Watch: A young and dapper ‘Digital Einstein’ to come to life at the Swiss Pavilion at Expo 2020 in Dubai
Dubai: Think of Albert Einstein and one thing that immediately springs to mind – aside from his iconic Theory of Relativity – is his frizzy hair. But it wasn’t always shabby and messy for the genius. In fact, Einstein looked rather dapper and polished during his early years at a university in Zurich, Switzerland. And this “young” Einstein will become “alive” – albeit digitally – at the Swiss pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai, which opens on October 1.
Gulf News recently got a glimpse of “Digital Einstein” at a science fair at his alma mater in Switzerland – ETH Zurich (Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule or Swiss Federal Institute of Technology).
A couple of children sat in an armchair and in front of them was an avatar of the Nobel Prize winner, modeled after his appearance during his time at the Swiss public research university. Bringing the digital Einstein to life and making it “see”, “hear” and “interact” with viewers is a complex algorithmic system developed by the company Animatico – a spin-off of ETH Zurich.
“Our idea was to bring a 3D animated figurine showing a young Einstein (ostensibly wearing a chic hairstyle) who can interact with young people and share his time in Zurich. We used a complex algorithm, including dynamic visualization, speech processing and visual recognition to make it more interactive, ”Riccardo Roveri, Animatico co-founder, told Gulf News, adding:“ You can ask him (Digital Einstein) any question about his life, research, and academic work.
Chat with a Nobel Laureate
At Expo 2020 Dubai, those who wish to chat with the Nobel Laureate’s digital avatar will be seated in a comfortable chair, equipped with the latest technology, including a camera capable of scanning the viewer’s movements and reactions. A dynamic microphone is also used to filter out the voice from ambient noise, while special software converts the audio to text for Digital Einstein to analyze and generate an appropriate response, all in real time.
Roveri, however, said Digital Einstein is still a work in progress. The developers are continually improving the platform to offer completely free conversation and are trying to add more languages to the directory, including Arabic.
A “humorous response”
ETH professor Markus Gross said that Digital Einstein can “answer a wide variety of questions and sometimes respond with a difficult counter-question or a humorous remark. A younger Einstein was deliberately chosen to match his stay in Zurich ”. ETH Zurich has said that bringing Einstein to digital life is a tribute to his most famous alumnus and to celebrate the centenary since he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics.
Insatiable thirst for knowledge
According to ETH, what is very interesting to learn from young Einstein is how he described himself as a “wanderer and a loner” with an insatiable enthusiasm for the theories and the physical problems of his time.
Einstein entered ETH, then called the Polytechnic Zurich, in October 1896. He was only 17 at the time and was one of the youngest students. He studied in Zurich for four years, focusing on physics and mathematics, but also took courses in literature and history.
“Even at a very young age, Einstein had a deep thirst for knowledge. He wanted to get to the bottom of things that were not understood at the time and he really challenged existing physical paradigms, ”noted Hans Rudolf Ott, professor emeritus of physics at ETH.
Visitors to the Swiss pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai will have the chance to interact with “young” Einstein. There may not be enough time to learn more about the general theory of relativity or how space and time are inextricably linked, but the idea of interacting and joking with a genius and a cultural icon will certainly be worth it. We can also choose a thing or two of his wit and light humor, while marveling at his digital “hairstyle”!