Stelarc’s Prosthetic Head


The aim was to construct an automated, animated and reasonably informed artificial head that speaks to the person who interrogates it. The PROSTHETIC HEAD project is a 3D avatar head, somewhat resembling the artist, that has real time lip-synching, speech synthesis and facial expressions. Head nods, head tilts and head turns as well as changing eye gaze contribute to the personality of the agent and the non-verbal cues it can provide. It is a conversational system which can be said to be only as intelligent as the person who is interrogating it. There is an attempt to make the Prosthetic Head more creative in its responses. It has embedded algorithms that enable it to generate novel poetry and singing each time it is asked.

Embodied Conversational Agents (ECAs) are about communicative behavior. It has an ultra-sound sensor system that alerts it of the user’s presence, enabling it to initiate a conversation. With a vision system, The PROSTHETIC HEAD will also be able to detect the color of the user’s clothing and be able to analyze the user’s behaviour. This information would then be used by the PROSTHETIC HEAD to make its conversation more interactive and convincing.
This is not an illustration of a disembodied intelligence. Rather, notions of awareness, identity, agency and embodiment become problematic. Just as a physical body has been exposed as inadequate, empty and involuntary, so simultaneously the ECA becomes seductive with its uncanny simulation of real-time recognition and response. Initially decisions would have to be made about its database and whether The PROSTHETIC HEAD is a pathological, philosophical or simply a flirting head. A problem would arise though when the PROSTHETIC HEAD increases its database, becoming more autonomous in its responses. The artist would then no longer be able to take full responsibility for what his head says.
Information found at: http://stelarc.org/?catID=20241 and accessed on 14/2/12.

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