Michael Braukus

Headquarters, Washington, DC

(Phone: 202/358-1979)

Nancy Lovato

Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA

(Phone: 818/354-6278)

RELEASE: 00-94

Think you must dress for success even in the bold new world
of telecommuting? Maybe not, even if your employer has a
videophone to display your image.

A digital human-image animation computer system under
development at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, can
use the smallest units of speech, called phonemes, to manipulate a
person’s facial movements in an image. The system is driven by
language rather than by manual animation controls. While
development is in the early stages at this point, the eventual
result will be photo-realistic animation of a person speaking.

“This is voice-driven, so the image morphs in response to a
voice or equivalent input,” said principal investigator John
Wright of JPL. “Real-time animation is a key step in our
development process. Unlike cartoon morphs, this technology uses
video and facial movements of real people as its building blocks.”

The system, called Digital Personnel, will make it possible
to use an image of any human face and make it appear to be
speaking naturally. With a videophone, it would be possible to
have the option of always portraying the image you wish — no more
“bad hair days.” A celebrity figure appearing to speak might be
another option for an image.

Communication capabilities are being designed for this
technology to allow Digital Personnel to work efficiently over
telephone as well as data lines. Lower bandwidth — the rate of
data transmission, or bits per second — will be used by this
system, compared to the bandwidth required to transmit real video
images. This will allow broader use of the technology while also
preserving the appearance of reality in the speaking facial image.

“Digital Personnel is next-generation technology using voice-
driven animation of real human images,” said Jerry Ruddle, vice
president of sales and marketing at Graphco Technologies, Inc.,
Newtown, PA. “It will enable us to provide virtual personnel for
commercial applications in numerous markets. Web-based customer
support, with user-friendly speaking interfaces, is an important
application for this technology. Along with other uses for human-
like web applications, we project video telephones, broadcasting,
distance learning, video games and motion pictures will also
create significant demand for this human-machine interface

One application of the system might be an on-line help desk –
– a live voice projecting through a digital person would assist
the user. The real support representative, while speaking, could
leaf through documents with his or her head down. The web image
would be the digital person looking at and “speaking” directly to
the user.

Digital Personnel could also enhance e-commerce by providing
a user-friendly presence. Product demonstration, promotion and
celebrity representation interaction would be possible with on-
line customers.

“We are excited about the acquisition of this technology and
about our collaboration with JPL on future development,” said
Cristian Ivanescu, chairman and CEO of Graphco Technologies, Inc.
“The Digital Personnel technology complements our market offerings
for secure database and information-sharing systems for law
enforcement, government and industry.”

Graphco Technologies, Inc., has acquired the exclusive
worldwide rights to Digital Personnel, a patent-pending technology
that makes it possible to synthesize photo-realistic talking
individuals for e-commerce and e-support. The license was
originally issued by the California Institute of Technology
(Caltech), Pasadena, to Digital Personnel, Inc., a subsidiary of
UTEK Corp., Plant City, FL. Digital Personnel, Inc., was acquired
by Graphco Technologies, Inc., earlier this year from UTEK Corp.
and Caltech. Graphco Technologies, Inc., develops and markets
secure database and secure communications systems.

Pictures related to this release can be found at on the
Internet at:


JPL is managed for NASA by the California Institute of