Synthetic humans are computer-generated characters that are designed to behave like humans for the purpose of training or entertainment. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the perceptions of subjects interacting with synthetic humans to determine their responses to nonverbal behaviors, realism, and character personality. This study was part of a research program to develop a virtual game to train awareness of nonverbal communication for cross-cultural competency (3C).

Three synthetic humans were created with different levels of realism with respect to their facial movements and skin textures. Low realism characters were defined as models purchased from the company Evolver, with additional facial action units (FAU) added to the character’s face. High realism characters were created based on a model of a real person’s head using 3D imaging cameras and a digital video camera. The same FAUs available in the Evolver characters were also coded into the high realism character as well as more realistic skin texture. During a virtual scenario the subject was asked to interview three characters in the U.S. Army. The subject interviewed each character one-on-one. The three computer characters included two white males, and one black female.

The results of this study showed that it is possible to create synthetic humans that include nonverbal behaviors and personalities that are perceived by subjects, and that the subject’s own personal lens affected how they perceive the character. For example, the character Brent was rated similarly by most subjects with respect to personality traits as defined by the Big Five Factor Model. However, half the subjects indicated they liked him (friendly and confident), while about half the subjects did not like him (too confident as to be arrogant).

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