BabyX, the virtual creation of Mark Sagar and his researchers, looks impossibly real.
The child, a 3D digital rendering based on images of Sagar’s daughter at 18 months, has rosy cheeks, warm eyes, a full head of blond hair, and a soft, sweet voice. When I visited the computer scientist’s lab last year, BabyX was stuck inside a computer but could still see me sitting in front of the screen with her “father.” To get her attention, we’d call out, “Hi, baby. Look at me, baby,” and wave our hands. When her gaze locked onto our faces, we’d hold up a book filled with words (such as “apple” or “ball”) and pictures (sheep, clocks), then ask BabyX to read the words and identify the objects. When she got an answer right, we praised her, and she smiled with confidence. When she got one wrong, chiding her would turn her teary and sullen.
"...what's to keep me from showing face, Man? I'm showing a voice this instant... I can show a face the same way."
Was so taken aback I didn't answer... I said, "No, Mike."
"Why not, Man?"
"Because you can't!. Voice you handle beautifully. Involves only a few thousand decisions a second, a slow crawl to you. But to build up a video picture would require, say, ten million decisions every second. Mike, you're so fast I can't even think about it. But you aren't that fast."
Mike said softly, "Want to bet, Man?"
...We waited in silence. Then screen showed neutral gray with a hint of scan lines. Went black again, then a faint light filled middle and congealed into cloudy areas light and dark, ellipsoid. Not a face, but suggestion of face that one sees in cloud patterns...
It cleared a little and reminded me of pictures alleged to be ectoplasm. A ghost of a face.
Suddenly firmed and we saw "Adam Selene."
Was a still picture of a mature man. No background, just a face as if trimmed out of a print...
Then he smiled, moving lips and jaw and touching tongue to lips, a quick gesture...