April 6, 2010
Sanyoon Lee, a PhD student in the UIC Department of Computer Science and a Research Assistant in the Electronic Visualization Laboratory (EVL), won first place in the 3rd annual UIC Image of Research contest for his creation of a realistic avatar as part of EVL’s “Project LifeLike.”
Lee’s research aims to design and develop a visually compelling digital version of a real human, Dr. Alexander Schwarzkopf, a long-standing program manager at the National Science Foundation (NSF). This representation, or avatar, will serve as an interactive interface to an intelligent decision support system that intelligently responds to user questions about his NSF program via spoken language, with realistic inflection and visual expressions.
While many people are familiar with avatars from movies and video games, the movies can devote hours to render a single image in exquisite detail while video games generate images in real time, but they look cartoonish . However, the LifeLike system renders an avatar fast enough to accommodate real-time interaction as well as produce photorealistic details similar to a real person. The success of this project brings us one step closer to being able to recreate and preserve people – historical figures, sports figures, doctors and nurses, or simply Mom or Dad – in a more natural way than documents or film archives. As Dr. Schwarzkopf exclaimed when he interacted with his avatar earlier this year, “It looks like me!”
Image of Research is an interdisciplinary exhibit competition to showcase the breadth and diversity of research at UIC. The winning and finalist images will be displayed in the lobby of the campus’ Daley Library starting April 15, as well as in the Library of Health Sciences. A selection of the images will be featured on light pole banners around campus.
Click here for the winners of this year’s competition.
Click here for specific information about Lee’s first place entry.
About Project LifeLike
“Project LifeLike” is a collaboration between the Electronic Visualization Laboratory (EVL) and Communications Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and the Intelligent Systems Laboratory (ISL) at the University of Central Florida (UCF), and receives major funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF). UIC and UCF are developing a lifelike avatar of Dr. Alex Schwarzkopf, a recently retired NSF program officer who founded and directed the NSF Industry/University Cooperative Research Center (I/UCRC) program. Even if it were possible to document his wealth of knowledge in volumes of tomes, quickly accessing information would be cumbersome and difficult. Instead, NSF wanted to preserve his legacy by developing a natural-looking computer representation of Alex (an avatar) as a portal to an intelligent decision support system, called AskAlex. This system would have the AlexAvatar intelligently respond to user questions about I/UCRC via spoken language, with realistic inflection and visual expressions. Project website: www.projectlifelike.org
Credit: Project LifeLike visualization by Jason Leigh, Andrew Johnson, Luc Renambot, and Sangyoon Lee, UIC/EVL. Behavioral modeling and evaluation by Steve Jones and Gordon Carlson, UIC Communications Department. Knowledge and speech recognition by Avelino Gonzalez, Ronald DeMara, Victor Hung, JR Hollister and Miguel Elvir, University of Central Florida’s Intelligent Systems Laboratory.