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Virtual Humans: A Build-it-yourself Kit, Complete with Software and Step-by-step Instructions Paperback – 1 Jan 2004


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Product Description

Review

Software Development: "An inspirational read, and the examples cited therein are captivating.

About the Author

Peter Plantec (Aspen, CO) is the creator of Sylvie, the first commercially available virtual human interface, and cofounder of Virtual Personalities, Inc. A psychologist, animator, and software designer, he heads both OrdinaryMagic.com and V-people.com. He is contributing editor and columnist at "AVVideo/Multimedia Producer Magazine," and is the author of "Caligari trueSpace 2 Bible," a number one best-seller in its genre.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x9fcf3114) out of 5 stars 32 reviews
48 of 52 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9fd14e60) out of 5 stars Dated material - beware 29 Oct. 2005
By Remington Steele - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
For starters, the book gives some good advice and fair examples. The subject does add fuel to the cerebral fire.

That being said, however, the book uses the software primarily from Yapanda.com. Yapanda.com has not been online for months and does not show that it will be anytime soon. I consider it to be a dead site. The software on the CD will work on an XP but again it is dated. One will find better solutions on the net these days.

Another chapter deals with virtual, realtime 3D faces and heads for your applications. One of the best is also out of business. There is a demo program for it on the CD but it's worthless as one is incapable of saving the work. And if it were possible, there is nothing between the software (chatbot engine and 3D software) to interface, nor are there any explanations on how to achieve such things.

The author's site is still running, however, even his links are outdated. I doubt he's done anything to it since 2001.

The book is good for material and gathering ideas. Don't expect it to be a step-by-step since the links for the related software don't exist anymore.
22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9fd1cae0) out of 5 stars Great for beginners, bad for anybody with experience 10 Feb. 2005
By Chris Crawford - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an excellent introduction to the use of virtual actors in software. It covers all the basic ground: facial display and animation, voice generation and synthesis, home control, and simple agent technology. It includes a CD with lots of great free software (and demos of commercial software) that covers most of the subjects Plantec covers. It lives up to its billing as a "do it yourself kit" for virtual humans. I highly recommend it to those just putting their toes into the water.

I do not, however, recommend this book for that small group of people who already have familiarity with the subject. I bought it thinking that it might cover some material that I have missed. It doesn't, and I think that anybody working in the field will have a similar experience. I was particularly disappointed by the use of a simple branching boolean tree system for artificial intelligence. Agent technology has gone far beyond this. I recognize that it's appropriate for beginners, but again, this book has nothing to offer anybody with experience in the field.
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9fd1ca44) out of 5 stars A Refreshing Addition 25 May 2005
By John Jamison - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The two phrases that first attracted me to this book (after Virtual Humans) were "complete" and "step-by-step". In a normal day of developing instructional resources and supporting some 700 faculty members, anything promising to be "complete" and clear gets my attention. Understand also, although I have a background in technology, I am far from being a 'techie', and just don't have the time to run down that path now anyway. Let me simply say that since first purchasing and reading Peter's book, I have ordered a dozen or so more, and have passed them out to several faculty members who are now creatively exploring the use of virtual humans in their coursework.

This book is complete, step-by-step and accessible to anyone with a basic understanding of the PC (can you install a program and find it again?). The CD that comes with the book provides not only the software, but a clear "how to" for setting up the software and your computer to host a satisfying range of v-humans...all within about 30 minutes from unsealing the CD. How refreshing is that?!

The book itself moves from a basic intro to the concepts of virtual humans, to a clear introduction for using the included software, to an introduction to other available software online (most of it free), to a vision for the more advanced applications of v-human technologies. I spend most of my time living in the first 12 or 13 chapters (the limits of my techiness), but am constantly drawn to the magic of the later ones.

This book is well dog-eared, fully marked-up in a rainbow of colors, and travels with me to provide those quick sparks whenever I need one.

Let me also quickly respond to the comments posted about Peter's review of the "24 hour" book. I purchased both books at the same time. I would simply say that the two books are a real contrast in the current approaches to virtual human and 'bot' technology. The '24 hour' book was clearly targeted at the techies in our midest. After my first 24 hours, I had made my way part-way through the first chapter, still flipping back and forth to figure out what I was reading. That is not an indictment of the book, but my simple perspective that the book was written for those with very strong technical background, presenting the 'bot' world as the arena for those technical skills. On the contrasting side, Peter's book presents a v-human technology as accessible to the non-techie, encouraging a focus on the interpersonal, and 'human' side of the technology. One is not better or worse than the other, but they are very different.

Let me close by simply saying that I have an order in the works for about two dozen more of Peter's books, already assigned to the faculty and staff members clammering for them.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9fd1fa98) out of 5 stars A Slab of Mind Sushi 16 Dec. 2003
By Bob Stanley - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I just received my pre-ordered copy of Virtual Humans and have devoured it like a slab of fine ahi. I have waited years for Plantec to fully divulge his wisdom in this arena and this book was well worth the wait.
Virtual humans is a visionary tour of a technology which is already making its mark and is certain to have a profound impact on how humans interact with the world of bits. Plantec accomplishes this without any of the over reaching fantasy and wishful thinking of many futurists, yet spells out the dramatic effects virtual humans will soon have on our lives. Plantec explores not only the technological implications, but the moral and societal ramifications of this emerging field. With a fascinating tour of the history of all the streams which have come together, Plantec delivers a road map of the virtual future.
Or does he?
Virtual Humans is really a detailed technical manual for using this technology to build and design virtual characters. To those already proficient at coding v-people, Plantec adds layers of wisdom on how to make them funny, engaging and, in short, human. He delivers the tech detail and highly usable techniques without falling into the tech manual automaton mode which keeps most of us from ever RTFM (Reading the .. Manual).
Oh really.
Virtual Humans is actually a profound look into our own minds. We discover how personalities differ, what motivates them and how they express themselves. Anyone who reads this book without making discoveries about their own character and personality and those of others, may need to seek Plantec's help on a professional basis.
So which is it?
The answer is all of the above. Plantec has managed to deliver a usable and readable tech manual, a visionary peek at the future and an engaging examination of the human psyche. His quirky but charming wit pervades and makes this book an excellent read for anyone interested in humanity, virtual or otherwise.
Thanks Peter....
13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9fd1ff60) out of 5 stars Great concept...poor execution 19 April 2004
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The book is great introduction to the concept of virtual humans...BUT the included software is so buggy as to be totally useless. To give the author credit he has addressed this through his yahoo community...over and over, and still there is no version that reliably installs.
Buy the book for the concepts, through the CD away and save yourself the heartburn.
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