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 model, 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. 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.

HeadEmbodied 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.

The PROSTHETIC HEAD has been shown at New Territories, Glasgow 2003; The ICA, London 2003; InterAccess, Toronto 2003; and at TRANSFIGURE 2004.

Stelarc (Stelios Arkadiou) is a Greek-Australian performance artist whose works focuses heavily on extending the capabilities of the human body. As such, most of his pieces are centered around his concept that the human body is obsolete. Until 2007 he held the position of Principal Research Fellow in the Performance Arts Digital Research Unit at Nottingham Trent University in Nottingham, England. He is currently a visiting Professor in the School of Arts at Brunel University, West London.