Semantics for virtual humans

Population of Virtual Worlds with Virtual Humans is increasing rapidly by people who want to create a virtual life parallel to the real one (i.e. Second Life). The evolution of technology is smoothly providing the necessary elements to increase realism within these virtual worlds by creating believable Virtual Humans. However, creating the amount of resources needed to succeed this believability is a difficult task, mainly because of the complexity of the creation process of Virtual Humans. Even though there are many existing available resources, their reusability is difficult because there is not enough information provided to evaluate if a model contains the desired characteristics to be reused. Additionally, the knowledge involved in the creation of Virtual Humans is not well known, nor well disseminated. There are several different creation techniques, different software components, and several processes to carry out before having a Virtual Human capable of populating a virtual environment. The creation of Virtual Humans involves: a geometrical representation with an internal control structure, the motion synthesis with different animation techniques, higher level controllers and descriptors to simulate human-like behavior such individuality, cognition, interaction capabilities, etc. All these processes require the expertise from different fields of knowledge such as mathematics, artificial intelligence, computer graphics, design, etc. Furthermore, there is neither common framework nor common understanding of how elements involved in the creation, development, and interaction of Virtual Humans features are done. Therefore, there is a need for describing (1) existing resources, (2) Virtual Human's composition and features, (3) a creation pipeline and (4) the different levels/fields of knowledge comprehended. This thesis presents an explicit representation of the Virtual Humans and their features to provide a conceptual framework that will interest to all people involved in the creation and development of these characters. This dissertation focuses in a semantic description of Virtual Humans. The creation of a semantic description involves gathering related knowledge, agreement among experts in the definition of concepts, validation of the ontology design, etc. In this dissertation all these procedures are presented, and an Ontology for Virtual Humans is described in detail together with the validations that conducted to the resulted ontology. The goal of creating such ontology is to promote reusability of existing resources; to create a shared knowledge of the creation and composition of Virtual Humans; and to support new research of the fields involved in the development of believable Virtual Humans and virtual environments. Finally, this thesis presents several developments that aim to demonstrate the ontology usability and reusability. These developments serve particularly to support the research on specialized knowledge of Virtual Humans, the population of virtual environments, and improve the believability of these characters.

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