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  What does it take for a virtual actor to become alive?
February 15, 2006

Computing Reviews is pleased to present a new Hot Topic "Autonomous Virtual Characters: Realistic Inhabitants of Artificial Worlds." This is the fourth essay in a new series that can only be read online. Hot Topics essays are written by an expert and focus on an area with potential high impact on computing. Read the Hot Topic.

Written by Nadia Magnenat-Thalmann of the University of Geneva and Daniel Thalmann of EPFL, Switzerland, this essay examines the attributes needed by virtual actors so they can interact with users in dynamic and realistic ways. The authors identify perception, adaptation and intelligence, memory, and emotions as the key elements of a virtual character, who can make autonomous decisions in real time. To realize these properties and create believable characters, more research needs to be done on how to plan behavior, model emotions, and mimic human perception.

Magnenat-Thalmann and Thalmann see the next generation readily interacting with virtual actors, who may take on the roles of playmates, teachers, therapists, and even pets. Because virtual characters will be strong in logic and memory, their skills and abilities will serve to complement those of humans, rather than replace them.

Hot Topics include links to related web pages, articles, and books, and are updated on a regular basis. Computing Reviews is a collaboration between and the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), and can be read daily at

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