Talking heads: The future of SMS?

The future of SMS may have been revealed as Cambridge scientists demonstrate a new ‘virtual assistant’, similar to those seen in sci-fi movies.    

The virtual talking head, called ‘Zoe’, can express human emotions such as happiness anger and fear and can recite text with staggering accuracy. Zoe’s creators says that she is the most expressive controllable avatar ever created.  

Developed by the University of Cambridge’s Department of Engineering and Toshiba, scientists hope that the software could eventually allow users to upload faces of their choosing in a matter of seconds.  

Professor Roberto Cipolla who worked on the project, said that the program was light enough to work on standard smartphones and so could usher in a new era of interactivity, where ‘face messages’ replace the standard SMS service. 

Cipolla explained that in the future people would be able to send a ‘frustrated’ message saying they were going to be late and the recipient would receive a ‘face message’ which would convey it in a frustrated way. reported that Cambridge students say ‘Zoe’ is very similar to ‘Holly’, the talking computer on the cult show, ‘Red Dwarf’. However, the face is actually based on Zoe Lister, an actress who plays Zoe Carpenter in Hollyoaks.

“In the future, we will be able to open up computing to far more people if they can speak and gesture to machines in a more natural way,” said Cipolla.