Bill Swartout: “What Have We Learned From Virtual Humans”

April 14, 2011 | Pittsburgh, PA

Speaker: Bill Swartout
Host: Carnegie Mellon University

For a little over a decade, we have been building virtual humans � computer-generated characters � at the USC Institute for Creative Technologies. In this talk I will outline some of the lessons we have learned from building these characters. Ultimately, our vision is to create virtual humans that look and behave just like real people. They will think on their own, model and exhibit emotions, and interact using natural language along with the full repertoire of verbal and non-verbal communication techniques that people use. Although the realization of that goal is still in the future, making steps toward it has required us to weave together different threads of AI research such as computer vision, natural language understanding and emotion modeling that are often treated as independent areas of investigation. Interestingly, this is not just an exercise in systems integration, but instead has revealed synergies across areas that have allowed us to address problems that are difficult to solve if addressed from one perspective alone. I will illustrate some of these synergies in this talk. I will also discuss the role of story in our work and show how embedding virtual humans in a compelling story or scenario can both make them more feasible to implement and suggest new areas of research. Finally, I will suggest future areas of research in virtual humans and suggest what might be possible in the not too distant future.