University of Twente Student Theses


Virtual Architects: An exploratory field study into the acceptance of Virtual Agents in an Architecture Startup

Schwieren, Julian (2023) Virtual Architects: An exploratory field study into the acceptance of Virtual Agents in an Architecture Startup.

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Abstract:Artificial intelligence (AI) transforms the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry. To ensure employees accept AI, it can be merged with virtual agents (VAs). However, current literature lacks research on VA acceptance in workplaces, the combination of social psychological with contextual factors, and using exploratory approaches. Therefore, the present study combines all three. The research addresses how an acceptable VA in the AEC industry should behave and look while shedding light on how management and colleagues influence employees' acceptance of the technology. During semi-structured interviews, 21 employees of an architecture start-up discussed the research questions. On that occasion, data on socio-demographics, experiences, and opinions on VAs were collected. The participants were mainly acknowledged and aspiring architects or owned a thematically related degree. The data were analyzed through qualitative content analysis. Participants demand that the VA is verbally fluent, speaks precisely, and is a polyglot. Human-like traits should be minimized except those necessary for communication, such as a human-like voice. Especially in AEC, VAs should be able to display and allow for interaction with architectural models. Also, an embodiment provides low value in a task-related context. Additionally, management should provide training and foster an organizational culture that allows for honesty and like-mindedness to facilitate the acceptance of VAs. The study shows that participants view VAs as tools, not colleagues. To be accepted, the technology’s design must align. In addition, the VA’s acceptance is influenced by the organizational culture, which is built by management and colleagues. Future research must validate the findings, for instance, by clarifying which design implications are decisive over others. Also, the interplay of the acceptance object and -context must be investigated.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:05 communication studies
Programme:Communication Studies MSc (60713)
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