The University of Illinois at Chicago have come up with a method of providing interactive video chat online using realistic avatars:

UIC also has developed technology that provides viewers with 3-D images that do not require wearing special glasses.

One important factor in the project is to impart appropriate body language to the avatar as it responds to comments and questions, said Steve Jones, a UIC professor of communication.
“In real life, it’s just assumed that you can read a person’s responses without saying anything,” said Jones.

A subtle hesitation before speaking can have meaning, but such nuances have been mostly lacking in software programs created so far.

The project will use video cameras to record a person’s mannerisms, and that information will be fed into the programs that activate the avatar, Jones said.

This technology means you could become your favorite actor or politician or family member and “chat” online as that person or even with that person.

Professors could hold online virtual meetings with students — and neither student or instructor would have to dress up or even look special for the occasion.

We are quickly moving into the Age of Masks and with that virtualization of our real selves, we must remember to always preserve our humanity in the negotiation.