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Teaching Video Game Characters Natural Body Language

August 9, 2012 | William Zimmerman

Video game characters with natural responses to human body language

Researchers at Goldsmiths, University of London have been using theatre performers to design computer software capable of reading and replicating the way in which humans communicate with their bodies.

Dr Marco Gillies from the Department of Computing has made virtual characters more believable by enlisting actors to teach them body movement. The actors interact with members of the public through a screen, and their responses to specific body language are memorised as algorithms by the software.

"Two people can take on the roles of the video game character and the player, showing how the character should respond by acting out the movements themselves," explained Dr Gillies. "The software enables video games characters to move in a more natural way, responding to the player's own body language rather than mathematical rules."

Traditionally, the creators of interactive characters are computer programmers, but Dr Gillies and his team puts this task in the hands of people with artistic rather than technical knowledge.

"Our hypothesis is that the actors' artistic understanding of human behaviour will bring an individuality, subtlety and nuance to the character that it would be difficult to create in hand authored models," said Dr Gillies. "These are the kinds of everyday movements, that we do unconsciously, which make them hard to program in the conventional way."

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