Unlike simple instructions or an automatic answering machine, an avatar or virtual person carrying out the tasks as an assistant enables its user to have "more intuitive and natural" communication, states Ms María del Puy Carretero, computer engineer and researcher at the Vicomtech-IK4 centre, who is working on perfecting avatars. In fact, she has recently proposed and validated a series of tools and architecture that enables a virtual person to perform equally on a computer screen, a mobile telephone or a PDA, i.e. its identity and manner of interaction is not affected by changing the device. Based on the work undertaken, Ms Carretero defended her thesis, entitled Multidevice avatars for multimodal interaction at the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU).
Ms Carretero used the markup languages known as ACML (AMD Core Math Library) and VHML (Virtual Human Markup Language) as computer applications in order to determine respectively the appearance and manner of interacting of the avatar. One of the main contributions of the thesis is, precisely, a series of tools proposed by the author for the simple labelling of the avatar using these two languages. Thanks to these tools of the author, it is much easier to specify and edit the appearance and behaviour of the virtual person and facilitate its integration into different applications, in such a way that, on changing the device, its identity is preserved.
Likewise, in her thesis, Ms Carretero designed, proposed and validated a multi-device architecture which thus facilitates the integration of the virtual personage into different devices, having the same appearance and voice and identical behaviour in all of these.
As explained by the researcher in her thesis, integrating this series of applications does not involve great problems for the computer being used. On the contrary, the load for the server is very small, thus facilitating the scalability of the number of users; i.e. this does not seriously affect the quality or fluidity of its activity. Moreover, the interaction between the user and the avatar is immediate. Finally, the proposals measured also open the possibility of interacting with the avatar on a local network instead of online, resulting in great savings Internet traffic data.
About the author
María del Puy Carretero Carrasco (Donostia-San Sebastián, 1980) is a computer engineer. She drew up her PhD thesis under the direction of Mr Alejandro García-Alonso Montoya (Department of Computational Science and Artificial Intelligence at the Faculty of Information Science at the UPV/EHU) and Ms Amalia Ortiz Nicolás (responsible for R+D+i solutions at the Enne Entertainment Studios production company). She is currently a scientific collaborator at the Vicomtech-IK4 centre, where she undertook her PhD thesis.