IBM PRESENTS THE BIG BLUE MAX
Call him Jack Headroom. IBM President Jack D. Kuehler was accompanied at his keynote speech at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas by a computer-generated image of himself. When it was projected from an IBM RS/6000 workstation onto a screen, the virtual Jack had a short conversation with the real one. IBM demonstrated this technology, a prototype from its Austin (Tex.) laboratory, to show an example of how human-like computer "agents" will perform work for you in the future. For instance, such a character can open and read a person's electronic mail and retrieve all kinds of information on a network when ordered to do so.
But unlike Max Headroom, the 1980s' television character, the IBM image was not a cartoon drawing nor was it made from a digitized photograph. The image is assembled from a data base containing three-dimensional solid models of different parts of Kuehler's face. The data base also contains fragments of Kuehler's voice, so that when it speaks, it synthesizes a voice that has the tone and accent of the real thing. After the computerized Jack read a prepared text, Kuehler joked that next time he could send it instead of himself to be the keynote speaker.EDITED BY PAUL M. ENG