The Virtual Humans Story

Magnenat-Thalmann, N. and Thalmann, D.

Abstract: In the early 1980s, we developed MIRA, one of the first abstract data-type languages for graphics and a forerunner of modern object-oriented languages. MIRA was designed to facilitate the animation of virtual worlds and 3D characters. Despite its apparent antecedents in Latin and Romance words relating to vision, the language was actually named after our dog. More recently, our dog has been commemorated in MIRALab, the first author’s lab in Geneva. Using the MIRA software, we have pursued our goal of synthesizing human figures, which we call virtual humans. In this essay, we will briefly recall some social moments of our research. In 1982, in collaboration with Philippe Bergeron, we produced Dream Flight, a film depicting a person (in the form of an articulated stick figure) transported over the Atlantic Ocean from Paris to New York. This film won several awards, including first prize at the Online Conference in London. The government of Quebec, Canada, was so proud of us three Quebecers that Rene Levesque and his government ministers interrupted the proceedings of the National Assembly to telephone their congratulations to us at the University of Montreal.

  booktitle = {IEEE Annals of the History of Computing},
  author = {Magnenat-Thalmann, N. and Thalmann, D.},
  title = {The Virtual Humans Story},
  publisher = {IEEE Publisher},
  volume = {Vol. 20},
  number = {No. 2},
  pages = {50-51},
  year = {1998},
  topic = {Miscellaneous}