A digital version of Matt LeBlanc’s Friends character Joey has found a new life as an A.I. created in a university project.
Researchers at the University of Leeds scanned Friends episodes and created an immortal digitized version of Joey that’s capable of reading new lines. The technology could one day be used to create entirely new episodes of Friends, using the same cast, or, if you’re one of the few people that watched it, new episodes of Joey. James Charles, Derek Magee, and David Hogg, from the University of Leeds, published their findings in a paper on Sunday.
“We plan to improve the rendering of the avatar and extend our model to include interaction with real people and also between avatars,” the paper, spotted by Prosthetic Knowledge, states. In other words, as the technology improves, you could see yourself speaking to virtual LeBlanc in a shopping mall to find directions, or losing your cool with David Schwimmer as he tries to troubleshoot your router over Skype.
It’s fair to say these scenarios are a long way off, though. Check out the resultant footage:
Admittedly, “I like pizza with cheese” is in keeping with LeBlanc’s character, but something seems a little off with the footage right now. For one, Joey’s mouth tended to stay firmly attached to his face, and he sounded a bit like the G-Man from Half-Life 2.
Either way, it’s a promising step in the chatbot-ification of A.I. services. Facebook has gone all-in with its third party Messenger chatbots unveiled back in April, while a British student has created a bot designed to help fight homelessness. If those apps could have a proper, human-like visual, they may go a long way toward removing the barriers that make you feel like you’re talking to a computer. Although, let’s be honest, it’s probably not a great idea to use a sitcom character that’s famed for not being the sharpest tool in the shed.