Talking heads: meet Zoe

Talking Heads - Are you ready for emotional robots?

I used to love the band Talking Heads, they produced some great classics such as "And she was,"  "Road to nowhere" and "Once in a lifetime."

And now ready or not, there is a new type of talking head, fresh from Cambridge Research Laboratories.

Introducing Zoe.

You can access the video link here:

Yes Zoe is a prototype, a virtual talking head designed for future potential use as a digital personal assistant or perhaps to replace text messages with face messages.

The researchers have used the face and facial expressions of a real person, a British actress to create a human avatar with the potential to respond to messages with the appropriate human response. She can be angry, sad, happy, afraid or even soothing.

Before you dismiss this as being completely off the planet, the aim is to see if this type of technology could assist children with autism or deafness. It could also be used for online learning courses. You could ultimately be able to sit down and have a conversation with your computer instead of requiring a keyboard or mouse.

The computer-brain interface is undergoing rapid expansion and whilst it can feel a bit scary and futuristic, this is an example of how our future brain will be able to work with technology gainfully, especially in those situations where human to human contact is either not available or accessible.

One part of me though does harbour some concern, as I believe it is our ability to connect with other human beings that has allowed us and continues to be essential to fully develop our social intelligence skills. Skills that include empathy, trust and relatedness.

No matter how realistic a robot or avatar, give me a real, warm-blooded human being to interact with any day.

Technology provides us with unimaginable opportunity and possibility, which is great, so long as it doesn't diminish who we are as individuals, capable of responding, interacting and learning from others.

Do you see a place in your world for human avatars?

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Until next time,

Jenny