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Modelling Behaviour for Virtual Humans and Social Robots: recent developments and what next?

Dr Nadia Magnenat Thalmann

Over the last 30 years, Nadia Magnenat Thalmann has worked as a pioneer to model and simulate behaviour for Virtual Humans (VHs). First, a lot of effort was done to make them look real, with hair, realistic skin and clothes. Then through interaction with real humans, additional research was necessary to make VHs and social robots acceptable and believable to users. In the early years of the 21st Century,  Professor Thalmann started to conduct research using a very realistic robotic head EVA to model personality, mood, and expressions. Along with her team, she has developed several methods to be able to fully interact with EVA.  More recently, in NTU, Singapore, she and her researchers have worked with a full humanoid robot, Nadine, that bears her likeness. The team has been working on recognition of gestures, emotions, speech, sound and also on fusion models and decision processes to enable reactions which are in line with what is being said and what is socially acceptable. Since a press conference on 29 December 2015 in NTU, Singapore, Nadine has been cited in top journals around the globe and has featured in many TV programs. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nadine_Social_Robot).

In our talk, we would like to present our global research and discuss what is the next step and for what for.

Speaker bio

Professor Thalmann joined NTU in August 2009 as the Director of the Interdisciplinary Institute for Media Innovation. She has authored dozens of books, published more than 600 papers on virtual humans/virtual worlds and social robots (jointly with her PhD students), organised major conferences as CGI, CASA, and delivered more than 300 keynote addresses, some of them at global events such as the World Economic Forum in Davos.

During her illustrious career, she also established MIRALab in Switzerland, a ground-breaking interdisciplinary multimedia research institute. She participated in more than 50 European research projects, helping MIRALab to develop revolutionising interdisciplinary research in computer graphics, computer animation, and virtual worlds, and producing impactful work that synergises art, fashion, computer graphics. Her work is regularly displayed at museums, galleries and fashion shows. Her most recent work includes the 3D virtual patient, including a case study on visualising the articulations of ballerinas while dancing or soccer players.

In NTU, Singapore, recently, she revolutionised social robotics by unveiling the first social robot, Nadine, that can have moods and emotions and remember people and actions. (See google : social Nadine robot).

Besides having bachelor's and master's degrees in disciplines such as psychology, biology, chemistry and computer science, Professor Thalmann completed her PhD in quantum physics at the University of Geneva. She has received honorary doctorates from Leibniz University of Hannover and the University of Ottawa in Canada and several prestigious other awards as the Humboldt Research Award in Germany.

She is Editor-in-Chief of The Visual Computer, co-Editor-in-Chief of Computer Animation and Virtual Worlds, and editor of many other scientific journals. She is a life member of the Swiss Academy of Engineering Sciences.

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