Microsoft working on Bob 2.0? Meet Laura the talking head

Posted by Rick C. Hodgin

Redmond (WA) - I'm not sure how to write this story, so I'll just give you the details. Microsoft is working on a virtual talking head (with only a face and neck) which appears on your PC screen and serves as your personal lady-slave. Named Laura, she handles appointments, books airline flights, and is capable of some sophisticated decision-making abilities such as assessing your personal mood based on clothing choice and interactive nuances, at least according to Ashlee Vance of the New York Times. Let's hope Laura is not another Bob, and is not the beginning of a 1984-like Big Sister.







Eric Horvits, a Microsoft researcher specializing in machine learning, said, "What we're after is common sense about etiquette and what people want." Ashlee Vance writes, "Microsoft wants to put a Laura on the desk of every person who has ever dreamed of having a personal aide. Laura and other devices like her stand as Microsoft's potential path for diversifying beyond the personal computer, sales of which are stagnating."



Presently, Laura is extremely resource and compute intensive. According to Vance, "Laura requires a top-of-the-line chip with eight processor cores to handle all of the artificial intelligence and graphics work needed to give the system a somewhat lifelike appearance and function. Such a chip would normally sit inside a server in a company's data center."



See The New York Times.





Laura is not Bob, at least not reportedly. See Bob in action in this YouTube video.



Can't see the video? Follow this link.



Perhaps Laura is based on ATI's 3D research into Emily -- though Emily in final form is a full upper-body and not just a face and neck. Download these videos to see Emily in action (quite impressive), a full CGI creation, in high resolution (134 MB) and low resolution (82 MB).



ATI's Emily:

Emily is shown here with face only. However, in the video downloads (above), she is a full body with hair and a far more impressive appearance than this single frame would indicate.