Can direct address affect user engagement with chatbots embodied in physical spaces?
This paper investigates how direct addressing the user, such as using a vocative, affects the user experience with chatbots embodied in an interactive space context. Direct addressing increases user engagement in presentations and in performing arts, and we investigated its use in an artwork where visitors ask questions to three chatbots using interactive text projected on a table surface. The study comprised two versions of the system; the first was neutral while the second employed direct address in the answers from the chatbots. We logged 1188 interaction sessions with the exhibit and conducted observational studies and semi-structured interviews with 92 visitors in the wild. The analysis of the visitor's interactions showed that direct address had almost no direct effect on user engagement regarding what kind of questions were asked. The field study brought richer perspectives on how visitors interact with chatbots and their reported experiences with the two versions. Based on our findings we provide general recommendations for the design of chatbots in public spaces.