CONF: "Virtual Humans," Anaheim, June 19-20 - REGISTER NOW!

From:         "Dr. Robert \"Bob\" Jacobson" <>
Organization: Worldesign Inc., Seattle - Information Design []
Date:         01 Jun 96 16:32:39 
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-> DR. SANDRA KAY HELSEL, VR NEWS, SAN@WELL.COM, 520-887-4485, -3267 FAX

Virtual Humans Conference
19/20 June, Hyatt Regency Alicante, Anaheim


Two powerful forces are combining to open up the Virtual Humans
marketplace. The first is the accelerating and tangible market interest now
evident in all forms of Virtual Reality. The hype and the hope are at last
giving way to solid commercial activity. Right across the board, from
commercial training to entertainment systems, and from virtual engineering
to heritage reconstructions, the market is maturing and growing, and
multi-million dollar contract awards are no longer a rarity.

The second, inevitably, is the Internet. Around a half-dozen on-line 3D
communities are up and running, complete with their first-generation
avatars. In a few years time there will be hundreds, and then thousands -
social, cultural, commercial meeting places, visited daily by millions of

What is crystal clear is that these virtual environments need to have
virtual people in them. On-line social and games communities are designed
specifically for that purpose. Virtual cars, aircraft, houses, retail
stores and factories are not just for looking at - they will be used by
real people when they are built, and they too need virtual humans, to check
out their accessibility and convenience, maintainability and safety.
Virtual shopping malls will have sales 'bots; historical reconstructions
will have guides, sometimes taking the form of contemporary inhabitants;
virtual fashion shows will have mannequins; virtual learning environments
will have virtual teachers, demonstrators, and difficult customers.

Until recently, there was no virtual humans marketplace to speak of: just a
few pioneering research groups - notably Prof. Badler's team at the
University of Pennsylvania, and the Thalmanns in Switzerland - a handful of
products, and a few significant projects each year. There is now an
unmistakeable undercurrent of change, and of new interest. The leading VR
software companies are building or licensing human modeling extensions;
performance animation is becoming commonplace at marketing events, and is
moving strongly into the TV and virtual studio field; standards discussions
are under way in relation to humanoids for ergonomic testing.

More important still is that the graphics and computational power necessary
to support real-time virtual humans is starting to become affordably
available. Silicon Graphics's InfiniteReality raised the performance
threshold dramatically earlier this year, and all the trends suggest that
comparable power will be on the desktop within two to three years.

Virtual Humans '96 is the first event of its kind. It brings together
leading researchers and practitioners from a wide range of disciplines, all
with a common interest in the development of humanoid technologies of one
kind or another. The audience for the conference will similarly comprise
people with widely differing backgrounds - creative arts professionals,
industrial designers, ergonomics and human factors specialists, academic
researchers, anthropologists and sociologists, aerospace and military
simulation experts, entertainment industry representatives.

At the conference they will encounter many different types of humanoid -
both autonomous and human-controlled - with differing levels of capability.
In terms of appearance, motion, behavior, intelligence, communication and
control, they will see just about the best there is, anywhere in the world.
Importantly, delegates and speakers  will also meet each other: contacts
and cross-fertilization are crucial by-products of events such as this.

And they will be present at the public launch of what will surely become a
huge new global industry and marketplace, and one which may eventually have
implications for real humans which we cannot yet guess.

Moderator - Prof. Nadia Thalmann

8.00 am - 9.10 am: Registration

9.10 am - 9.15 am
Welcome and Opening Remarks
Dr Sandra K. Helsel, VR NEWS

9.15 am - 9.45 am
Keynote Address

9.45 am - 10.45 am
In Pursuit of Realism
Prof. Nadia Magnenat Thalmann
MIRALAB-CUI, University of Geneva

Prof. Nadia Thalmann has pioneered European research into Virtual Humans
for over 15 years, and enjoys an outstanding international reputation both
for her spectacular state-of-the-art demonstrations, and for the rigorous
and intensive academic research programs which make them possible. One of
her most celebrated projects was the creation of a lifelike real-time 3D
computer graphics articulated model of Marilyn Monroe. The current focus of
her work is the development of realistic virtual humans with
characteristics such as emotions, clothes and hair. Prof. Thalmann will
demonstrate examples of her latest work, created using the newly-released
MARILYN software, provide some insights into how she sees the applications
and capabilities of Virtual Humans developing in the near term, and discuss
the principal technical barriers which future research programs must

10.45 am - 11.15 am: Refreshment Break

11.15 am - 12.15 pm
The State of the Art
Prof. Norman Badler
Center for Human Modeling and Simulation, University of Pennsylvania

Prof. Badler has been engaged for something over 20 years in human body
modeling and simulation. Much of his work at the University of Pennsylvania
has centered on the Jack software, widely regarded as the world's most
advanced and versatile commercially-available human modeling system. Jack's
capabilities include complex articulated motion, with balance-aware motion
modification; collision avoidance; gesture and facial expressions;
goal-based tasking; natural language processing, and many other features.
It is used for a wide range of applications, including industrial ergonomic
testing, military simulation and training, and human factors research. In
his presentation, Prof Badler will demonstrate an advanced version of Jack,
discuss some of its most effective applications, and look ahead to what
further developments and applications are likely over the nextcouple of

12.15 pm - 1.45 pm: Lunch Break


1.45 pm - 2.30 pm
Human Modeling for Animation
Chris Landreth
Alias/Wavefront Inc.

Chris Landreth is one of the world's leading animation professionals. He
specializes in detailed and accurate human modeling, and was recently
nominated for an academy award for his work on 'the end', a short animation
film produced by Alias/Wavefront  The animation software industry has
already solved many of the graphical presentation problems which real-time
modelers will need to address, in areas such as face, hair and clothes
simulation. Chris will demonstrate some of his work in this field,
focussing on the advanced facial and body animation work which made 'the
end' possible.

2.30 pm - 3.15pm
Real-Time Human Animation
Marc Raibert
Boston Dynamics Inc.

Marc Raibert, founder of Boston Dynamics, was formerly Professor of
Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT.  In previous work, he
developed laboratory robots that used control systems for balance and to
coordinate their motions.  These robots had legs on which they ran, jumped,
traveled on simple paths, ran fast (13 mph), climbed a simple stairway, and
did simple gymnastic maneuvers. Raibert's approach to automated computer
characters is to adapt control systems from robotics, and to combine them
with physics-based simulation, to allow the creatures to move with physical
realism, without an animator specifying all the details. Boston Dynamics
creates automated computer characters and engineering simulations for
things that move. Marc Raibert will explain his company's approach to the
simulation of realistic human motion, and demonstrate some of their latest

3.15pm - 3.45 pm: Refreshment Break

3.45 pm - 4.30 pm
Virtual Theater
David Morin

By synchronizing a real-time 3D computer environment to a real world camera
you can create a Virtual Theater, whose sets can be populated with a
mixture of real people and virtual characters. Live actors can be
positioned between layers of computer-generated 3D background, where they
can interact with virtual actors. David Morin, Special Projects Director,
will demonstrate the capabilities of the SOFTIMAGE Microsoft Virtual
Theater software technology, and discuss some of its applications, which
include virtual studios, 3-D game simulations, virtual reality for
location-based entertainment, fast previews for post-production special
effects, and previsualization and walk-throughs for engineering and

4.30 pm - 5.15pm
High-Level Control of Human Motion
Prof. Jessica Hodgins
Georgia Institute of Technology

Computer animations and virtual environments both require a source of
motion for their characters.  Prof. Hodgins's group is exploring one
possible solution to this problem: applying high-level control algorithms
to physically realistic models of the systems to be animated.  The goal is
to allow the animator to control the system at a high level and without an
understanding of the underlying forces and torques or the motion of the
individual joints. Her current research focuses on the control of dynamic
physical systems, both natural and human-made, and explores techniques that
may someday allow robots and animated creatures to plan and control their
actions in complex and unpredictable environments. She will explain the
basis of control systems that allow rigid body models of humans to run or
bicycle at a variety of speeds, bounce on a trampoline, and perform
handspring vaults and platform dives.

5.15pm - 6.00 pm
Jeff Kleiser
Kleiser/Walczak Construction Co.

Jeff Kleiser's and Diana Walczak's background and credits in the computer
animation and special effects fields range from 'Tron' and 'Flight of the
Navigator', via 'Stargate', to 'Clear and Present Danger' and 'Honey I
Shrunk the Theater'. Their ground-breaking human animation work on 'Judge
Dredd' , based around a 3D full body scan of Sylvester Stallone, received
international acclaim, and is an example of the 'synthespian' concept,
created (and trademarked) by Kleiser/Walczak in the late 1980's. The
company recently opened Synthespian Studios, a production facility designed
specifically to create computer-generated characters. Jeff Kleiser lectures
widely on the subject of computer animation, to both academic and
commercial audiences. In his presentation, he will show examples of some
recent work, and discuss the implications of introducing synthespians into
real-time virtual environments.

Moderator: Prof. Norman Badler

9.00 am - 9.45 am
Julia, the Chatterbot
Michael Mauldin
Carnegie Mellon University

Julia operates in a text-only virtual world called a MUD (Multi-User
Domain). She is a robot user, with the ability to conduct apparently
intelligent conversations with human users, many of whom are unaware that
she is not human. Developed over a period of five years by Michael Mauldin,
who will demonstrate her capabilities, she is currently the most advanced
example of what were originally called Maas-Neotek robots, from William
Gibson's book 'Neuromancer'. Julia analyses the structure and meaning and
context of what is said to her, distinguishes between comments, questions,
etc., accesses an encyclopedic database of response components, and
assembles plausible conversational English responses, employing humor,
sarcasm, politeness, impatience, and diplomacy, as appropriate.

9.45 am - 10.30 am
Multimodal Interaction with Humanoid Characters
Kristinn Thorisson
MIT Media Lab

When people talk to each other they generally use a wealth of gesture,
speech, gaze and facial expressions to communicate the intended content.
Complex information is combined in a concise manner and representational
styles are chosen in real-time as the conversation unfolds. Kris Thorisson
has been a researcher at the MIT Media Lab since 1990. His recent work
centers on humanoid interface agents, and in particular on capturing
elements that are critical to multimodal dialogue between a real and a
virtual human. Techniques such as eye tracking, speech recognition, etc.
are used to generate responses, including speech and gesture, from the
virtual human in real-time. His system is called 'Ymir', and he will
demonstrate its capabilities using a virtual human called 'Gandalf'.

10.30 am -11.00 am: Refreshment Break

11.00 am - 11.45 am
Modeling Perceptive Virtual Humans with MARILYN
Prof Daniel Thalmann
Swiss Federal Institute of Technology

MARILYN is a powerful and versatile virtual human simulation system. It was
developed during a five-year project funded by the European Union, and has
now been released commercially. It includes facial animation, body
animation with deformations, grasping and walking, and hair and clothes
simulation. It also supports autonomy and perception, and can be used to
create simulations in which virtual humans move around in complex
environments they may know and recognize, and in which they can for example
play ball games based on their visual and tactile perception, and react to
other virtual humans, and to real humans. Prof. Thalmann will speak on the
subject of autonomous and perceptive virtual humans, and will demonstrate
some of the work which has been carried out using the MARILYN software.

11.45 am - 12.30 pm
Synthetic Digital Societies
Prof. Paul Rosenbloom
University of Southern California

Prof. Rosenbloom's AI research activities include responsibility for the
Soar Project at USC. Soar has been under development since 1983, and is a
multi-disciplinary, multi-site attempt to build a general cognitive
architecture. A current application is Soar IFOR (Intelligent Forces), the
ultimate intent of which is to develop automated pilots whose behavior in
simulated battlefields is nearly indistinguishable from that of human
pilots. A prototype was deployed with some success in the STOW-E exercise
in 1994, probably the first occasion on which an AI system was a direct
participant in an operational military exercise. Prof. Rosenbloom will
demonstrate teams of Soar-based automated pilots, and discuss some of the
wide-ranging potential applications - and implications - of autonomous
groups of computer-generated humanoids, capable of pursuing individual and
collective goals, and of learning while they do so.

12.30 pm - 2.00 pm: Lunch Break


2.00 pm - 2.45 pm
Speaking as a Virtual Human . . .
Linda Jacobson
Silicon Graphics Inc.

Linda Jacobson, Silicon Graphics's 'Virtual Reality Evangelist', has for
some years also been a leading figure in the field of performance
animation. This typically involves a human performer, equipped with
anything from a face tracker to a full body motion capture system,
controlling in real-time the movement, gestures and speech of a
computer-generated graphical creature. Performance animation has been
widely used at marketing events, entertainment venues, and in TV shows.
With the advent of avatar worlds on the Internet, a wide range of
performance animation skills is likely to be required, by professional
hosts and performers, and both active and passive visitors and

Ms Jacobson has gained extensive understanding of the physical,
intellectual and creative demands placed on the human performer, and will
offer some insights into her experiences, and guidance for future designers
and users of these systems.

2.45 pm - 3.30 pm
Avatars on the 'Net
Paragraph International

Avatars for on-line Internet communities have to be designed to operate
within very tight processing and network bandwidth constraints. The
widespread adoption of VRML and Java will further define the boundaries of
achievable avatar appearance, motion and behavior. At the same time
however, avatars on the net are expected to constitute the vast majority of
the world's virtual humans, and considerable ingenuity will be applied to
maximising performance within these constraints.

Mitra was the principal architect of the avatar worlds developed by Worlds
Inc. and of VRML+, Worlds Inc's VRML superset. He was a respected and
leading contributor to the VRML 2.0 standardisation process, in the course
of which his former company WorldMaker Inc., jointly with Silicon Graphics
and Sony, formulated the Moving Worlds specification. He will discuss and
demonstrate examples of the latest generation of Internet avatars.

3.30 pm - 4.00 pm: Refreshment Break

4.00 pm - 4.45 pm
Avatar Control in Immersive Virtual Reality
Dr Jonathan Waldern
Virtuality Group plc

The Virtuality Group has been the market leader in the field of Virtual
Reality entertainment systems throughout the 1990s. In recent years their
games and experiences have incorporated increasingly versatile autonomous
creatures and avatars. The company's range of activities and developments
has now broadened to include consumer products, including an
Internet-compatible immersive VR system currently under development.

Dr Waldern, co-founder of Virtuality, will preview this system, which
incorporates innovative hardware and software technology for avatar

4.45 pm - 5.30 pm
Panel Discussion
and Closing Remarks