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    Sunday, February 19, 2006

    An “engine” to generate social behavior?

    A game designer presents his work on a computer engine that automates an assortment of nonverbal expressions.
    The goal: to help soldiers learn unfamiliar languages by interacting with animated characters.
    A set of commands orchestrates a range of nonverbal expressions used for characters in "Social Puppet." On the screen, computer-generated characters shrug, wink, nod, wave or cross their arms as they follow one’s every move with an attentive gaze. Meanwhile, a USC-developed system module called “Social Puppet” is pulling the strings. Once a given character is designed, a simple set of standard commands orchestrates a whole range of nonverbal expressions. The same commands work for any other character in the game.
    “Human communication is only partly verbal,” said Hannes Högni Vilhjálmsson of the USC Information Sciences Institute, who designed the game. He calls the software an “engine” to generate visual social behavior, and will present it at the AAAS annual meeting in St. Louis Feb. 16-20.

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