'Virtual head' could become personal assistant of future



London: A virtual "talking head" called Zoe expresses a range of human emotions and could one day be used as a personal assistant, scientists have claimed.

The disembodied head generates voice and facial expression from typed text but could be used as a digital personal assistant similar to Holly, the computer on the sci-fi comedy 'Red Dwarf'.

The head is so lifelike that it is being used to teach children suffering from autism to recognise emotion and deaf children to lip-read.

Professor Roberto Cipolla, an engineer at Cambridge University , said that this technology could be the start of a whole new generation of interfaces which make interacting with a computer much more like talking to another human being.

The face is that of ' Hollyoaks' actress Zoe Lister, whose speech and facial expressions were recorded by researchers over several days, and then the face was super-imposed over a computer generated template.

In the future, it will be possible for all the users to upload their own faces and voices to create a personal digital assistant on their smartphone.

Zoe's voice has six basic settings - happy, sad, tender, angry, afraid and neutral and users can adjust the settings to different levels, as well as changing the pitch, speed and depth of the voice itself.

ANI