When envisioning the future, some believe that our mechanized helpers will come in the form of humanoid robots, but the truth is that most of us will likely use anthropomorphized digital assistants that live in the cloud and follow us everywhere. Now, researchers have taken us a lot closer to that reality with the creation of an avatar that can speak realistically with a full range of simulated emotions.
Developed by the Cambridge Research Lab and the University of Cambridge's Department of Engineering, Zoe is an avatar that can be used to speak text messages, ushering in what may come to be known as "face messaging." Zoe's face can mimic real emotions to match the nature of the text, including rising and falling intonations that add an emotive quality to otherwise plain, unembellished text messages.
Included in Zoe's emotion menu are: happy, sad, tender, angry, afraid and neutral, all adjustable to varying degrees of intensity. The researchers point out that Zoe is just the first iteration of the technology and that future versions of the framework will allow users to upload their own faces to be used as talking avatars.
In an interview on the university's website, Professor Roberto Cipolla said, "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." You can see Zoe in action in the video below.