A grant has been attributed to the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Central Florida in Orlando to create realistic avatars of historical figures that could hold a conversation. From Newswise :
(…) UIC will focus on the computer graphics and interaction while UCF will concentrate on artificial intelligence and natural language processing software.
“The goal is to combine artificial intelligence with the latest advanced graphics and video game-type technology to enable us to create historical archives of people beyond what can be achieved using traditional technologies such as text, audio and video footage,” said Jason Leigh, associate professor of computer science and director of UIC’s Electronic Visualization Laboratory. Leigh is UIC’s lead principal investigator.
EVL will build a state-of-the-art motion-capture studio to digitalize the image and movement of real people who will go on to live a virtual eternity in virtual reality. Knowledge will be archived into databases. Voices will be analyzed to create synthesized but natural-sounding “virtual” voices. Mannerisms will be studied and used in creating the 3-D virtual forms, known technically as avatars.
Leigh said his team hopes to create virtual people who respond with a high degree of recognition to different voices and the various ways questions are phrased.
“Imagine a computer smart enough to have the avatar respond ‘Do you understand what I’m saying?’ in the natural way humans communicate with each other,” said Leigh. “We’re trying to tip towards being as naturalistic as possible.”
The project’s test subject will be a senior NSF program manager known for his wealth of institutional knowledge. A UIC graduate student will shadow this official for several months making video and voice recordings. His presence will be digitally reconstructed and interviews used to glean his institutional insights will be stored in the information database. It will allow NSF personnel to consult his virtual counterpart whenever they want to tap his institutional wisdom. (…)
Although I’m a bit skeptical, I’m curious to see what results they will achieve. I don’t think those smart people speak lightly, so let’s wait!
You can check Jason Leigh’s projects and papers.