UIC, Central Florida Win Grant To Make Historic Avatars

Research teams at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Central Florida in Orlando are working to build three-dimensional life-sized animated representations of historical figures and other knowledge avatars capable of conversing with students or interviewing service clients.

The National Science Foundation awarded the two schools a $500,000, three-year grant to explore combining computer games, animation, and artificial intelligence technology to create a methodology for making virtual figures commonplace.

The goal is to integrate the technologies to "enable us to create historical archives of people beyond what can be achieved using traditional technologies such as text, audio and video footage," said Jason Leigh, associate professor of computer science and director of UIC's Electronic Visualization Lab.

The project's test subject will be a senior NSF program manager known for his wealth of institutional knowledge. A UIC graduate student will shadow this official for several months making video and voice recordings.

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Paul McCloskey is contributing editor of Syllabus.

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