Peter Plantec has come one step closer to mastering artificial intelligence. His book, Virtual Humans: Creating the Illusion of Personality (AMACOM; $34.95), is the leader in commercially marketed virtual human design. Ideal for graphic designers, scientific researchers, students, or tech geeks, this guide is accompanied by a CD-ROM that allows you to build your own virtual character, or V-person, from scratch. The author lets you make a reality out of what we called science fiction decades ago. The key to creating a V-person, Plantec says, is not to build artificial intelligence, but to fake real intelligence. His thorough handbook and user-friendly software make it possible for anyone to be part of a science that was once exclusive. Setting up the software requires the download of Microsoft Agent technology, which is available for free online at www.msagentring.org/setup. The software is compatible with most Windows operating systems and takes minutes to install and run.
Each chapter of Plantec’s book takes you through the process of creating your ideal V-person. Step-by-step instructions on how to manipulate facial features and personality functions are combined with background information on the theory at the core of artificial intelligenceâ€“consciousness, quantum theory, and biometrics being just a few examples. The complementary software is really where the fun begins. Using a rule generator that produces the character’s specifications, you can create a number of visual expressions and diverse brain functions in your V-person. The script editor allows you to adjust the specifications and chat with your V-person. Based on your input in the rule generator, you and your V-person can have a real, “unscripted” conversation. In addition, you can give voice to your characters by using the voice and speech recognition module.
Because the functions of V-people are so versatile, they can be used for education and exploration in the lab, classroom, office, or home. So whether it’s going to be for a new business venture or just a hobby, Virtual Humans is a fun (and only slightly creepy) way to explore personality in technology.