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Virtual Humans: A Build-It-Yourself Kit, Complete with Software and Step-by-Step Instructions Paperback – December 22, 2003

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: AMACOM (December 22, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0814472214
  • ISBN-13: 978-0814472217
  • Product Dimensions: 0.9 x 7.4 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,877,923 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


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


Australian Personal Computer: “This is a remarkable book, fusing together many disparate technologies to produce a digestable [sic] treatise on creating – as the title indicates – virtual humans!….Virtual Humans is an engrossing book, and gives solid direction….Plantec’s enthusiasm spills from every page and shows how virtual creations can be employed for countless business, entertainment and educational purposes.”

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Customer Reviews

Because in taking us on a tour of the technology of virtual humans, he makes us take a thorough look at ourselves.
Peter Cavelti
It seems he has managed to cram all the most important aspects, covering a very diverse range of important issues for v-humans all into the one book.
Even the non-technical people will find the book a pleasant read, since the author himself is certainly no programmer.
Anne Kootstra

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

47 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Randal L. Lanning on October 29, 2005
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 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.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Chris Crawford on February 10, 2005
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.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By John Jamison on May 25, 2005
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.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Bob Stanley on December 15, 2003
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....
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