Joey Tribbiani Has Become “Virtually Immortalized” (And Could Make New “Friends” Episodes Forever)

Of course, we heard this old line back when highly realistic 3D animation was a first a thing—that celebrities could digitally “live forever” and, in theory, continue to make new movies regardless of advanced age or even death.

But researchers at the University of Leeds are taking this concept several steps further, by apparently feeding all 236 episodes of the TV series Friends into a computer in order to create a “virtually immortalized” Joey Tribbiani.

From the research paper “Virtual Immortality: Reanimating Characters From TV Shows”:

The objective of this work is to build virtual talking avatars of characters fully automatically from TV shows. From this unconstrained data, we show how to capture a character’s style of speech, visual appearance and language in an effort to construct an interactive avatar of the person and effectively immortalize them in a computational model.

While this enterprise is largely focused on recreating Joey’s voice, recreating visually his mouth movements was also done. The result, as seen in the video below, has a sort of clumsy Clutch Cargo type appearance, with the computerized mouth literally superimposed over Joey’s face in various scenes.

But the ultimate goal of the researchers—or, at least, one of the goals—is to seamlessly embed computer-spoken original dialogue onto old footage of these characters, creating whole new scenes.

I have to wonder what Matt LeBlanc thinks of all this.