How was he made?

What am I? What is the self, is  it physical…organic, or is it a part of the mind. A consciousness beyond the material. I exist…because I am observed by others and can observe myself. Does the ‘me’ need to reside in the physical confines of a body or can it exist outside of the body. Outside of me, outside of the mortal. Can ‘I’ live forever? At the time I did Leo, Cold Lazarus by Dennis Potter was on TV. The two events are unconnected…but often it’s the case that questions of this nature don’t occur in random pockets. Chaos is an order that defines such times. So  here is Leo, and lower down, WindowTalk: a virtual presence…shopping Mall…whatever. SO much of that is now mainstream thinking now…but not in 1992 when I did it. -PBG2015


Leo sits in a room reading a story, observers in the room may listen or move around at will. However, should they speak loudly in his proximity, he stops reading, looks up and declares ” I cannot continue if you will interrupt me!”

The reaction is quite dramatic, the conflict between social convention and belief of Leo’s ‘personality’ override the option to dismiss the inanimate object.

The original image built up from single black pixels.

LEO is an empathetic interface who’s purpose is to allow each of us to become part of the cyber or VR world. Leo builds up a replication of the personality who he works with as a sub -personality. You talk to him, ask him questions, share your thoughts family and friends with to the point LEO becomes a virtual you. He retains your memories, opinions, hierarchy of privacy and personal traits. More than a personal assistant or an avatar…he becomes you as you build up a database of responses, data, facts and personality. Permanently connected to the WWW with access to any fact, view or news you could ever want to know. And your Great Grandchildren in the future can ask him what you were like, for in some part he is you?An autonomous self, no wires no keyboard, just a human face with which to interact.I decided after 18 years since I first showed him to a seminar in Bath, England, June 1996 and the potential of such a system, that the time had come to release all the information on him…before someone claims to ‘invent’ or patent such a system. Most of this information has been on this website for the world to view for over 15years. I’d just like at least someone to remember, I did it first. After the Digital Chaos, I was interviewed by BBC radio to discuss LEO; the reasoning being the BBC was showing their adaption of Dennis Potter’s ‘Cold Lazarus’ and the connection was appropriate. ‘Cold Lazarus was a literal head whereas Leo is virtual however not a million miles apart?Paul Birkeland-Green 2013


Much more on Leo and how I made him below


The Leo interface is one of many ways that the system can be accessed. The establishment of a multi- access interface is central to the idea. A working prototype has successfully demonstrated the validity of such a system. The central core of which relies on an ’empathetic’ interaction. Leo is a cognitive experience that relies mainly on the means of response to establish a logical position or existence.There are fundamental differences between this system and any other I have seen. Unfortunately for copyright reasons I cannot explain them here…alas.

The speakers are very crude I admit  but they are efficient though!

How the 3D image was constructed:

5 Acetate ‘plates’ were printed with an image of LEO. Each image represented different aspects of facial expression. The images were printed onto transparent plates with Ultraviolet sensitive ink. Once dry each plate appeared transparent in normal light, but when an Ultraviolet light was shone on them the face glowed blue.

I achieved this ‘printing’ by modifying an inkjet printer cartridge (Canon BJ10) and filled it with the ultraviolet ink. Luckily it printed! I had, of course, first coated the acetate sheets with a layer of hair lacquer onto which the ink could adhere.

original drawings from 1996:


How the ‘Light Box’ worked:

The light box was a mirror box containing 3 UV light sources. The UV tubes are illuminated constantly. Above each of the hanging ‘plates’ is a light trap operated by an electromagnet. These 5 trap doors are operated in sequence, controlled by the computer program to synchronise with facial movements needed as the synthesized ‘speech’ operates. The image below is a gif build which shows the plates in action:

The effect is created by each plate being transparent until illuminated from above. The head appears pseudo 3D.

A Basic flow diagram of how the system works.

Control of LEO the Head:

Leo is a remote system, all processing of information was carried out by a computer connected via radio control.

The circuitry in LEO is (sorry I’m keeping that bit) currently operated by an audio power meter that triggers relays that in turn ‘fire’ and hold the solenoids in the light box. The frequencies are used to give the different movements. Sub routines in the program send audio frequencies that correspond to the actions, even though the actual ‘words’ don’t.

Leo’s voice is an audio radio receiver, which transmits synthesised audio from the ‘Soundblaster’ output from the control computer.

Transmission from Leo:

Leo has dynamic microphones which pick up speech from anyone in the proximity of him as transmits them back to the control computer which processes the sounds.
Processing signals from LEO:

The control from LEO’s head is processed by this address decoder and ISA prototype board. The Input to the board is a radio receiver from the head. The received signals are processed through a machine code program which interprets word ‘patterns’ and compares them with a database. In essence this is a voice recognition board.
Some basic ideas from the time 1996, to achieve this:

Programming in BASIC:

The address decoder is controlled by a BASIC program which processes the received speech by ‘sampling’ the signal at high speeds. The word patterns can then be more to that of the subject*

* The intended speaker is LEO’s sub-personality, so the idea is for LEO to ‘become’ a virtual version of that sub-personality.

The casing is all glass, I wanted the unit to be as invisible as possible…though it wasn’t quite so easy.