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From Talking Heads to Thinking Heads

Thinking Head Addressing the question 'How can real-time interaction between humans and machines be made significantly more effective?', the Thinking Head team will take current research on Talking Heads into the realm of Thinking Heads, in the process addressing a range of fundamental interdisciplinary issues about verbal-aural communication, the most efficient of human communication systems. The approach is novel in its integration of best-practice Taking Head science and technology with careful analysis and evaluation from the perspective of cognitive science to create a tight feedback loop for Thinking Head development and elaboration; a Research Platform protocol that will be a major research output of the project.

In this project current Talking Head technology will be taken into the realm of a high-fidelity Thinking Head, with implications and applications for basic and applied research. Outcomes will bear on human-machine communication, telecommunications, e-commerce, and mobile phone technology; personalised aids for disabled users, the hearing impaired, the elderly, and children with learning difficulties, foreign language learning; and will facilitate the development of animation in new media, film, and games. In addition to output in scholarly journals, beta-versions of the Head will be made available, and public visibility for the project will be facilitated by the incorporation of high-profile installations and exhibitions.

The Thinking Head incorporates components focussed on dialogue management, speech generation and speech understanding. At the same time the project seeks to move beyond the current engineering orientation to explore the evolution of interactive behaviour and the role of emotion and facial gestures in communication. The ability of the Thinking Head to display/understand emotion/gestures is being explored in association with performance artists and will lead to increased understanding of how to produce realistic animation models for the game and movie industries.

The Talking Head will incorporate and extend the Flinders University Lip Reading and Audio-Visual Speech Recognition technology developed by Prof. David Powers and Dr Trent Lewis, which will be integrated with Auditory Speech Recognition and Speech Synthesis technology from Carnegie Mellon University in partnership with A/Prof. Alan Black and Dr Tanja Schultz at CMU. Flinders is also leading the program in Evolutionary Robotics, building on A/Prof. Powers' Robot Baby and Language Learning research as well as the PhD research of Martin Luerssen on Grammar Evolution. This will seek to evolve improved architectures and develop the adaptability required to deal with changing social, linguistic and environmental conditions.

Associated Projects