided
  • Reference video

  • Public posters

  • Virtual girl that participants can embody themselves in


Character’s Posture

The character’s posture should be upright, resembling the posture of the passersby.

Restrictions on Chracter’s Movement

Intended restriction of the characters’ movements may symbolize enervation giving dumpishness to the audience.

PSA Design

Three PSAs are designed each addressing issues of child domestic abuse, passive smoking, and animal cosmetic testing.
It is created referring to the following research – 1) the guideline addressed in PSA theory 2) analyzed result of the co-design workshop, (3) flow patterns, appearing elements, and stimulus of the previous PSA films. The initial PSAs design was iterated based on findings from the pilot test 1 and 2.

“The pain lasts a lifetime.
Help stop domestic child abuse”

“You smoke, they also smoke. Secondhand smokers are on the worst side of the cigarette”

“All life matters. Fight against cosmetic testing”

Embodiment Level Manipulation


“Different levels of embodiment, from subtle to strong mirroring, may induce distinctive effects” 

Embodiment level is manipulated to investigate the hypothesis above, which is derived from the co-design workshop. For instance, the limited movement of the character may give an oppressive feeling to the participant.

The three different levels of embodiment – 10, 60, and, 100 percent – were applied by altering the interpolation value in the script of Kinect Avatar Detection.
The code Quaternion. Lerp() calculates spherical interpolation value between the start and target rotation.

Non-interactive PSA

Overview of controlled, non-interactive, PSA shown to participants

Strong embodiment

Strong embodiment synchronously maps participant’s movement to that of the character

Medium embodiment

Medium embodiments limits the character’s movement

Subtle embodiment

Subtle movement strongly constrains the movement of the character

User Test

To answer research questions and observe how experience affects audiences, a usability test with 36 participants was conducted.
The test setup was controlled to give participants a feeling of being in a public space and the moderator stood behind the blocking wall to observe both qualitative and quantitative data.

* Warnings on the sensitive and pungent contents were notified in the process of recruitment.

TEST procedure
  1. Introduction on the test

  2. PSA experience 1 with followed up survey

  3. PSA experience 2 with followed up survey

  4. PSA experience 3 with followed up survey

  5. One to one interview (10 minutues)

Overview of the test setting

Research Implications

Impact on Empathy

Embodiment increases empathy on the character and the issue.
However, the effect depends on the participant’s previous experience.
The self-experienced issue such as second-hand smoking hinders participants to understand the character as oneself.

Non-playful interactive experience

The serious atmosphere and moral consideration limited some audiences from making body movements, which made it difficult for them to realize their mapping to the character. A content-wise uncomfortable trigger is needed to motivate the natural movement of the audience.

Effect of human and non-humanoid character on embodied interaction

The participants tended to accept the animal’s appearance and movement as it is. On the other hand, people often showed hesitation toward the human character, pointing out their rendered style, race, and gender.

Impact of different level of embodiment

The participants interpreted the character’s limited movement in the medium embodiment as a result of oppression or injury from the tragic event. 
However, giving too much limitation leads to disappointment and irritation on user’s experience. 

Characteristic of PSA topic affects the design approaches

Increasing empathy toward the context and the character may affect the expansion of the effect on empathy

Design consideration of using subtle embodiment and its impact

Interactivity is a double-edged sword

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