Speechlab

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Chat with a Virtual Character-The Švejk Project (2002)

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This project has been our initial attempt to link speech processing technology, namely continuous speech recognition, text-to-speech synthesis and artificial talking head, with text processing techniques in order to design a Czech demonstration system that allows for informal voice chatting with virtual characters. Legendary novel figure Svejk is the first personality who can be interviewed in the recently implemented version. It is good for any research if its state-of-the-art can be demonstrated on applications that are attractive not only for a small scientific community but also for wider public. This type of application may go even beyond traditional existing or commercial areas. A nice example of an interesting show-product demonstrating capabilities of the recent speech technology was presented on the IVVTA workshop in 1998. It showed a naturally looking voice dialogue with a virtual character. The designers of the system chose Albert Einstein as the target person to whom one could address questions about his life and work. The system employed a continuous speech recognition engine that was able to accept spoken questions and translate them into a sequence of semantic symbols. According to the list of given key-words the computer selected a (more or less) appropriate response and replayed it to the human interviewer. The Einstein's reactions had form of video sequences prerecorded by an actor. The primary aim of that demonstration was to show the current advances of the speech research, yet various applications in education and entertainment offered itself. Being inspired by that idea we decided to develop a similar system that integrates the results of our research in speech and text processing. Recently we have been able to build up such a demo product using our middle-size vocabulary speech recognition engine applicable for continuously spoken Czech utterances, a TTS module developed in the Institute of Radioengineering in Prague and a virtual animated face that can be synchronized with synthesized or natural speech signal. We put these modules together and linked them by a simple 'chat manager'. The role of the first virtual personality was given to legendary Czech character Svejk.

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More information: NOUZA, J., KOLÁŘ, P., CHALOUPKA, J.: Voice Chat with a Virtual Character: The Good Soldier Švejk Case Project. In Proc of TSD 2002. Brno, September 2002. pp. 445-448. ISBN 0302-9743