Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

It makes sense to communicate with computers

27.01.2005


The art of communication becomes a science when dealing with computers. Laying the foundations for future research in human-computer interactions, PF-STAR’s speech and gesture databases, and virtual agents open up new approaches to machine-based communications.



Completed in September 2004, the IST project PF-STAR aimed to lay the foundations for future research efforts in Multilingual and Multisensorial Communication, or MMC for short. Over the project’s two-year term, researchers worked to develop a range of advanced technological baselines, comparative speech and non-verbal communication evaluations, as well as an assessment of the prospects in some key areas of technology.

Machines that can communicate like human beings?


Project coordinator Fabio Pianesi of the Istituto Trentino di Cultura in Italy explains MMC as follows, “It’s the kind of technology that you need if you want to communicate with the same facility to both the PC and other human beings. The PC needs to be capable of interpreting and reproducing your gestures and facial expressions, as well as the emotion expressed in your speech, in the same way as humans do.”

Interpreting such subtle visual and aural cues, as well as the meaning of the spoken word, is a highly complex business. Facial expression, gesture, and even variations in pitch and tone of the voice all play their part in the way human beings interact. We use and respond to such subtle elements of human communication in our day-to-day lives almost without being aware of it, since our training in such communication develops from birth.

The challenge for the researchers is how to get a machine to interpret and reproduce such communication subtleties. Linguists have for many years reckoned the task to be near impossible given the number of channels and the complexity of signals involved. However PF-STAR’s work has provided a promising foundation on which future research can develop.

Virtual agents for intelligent interaction

The project partners in PF-STAR have built on several years of research within a variety of national and international projects, most notably NESPOLE!, C-STAR, Verbmobil and SmartKom. In PF-STAR, work focused on three key technological areas: speech-to-speech translation, the detection and expression of emotional states in both verbal and non-verbal channels, and core speech technologies for children. The partners also worked in five languages: English, German, Italian, Spanish and Swedish.

Two project partners, the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm and the Istituto Trentino di Cultura, hired professional actors at the start of the project to study how speech tone and facial expressions changed while expressing emotions. This data was then fed into the project databases, which led to the development of a series of on-screen facial images, or ‘talking heads’, that offered a machine-based visual alternative to the human face.

These on-screen talking heads, which could be either 2D or 3D facial images, are designed to act as ‘virtual agents’ that can interact intelligently with human beings, other agents or, depending on their level of autonomy, the environment around them. Such virtual agents are believed to have a huge potential for future man/machine communication, in applications from teaching through helpdesks to entertainment.

The project has also allowed for variations in facial expression resulting from cultural differences, says Pianesi. “We should not forget that the expression of emotion is culturally dependent. We had to adapt the expressions on the talking heads to the language concerned, to see how our hypotheses work in the different countries.”

Speech technologies for children were a key area of research for the participants. Error rates for machine-based translation of children’s speech are believed to be some 100 per cent greater than for adults. To help improve such recognition rates, the partners used on-screen virtual agents based on children’s faces rather than on those of adults.

Strong foundation for future research

PF-STAR has laid strong foundations for further research into MMC, says Pianesi. “Two years ago there were no real databases available covering children’s speech, for example. Now we have such speech databases, as well as visual and gesture databases, that we are making available to partners and others.”

The project has also produced several new approaches to machine-based communication. The virtual agents for example are capable of reproducing the emotions expressed, either verbally or as facial expressions, along with the semantics of the message. They can be set to use either both channels (i.e. verbal and non-verbal), or only one.

And the results are more than just data, stresses Pianesi. Since August 2004 the project has made available the databases, the platform and the software for constructing virtual agents, as well as the code to enable further development to be carried out.

Development continues

While PF-STAR is now complete, the project partners are maintaining their development work in the basic technology of machine-based translation. As well as further improving the virtual agents, they are continuing to distribute the technology to client organisations to gain vital feedback on its use. Some of the partners have also commenced within the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) a project called TC-STAR, a six-year project focused on exploring and evaluating new approaches to machine-based translation, and for creating the infrastructure needed for accelerating the rate of progress in the field.

The area of children’s speech remains of particular interest, says Pianesi. “How can we develop interfaces for instruction, for entertainment and so on, that are suitable for children? How can we produce suitable outputs for children?” Certain partners have come together within another FP6 project, CHIL, to further research children’s communication in schools.

Tara Morris | alfa
Further information:
http://istresults.cordis.lu/

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht Deep Learning predicts hematopoietic stem cell development
21.02.2017 | Helmholtz Zentrum München - Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Gesundheit und Umwelt

nachricht Sensors embedded in sports equipment could provide real-time analytics to your smartphone
16.02.2017 | University of Illinois College of Engineering

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

From rocks in Colorado, evidence of a 'chaotic solar system'

23.02.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

'Quartz' crystals at the Earth's core power its magnetic field

23.02.2017 | Earth Sciences

Antimicrobial substances identified in Komodo dragon blood

23.02.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>