In the world of computer graphics there is no harder task than to create a person. We can do cars and places really well but people is very difficult. The reason for this is we have spend our lives watching real people and interpreting their expressions. We don’t even realize all the things we watch for but we know it when it’s not there. This creates a sense of uneasiness in us that has been called the Uncanny Valley.
This means that technology has to take a big leap to cross the valley rather than to incrementally solve the problem. To make the problem even harder, is to do it in a video game. In that medium, performance is at a premium so not only do you have to have very high quality, but you have to also have to be very efficient. Even with those difficult conditions, progress is being made.
Here’s a video from Activision at Game Developer Conference last year.
That’s pretty impressive. It’s still very limited and requires a huge amount of work ahead of time. Still, there should be any reason why we can’t eventually have digital characters that are indistinguishable from reality. When that happens, technologies like Virtual Reality and Simulation are going to really take off. The educational uses should be many and help create an effective training experience. It can also lead to virtual teachers that can emote with students and who students can relate to.