Zoe – The Emotional Virtual Talking Head


Zoe, a digital talking head, is a result of collaboration of between the speech and vision groups in the Cambridge research labs of UK.  The face is a mimic of the actress Zoe Lister. She is well known for her role as Zoe carpenter in the channel 4 series called Hollyoaks. The researchers studies over 7000 lines of dialogues in order to track her facial expressions. The information obtained from the research was used to create the virtual model. This talking head is designed in such a way that it can express all human emotions such as anger, fear, depression, happiness. Also she can change her voice to suit any feeling which the user wishes to simulate.


This system is expected to work in mobile phones. Who knows, in the near future Zoe will be seen as a personal assistant in smart phones and replace texting with the “face messaging” system. Also there are researches going on where the users will be able to customize and personalize their own digital assistants which are emotionally realistic. If this is developed, then one can send a text to a friend saying “I`ll be early to home today” and then ask it to set the emotion “happy”. The receiver will get a text with the user`s face reading it in a happy manner.

Professor Roberto Cipolla from the department of engineering at Cambridge said that it took days to create Zoe as they had to start from scratch and teach her everything right from understanding the language and expression. She also added that Zoe was able to understand things now, it won`t be tough to transmit the blueprint to another face and voice. The research team is proud of their work since it is small and can be implemented in a smart phone or a tablet.

However, there is no guarantee that Zoe will be commercialized and she is still a research in progress. But what impresses me is that, Zoe can be used to help autistic children to read emotions and help in reading lips for the hearing impaired people.

Check out the video here.


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