BabyX First Words from Lab for Animate Technologies.
by Gene Turnbow, station manager
Baby X is not a real baby. It’s not even physical, let alone human. What it is is an amazingly sophisticated digital construct. It can see and hear, and is capable of reacting to human faces and voices as well as learning to play simple games. Baby X is a project being developed by the Auckland Bioengineering Institute. It’s an interactive animated virtual infant prototype, a psychobiological simulation in the Laboratory of Animate Technologies. They’re using it to model basic neural systems involved in interactive behavior and learning, and they’re learning a lot working on this project.
Modern visual effects often go to the detail of simulating skeletal and muscular composition of an animated character so that it has that hyper-realistic look we now expect when we go to the movies, but this is way beyond that. Baby X can show you his visual and cerebral cortices, and you can actually watch him think. The simulated bambino can do more than just creepily grimace and track your face as previous experiments have done. This one is learning to read.
Watch the second video and you’ll see a very believable digital simulation of a four year old little girl reading her first words. Remember that this isn’t previously animated. It’s running in real time, seeing through a camera and hearing through microphones, and learning to read.
What happens when Baby X realizes it has no hands or body and can never leave the confines of the glass terminal for the rest of its theoretically immortal life is something upon which one can only speculate. Could that happen? We don’t know. Baby X is under continuous development as Auckland Bioengineering Institute upgrades each experimental component of what makes her function, though. So eventually, it just might.