Fabrizio’s project began as a more interactive mission to learn, understand, and preserve history. The idea was to bring Dante to life through a three dimensional, interactive representation of the author in a digital world. Not just a picture of what he might look like, but a representation of his personality, his character, and his personal identity in a digital entity – designed to last… well… forever.
Now, Fabrizio is in talks to assemble a veritable library of historical characters for academic and historical studies, including the addition of Leonardo Da Vinci, among other notables. The process involves the amassing of tremendous amounts of data, pooling together recorded works and expert knowledge about these historical figures, and painstakingly re-creating them into digital form. This includes replicating the voice, mannerisms, emotional responses, and memories of the character in question.
Imagine, for example, you’re studying the French revolution, and the professor can turn the questions over to a replica of Napoleon himself. Everything from his height, face, and cloths are calibrated to the best knowledge of Bonaparte, and his voice, expressions, and enthusiasm comes through based on the detailed, multi-disciplinary study of his “real” self.
The CEO of Forever (the startup creator of Dante’s representation), Fabrizio Gramuglio, sees this technology and process as having applications well beyond academic learning – or representing long-lost historical figures. His company plans to offer a premium service where he and his team model and replicate the personalities of people still alive today – to preserve and maintain what he calls a “dynamic legacy.” The process would involve over a week of interviewing, modeling postures, studying the emotional expressions of the client. Precisely calibrating the voice, facial expressions, and core values of the client will also be part of the process.
He explains (more on the website here: www.foreveridentity.com) that the need to carry one’s character and deeds beyond one’s physical presence is a desire as old as man. From art, to achievement, to child-rearing, “having an impact” beyond one’s time on earth can be seen as a primary motive behind a great deal of our mortal aspirations.
Initially, Fabricio makes note that the process will be expensive, and in-depth in terms of expert involvement and assessing / constructing the entity. However, he believes that there’s a market for the service – and he doesn’t see the representation being limited by any particular mode of interaction. He explains that amidst the various layers and elements of the constructed character, there is a performance layer. This layer is malleable, and would hypothetically allow the same personality come through a computer screen (animation), a projected 3-d figure (hologram), a virtual reality character, or even a life-sized humanoid robot (android).
I spoke with Fabrizio a bit about what he felt might be the future ramifications of this type of technology – potentially with regards to multiple representations of the same person in one digital library, and the future potential of creating “characters” so real that they may have a legitimate kind of awareness or consciousless (IE: see Kurzweil’s hypothesis of consciousness and complexity in his book “How to Create a Mind“). He admits that many questions with regards to identiy and technology might get complex, but that it’s difficult to prognosticate with regards to the further reaches of this technology, but he’s excited to see where it’s initial steps will take us in delivering learning experiences for students.