How Realistic Are Virtual Babies?


Quick Answer

Virtual babies are equipped with neural models, sensing systems and advanced 3D graphics that turn uncanny human representations into hyper-realistic interactive systems. Through computer programs that mimic the brain's chemical processes, virtual babies can acquire knowledge and mimic facial expressions.

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Full Answer

BabyX is an interactive, virtual baby prototype developed by the Auckland Bioengineering Institute Laboratory of Animate Technologies. The lab combines bioengineering, computational and theoretical neuroscience, artificial intelligence, and interactive computer graphic research to create responsive, human-like technologies.

Programmers combined digital audio and visual systems with computer algorithms of the human brain's chemical reactions to endow BabyX with human-like functions. Just as a child has eyes and ears to sense their surroundings, BabyX is equipped with a microphone and webcam to record sensory data. To interpret the sensory data, BabyX is programmed with neural models that mimic the biological learning processes, such as association, conditioning and reinforcement learning. These attributes allow it to perform basic tasks, such as matching the words on flashcards to the corresponding objects.

BabyX can even mimic the facial expressions of the person interacting with it and express sadness or happiness when struggling to learn or giving a correct answer. Though BabyX is not entirely autonomous or self-improving, software developers can write code that analyzes action and response times, essentially teaching the virtual toddler through code.

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