Cambridge: Talking Head

Researchers in Cambridge have developed a digital 'talking head' which can express human emotions on demand.

The new system, called Zoe, can recite text while realistically recreating emotions like happiness, anger and fear.

According to the developers at Toshiba's Cambridge Research Lab and the University of Cambridge's Department of Engineering, its the most expressive controllable avatar ever.

The system is light enough to work in mobile phones and users could include smartphone personal assistants or face messages to replace texts.

It works by using a set of fundamental emotions: happy, sad, tender, angry, afraid and neutral. The user can adjust these settings to different levels, as well as altering the pitch, speed and depth of the voice itself. By combining these levels, it is possible to create almost infinite emotional combinations.

Scientists hope the software could soon be adapted to allow people to upload their own faces and voices in a matter of seconds.

If this can be developed, then a user could, for example, text the message "I'm going to be late'' and ask it to set the emotion to "frustrated''. Their friend would then receive a face message that looked like the sender, repeating the message in a frustrated way.

The team is also working with a school for autistic and deaf children to see if Zoe could be used to help pupils read emotions or learn to lip-read.

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