1. ITV Report

Replacing the text message: Researchers develop 'face messaging

Zoe the talking head Photo: Cambridge University

Cambridge University has unveiled a virtual “talking head” which can express a full range of human emotions.

The life-like face displays emotions such as happiness, anger and fear changing its voice to reflect an individual's feelings.

The grid for Zoe the talking head to be mapped on Credit: Cambridge University

The system can convert written text into voice and a facial expression and in the future researchers hope it will be personalised to use an individual's own face and voice.

Using the face of actress Zoe Lister, researchers at Toshiba’s Cambridge Research Lab and the University of Cambridge’s Department of Engineering expect that texting will eventually be replaced by “face messaging.”

Researchers say that the technology is not data heavy and will be able to work on mobile devices. The program used to run the software is just 10 megabytes in size and can easily be incorporated into tablets and smartphones.

They hope that a user will, for example, be able to send a message saying “I’m going to be late” and set the emotion to be frustrated. The recipient would then see their friend’s face repeating the message in a frustrated way.

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. It took us days to create Zoe, because we had to start from scratch and teach the system to understand language and expression. Now that it already understands those things, it shouldn’t be too hard to transfer the same blueprint to a different voice and face.

– Professor Roberto Cipolla, from the University of Cambridge

The researchers are now working on creating a version of the system which can be personalised by users themselves.