ICT’s Stacy Marsella Predicts a Future with Virtual Humans Indistinguishable from Real People

Published: March 30, 2009
Category: News

LiveScience highlighted research by Stacy Marsella, a research associate professor at ICT.  “I think eventually we’ll be able to convince people that they’re interacting with a human,” Marsella told LiveScience, but he added that he couldn’t predict how long that might take.
Marsella has been helping the U.S. Army develop artificial intelligence that can power virtual training simulations, the story noted. Such virtual characters need to have the right facial expressions and body movements to allow human trainees to feel comfortable interacting with them. “It turns out that, as human beings, we’ve developed these incredible capacities to interact with each other using language and visual, nonverbal behavior,” Marsella said. “Without nonverbal behavior, it doesn’t look good—it looks sick or demented.”
According to the story, creating an AI that can carry on a sophisticated conversation with humans remains difficult. The U.S. Army wants such AI to help train soldiers to deal with complex social situations, such as mediating among tribal elders in Afghanistan.  “Developing a virtual human is the greatest challenge of this century,” said John Parmentola, U.S. Army director for research and laboratory management.
Marsella and other researchers working with Parmentola have even floated the idea of someday testing their AI in online video games, where thousands of human-controlled characters already run around. That would essentially turn games such as “World of Warcraft” into a huge so-called Turing Test that would determine whether human players could tell that they were chatting with AI.
Read the article.