A technology designed initially for conducting one-on-one personal chats has increasingly spread into the workplace. These days, businesses are choosing text-based IM over phone calls and e-mail because they prefer its immediacy and efficiency in getting real-time information from partners, suppliers, and colleagues.
Essentially, instant messaging is the text version of a phone call, as businesses of all sizes are using it as a communications tool. Instant messaging benefits businesses that work in teams or on projects more than it does many retailers, independent professionals and others because IM enhances collaboration.
Instead of getting an instant message from your boss, in just a few years you may see their face pop up on the screen and start talking – except it’s not their “real” face, it’s their Avatar. Scary thought? Well, you can thank Intel (News - Alert) Chief Technology Officer Justin Rattner for his innovative vision.
Rattner recently told Computerworld that Intel researchers are currently working on what he calls Avatar Chat, an instant messaging technology that may replace live chat with a talking avatar showing facial expressions and voice. The capability could be available to users within only a year or two.
Using the Avatar Chat system, the user gets a message and, instead of looking at text, the avatar talks to you. When you play it at your end, you hear a voice and see the avatar with its face moving in synch with what the person on the other end is saying.
"Every once in a while we do something in the Intel labs and I think, 'Oh, this is really cool,'" said Rattner.
This technology relies on audio products, a camera, and facial recognition like technology inside computers, tablets, and smartphones. The avatars use voice recording to mimics the movements and facial expressions of the person sending the message.
Additionally, the avatar can look exactly like the user or even like a better looking version of him or her. "There's the way you think you look versus the way you actually look. My avatar has more hair,” explained Rattner.
Users will also be able to create a personal avatar from a list of cartoon characters, superheroes and animals.
"The cartoony avatar has existed for a while on chat, but Intel is raising it a notch with a much more realistic and surrealistic approach, plus adding voice," said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy. "By adding voice and facial gestures, this improves context and enables the user to multitask and not have to be looking at the chat screen to communicate.”
Avatar Chat may improve communication among employees, as over time, the system could be important for the workplace because context in the workplace is just as important as it is in the home.
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Edited by Allison Boccamazzo