A New Era for Emotion and Communication – Digital, Talking, Emoting Heads

Meet Zoe…

Mar. 19, 2013 — This is Zoe – a digital talking head which can express human emotions on demand with “unprecedented realism” and ushers in a new period of human-computer interaction.

Zoe can express a nearly complete spectrum of human emotions and may be used as a digital personal assistant, or even could help replace texting with “face messaging.”

Whereas texting suffers from a lack of emotionality, Zoe can display emotions such as happiness, anger, and fear, and modifies its voice to suit the emotion the user wants it to communicate. Users can type in any message, specifying the requisite emotion as well, and the face recites the text. According to its designers, it is the most expressive controllable avatar ever created, replicating human emotions with unprecedented realism.

The system, called “Zoe,” is the result of a collaboration between researchers at Toshiba’s Cambridge Research Lab and the University of Cambridge’s Department of Engineering. Students have already spotted a striking resemblance between the disembodied head and Holly, the ship’s computer in the British sci-fi comedy, Red Dwarf.

Appropriately enough, the face is actually that of Zoe Lister, an actress perhaps best-known as Zoe Carpenter in the Channel 4 series, Hollyoaks. To recreate her face and voice, researchers spent several days recording Zoe’s speech and facial expressions. The result is a system that is light enough to work in mobile technology, and could be used as a personal assistant in smartphones, or to “face message” friends.

The framework behind “Zoe” is also a template that, before long, could enable people to upload their own faces and voices — but in a matter of seconds, rather than days. That means that in the future, users will be able to customise and personalise their own, emotionally realistic, digital assistants.

If this can be developed, then a user could, for example, text the message “I’m going to be late” and ask it to set the emotion to “frustrated.” Their friend would then receive a “face message” that looked like the sender, repeating the message in a frustrated way.

The team who created Zoe are currently looking for applications, and are also working with a school for autistic and deaf children, where the technology could be used to help pupils to “read” emotions and lip-read. Ultimately, the system could have multiple uses — including in gaming, in audio-visual books, as a means of delivering online lectures, and in other user interfaces.

“This technology could be the start of a whole new generation of interfaces which make interacting with a computer much more like talking to another human being,” Professor Roberto Cipolla, from the Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge, said.

“It took us days to create Zoe, because we had to start from scratch and teach the system to understand language and expression. Now that it already understands those things, it shouldn’t be too hard to transfer the same blueprint to a different voice and face.”

As well as being more expressive than any previous system, Zoe is also remarkably data-light. The program used to run her is just tens of megabytes in size, which means that it can be easily incorporated into even the smallest computer devices, including tablets and smartphones.

It works by using a set of fundamental, “primary colour” emotions. Zoe’s voice, for example, has six basic settings — Happy, Sad, Tender, Angry, Afraid and Neutral. The user can adjust these settings to different levels, as well as altering the pitch, speed and depth of the voice itself.

By combining these levels, it becomes possible to pre-set or create almost infinite emotional combinations. For instance, combining happiness with tenderness and slightly increasing the speed and depth of the voice makes it sound friendly and welcoming. A combination of speed, anger and fear makes Zoe sound as if she is panicking. This allows for a level of emotional subtlety which, the designers say, has not been possible in other avatars like Zoe until now.

To make the system as realistic as possible, the research team collected a dataset of thousands of sentences, which they used to train the speech model with the help of real-life actress, Zoe Lister. They also tracked Lister’s face while she was speaking using computer vision software. This was converted into voice and face-modelling, mathematical algorithms which gave them the voice and image data they needed to recreate expressions on a digital face, directly from the text alone.

The effectiveness of the system was tested with volunteers via a crowd-sourcing website. The participants were each given either a video, or audio clip of a single sentence from the test set and asked to identify which of the six basic emotions it was replicating. Ten sentences were evaluated, each by 20 different people.

Volunteers who only had video and no sound only successfully recognised the emotion in 52% of cases. When they only had audio, the success rate was 68%. The two together, however, produced a successful recognition rate of 77% — slightly higher than the recognition rate for the real-life Zoe, which was 73%! This higher rate of success compared with real life is probably because the synthetic talking head is deliberately more stylised in its manner.

As well as finding applications for their new creation, the research team will now work on creating a version of the system which can be personalised by users themselves.

“Present day human-computer interaction still revolves around typing at a keyboard or moving and pointing with a mouse.” Cipolla added. “For a lot of people, that makes computers difficult and frustrating to use. In the future, we will be able to open up computing to far more people if they can speak and gesture to machines in a more natural way. That is why we created Zoe — a more expressive, emotionally responsive face that human beings can actually have a conversation with.”

To life, love and laughter,

 

 

John Schinnerer, Ph.D.

Executive Coach

Author of the award-winning Guide To Self: The Beginner’s Guide To Managing Emotion & Thought

Guide To Self, Inc.

913 San Ramon Valley Blvd. #280

Danville CA 94526

GuideToSelf.com – Web site

WebAngerManagement.com – 10-week online anger management course

DrJohnBlog.GuideToSelf.com –  Awarded #1 Blog in Positive Psychology by PostRank, Top 100 Blog by Daily Reviewer

@johnschin – Twitter


Story Source:

The above story is reprinted from materials provided by University of Cambridge. The original story is licensed under a Creative Commons Licence.

University of Cambridge (2013, March 19). Face of the future rears its head: Digital talking head expresses human emotions on demand. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 20, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2013/03/130319160046.htm

 

The First Ever Issue of Happier – Positive Psychology for All

I thought you might like a sneak preview of the new magazine I’ve been working on in which I’m sharing the latest secrets from positive psychology!

Positive Psychology Magazine – Happier: Being Happier with Less Via Positive Psychology by John Schinnerer Ph.D.

Go ahead! Check it out! I’m quite proud!

To a happier life,

John Schinnerer, Ph.D.

Guide to Self, Inc.

Danville CA 94526

www.GuideToSelf.com 

New Course – Positive Psychology in Clinical Practice July 16, 2011

Just a quick note to let you know that I’m teaching a CEU course for JFKU entitled, Positive Psychology in Clinical Practice.

The course is in Campbell, CA on July 16th, 2011 from 9 am – 5 pm.

For more information, visit the JFKU site at https://secure.jfku.edu/cecart/index.php?act=browse&id=502.

John Schinnerer Ph.D.

To life, love and laughter,

John Schinnerer, Ph.D.

Founder Guide to Self, Inc.

For a FREE PDF copy of John’s award-winning self-help book, Guide to Self: The Beginner’s Guide to Managing Emotion and Thought, just visit www.GuideToSelf.com, click on the yellow book icon on the left side of the page, and enter your name and email address on following page. Once your email address has been verified, you will be emailed a link to download the book in seconds!

How Do Emotions Impact Your Goals?

I was recently asked for a quote for www.Livestrong.com for an article on emotions and how they influence our attainment of goals around health and wellness (i.e., optimal human functioning). Here is my short email…

Guilt has a boomerang effect on you
Guilt has a boomerang effect on you

Hi! I hope this note finds you smiling! My Ph.D. is in educational psychology out of UC Berkeley. I currently teach positive psychology (JFKU), coach individuals in anger management and the latest ways to use positive psychology.

I am a self-professed emotion ‘geek’. I have studied emotion
research for a decade now. I love discovering how emotions affect our behaviors, such as health and wellness goals (e.g., losing weight, building muscle, eating better, learning a sport, or building psychological resiliency).

For instance, a recent study showed that guilt has a boomerang effect where it first causes the guilty party to avoid the guilt-inducing situation. Then guilt causes one to approach the situation to make things better. This is the first emotion I am aware of that’s been scientifically shown to have both an approach and an avoidance component to it.

In terms of wellness goals then, a moderate level of guilt (think a 4-6 on a 10 point scale) may work effectively at meeting wellness goals. If you fall off the wagon and feel guilty about it, you are likely to re-approach your goal shortly with a renewed motivation.

Elevation is the positive emotion experienced when you watch another person perform an act of moral courage or high integrity, and was first ‘discovered’ by Jon Haidt. This emotion seems to act as a hidden reset button wiping out doubt, replacing it with feelings of inspiration, hope and optimism. Elevation creates a desire to become a better person and thus, is likely to lend itself to meeting wellness goals.

Please note: When I interviewed Jon Haidt several years ago, he was not ready at that time to label elevation an emotion. More research was needed. From what I understand, both Jon and Dacher Keltner at UC Berkeley are now looking into it. I hope that is helpful for your article!

To life, love, and laughter!

John Schinnerer, Ph.D.

Founder Guide to Self, Inc.

P.S. Want to find out more about your emotional landscape? Want to figure out HOW to turn down the volume on anger, anxiety or sadness? Need to know the latest in anger management tools? Would you like to learn how to cultivate more positive emotions in your daily life? Just visit www.GuideToSelf.com, and click on the yellow book icon. Enter your name and email address for a FREE PDF copy of John’s award-winning book, Guide to Self: The Beginner’s Guide to Managing Emotion and Thought, because when it comes to the emotional mind, we’re all beginners!

ADHD, Poor Emotional Control Run in Families – New Study

I’ve seen this phenomena for years in my private practice where I teach clients anger management tools – parents bring in their teenage son and want me to ‘fix’ his anger problem. The adolescent often has ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) and trouble managing his emotions (i.e., mainly anger, but also anxiety, shame, guilt and sadness). As I begin to work with the troubled teen, it becomes obvious that he is not the only person in the family with difficulty managing anger and other negative emotions.

Anger Management Difficulties & ADHD Run In Families

Online Anger Management Class For Parents Plus Individual Anger Management Coaching for Teenager

Typically, I’ll suggest that the parents take my online anger management course, in conjunction with individual coaching for their teenager. This has been highly effective in creating families that are cooperative, peaceful, and respectful.

This study just came out today demonstrating that ADHD and difficulty managing strong negative emotions, such as anger, run in families. In my mind, it’s a genetic predisposition which is activated by an emotionally volatile environment.

You may be interested in a guide book to your mind if you are reading this. If so, I have just the thing, and it’s free! You can instantly get a complimentary PDF copy of my award-winning book (Guide to Self: The Beginner’s Guide to Managing Emotion and Thought). It teaches you concrete steps to turn down the volume on anger and other negative emotions (as well as proven methods to turn up the volume on positive emotions). All you have to do is visit my main website at www.GuideToSelf.com, click on the yellow book icon at the top left of the page and enter your name and email address.

For more information on my online anger management class, visit http://webangermanagement.com. There are even four free online anger management classes available there!

To life, love and laughter,

John Schinnerer, Ph.D.

Founder, Guide to Self, Inc.

Anger management coach

Proudly Serving San Ramon, Danville, Alamo and Walnut Creek CA since 2000

Here is the write up of the study from Science Daily…

ADHD and anger in teens and families 

Combination of ADHD and Poor Emotional Control Runs in Families, Study Suggests

ScienceDaily (May 5, 2011) — A subgroup of adults with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) also exhibit excessive emotional reactions to everyday occurrences, and this combination of ADHD and emotional reactivity appears to run in families. A study from a Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH)-based research team finds that siblings of individuals with both ADHD and deficient emotional self-regulation (DESR) had a significantly greater risk of having both conditions than did siblings of those with ADHD alone.

The study, which will appear in the American Journal of Psychiatry, has received early online release.

“Our research offers strong evidence that heritable factors influence how we control our emotions,” says Craig Surman, MD, of the MGH Pediatric Psychopharmacology and Adult ADHD Program, the study’s lead author. “Emotion — like capacities such as the ability to pay attention or control physical movement — is probably under forms of brain control that we are just beginning to understand. Our findings also indicate that ADHD doesn’t just impact things like reading, listening and getting the bills paid on time; it also can impact how people regulate themselves more broadly, including their emotional expression.”

Along with the classic ADHD symptoms of trouble paying attention, excessive physical activity and poor impulse control, many individuals with ADHD display high levels of anger, frustration and impatience. In contrast to mood disorders, which are characterized by the persistence of specific emotions and behaviors, DESR involves emotional expressions that are brief and occur in reaction to situations that would be expected to produce similar but much less extreme responses in most individuals. For example, an individual who consistently reacts to minor disappointments by snapping at family members or co-workers or who displays great distress in response to small inconveniences may have DESR.

While some investigators have proposed that poor emotional control be included among the defining symptoms of ADHD, previous studies have not clarified whether the two conditions are separate conditions that appear together by chance or if they are related. Also previously unknown was whether DESR is transmitted among family members, something that is well known to be the case for ADHD.

The current study began with a group of 83 participants — 23 with ADHD alone, 27 with ADHD plus DESR, and 33 comparison participants with neither condition — and then enrolled one or more siblings of each of the original participants. Researchers conducted standardized diagnostic interviews with all participants to determine whether they met the criteria for ADHD and other mental health conditions. Diagnoses were confirmed by expert clinicians who were blinded to participants’ diagnoses or their sibling status. Participants also reported their current frequency of DESR-associated symptoms and were determined to have DESR if their control of emotional reactions was worse than that of 95 percent of a large group of individuals without ADHD, which included the comparison sample in this study.

As expected, ADHD was more common, in the siblings of original participants with ADHD than in the comparison group. However, co-occurrence of both ADHD and DESR was found almost exclusively among siblings of the original participants who reported both conditions.

“Other research that we and another group have conducted found that individuals with ADHD who also display emotional overreaction have a reduced quality of life and difficulties with personal relationships and social success,” Surman says. “Studies have shown that 4 percent of the adult population has ADHD, and this investigation is part of a larger study that found DESR in more than half of the enrolled adults with ADHD, suggesting that roughly 5 million adults in the U.S. may have the combination of ADHD and poor emotional control.”

He adds, “Increased recognition of emotional dysregulation, its frequency in adults with ADHD and the potential consequences of both conditions will help people get support for these challenges. Future research needs to examine both medication- and non-medication-based therapies and improve our understanding of who could benefit from these therapies.” Surman is an instructor in Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.
Story Source:

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by Massachusetts General Hospital.
________________________________________
Journal Reference:
1. C. B. H. Surman, J. Biederman, T. Spencer, D. Yorks, C. A. Miller, C. R. Petty, S. V. Faraone. Deficient Emotional Self-Regulation and Adult Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: A Family Risk Analysis. American Journal of Psychiatry, 2011; DOI: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2010.10081172