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'Virtually immortalized' Joey from 'Friends' wants to chat you up

Watch out ladies. Thanks to machine learning software, Joey Tribbiani has been reanimated as a virtual avatar that can automatically generate Joey-like lines.

An audio-visual example of generated scenes with Joey saying new sentences.

Video screenshot by Leslie Katz/CNET

How YOU doin'? If you're a fan of the show "Friends," you might be doin' better after hearing this news.

Researchers have "virtually immortalized" Joey Tribbiani from the long-running sitcom with a talking avatar that says the kinds of things you'd expect from the dim but lovable character.

"Hey Ross do you want me to talk to some lady?" Avatar Joey asks in the voice and style of Matt LeBlanc's character, a soap opera actor and compulsive flirt.

Researchers from the School of Computing at the UK's University of Leeds tasked machine learning software with analyzing video and transcripts from all 236 "Friends" episodes to get a handle on Joey's sound and appearance and generate new dialogue. They then used computer vision and speech recognition algorithms to train the avatar in the character's audio and visual ways.

Why construct a computational model of Joey when it's easy enough to watch old episodes of "Friends" online? The ultimate goal of the research, spotted on Prosthetic Knowledge, is to produce moving, speaking interactive avatars that could be used to assign a face and personality to voice-only assistants such as Siri, Microsoft's Cortana or Amazon's Alexa.

"Such a model could also be used as an effortless way to generate ground-truth audiovisual data for training AI interactive systems," the researchers say in a peer-reviewed paper detailing their work, which they presented at the European Conference for Computer Vision earlier this month.

AI systems being trained by virtual avatars of resurrected TV characters? AI training, thy name is The Singularity.

Like the reanimated Jerry Seinfeld who appeared on "30 Rock" as SeinfeldVision, the research by James Charles, Derek Magee and David Hogg portends some highly entertaining possibilities. But it may be awhile before the digitally resurrected Joey lands a starring role in your technology.

As evidenced by the video below, the mouth spouting new lines don't quite match the face motions yet. And Joey sentences generated in the experiment include such Emmy-winning lines as "Dude I don't care what is a little him" and "Oh can I like this up the cansy."