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Amazingly realistic digital screen characters are finally here
Meet Zoe: a digital talking head. She can express a range of human emotions on demand with "unprecedented realism" and could herald a new era of human-computer interaction, according to researchers at Toshiba's Cambridge Research Lab and the University of Cambridge's Department of Engineering, who created her.
Zoe, or her offspring, could be used as a visible version of Siri, as a personal assistant in smartphones, or to replace mobile phone texting with "face messaging" in which you "face-message" friends.
The lifelike face can display emotions such as happiness, anger, and fear, and changes its voice to suit any feeling the user wants it to simulate. Users can type in any message, specifying the required emotion, and the face recites the text. According to its designers, it is the most expressive controllable avatar ever created, replicating human emotions with unprecedented realism.
To recreate her face and voice, researchers recorded British actress Zoe Lister's speech and facial expressions.
DIY digital assistants
The framework behind "Zoe" could in the near future enable people to upload their own faces and voices to customize and personalize their own emotionally realistic, digital assistants. A user could, for example, text the message "I'm going to be late" and set her emotion to "frustrated." A friend would then receive a "face message" that looked like the sender, repeating the message in a frustrated way.
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