Assessing the Maturity of Digital Human Technology: A Journey Through the Technology Readiness Level Scale


Assessing the Maturity of Digital Human Technology: A Journey Through the Technology Readiness Level Scale

The development of digital humans, a process steeped in both technological innovation and creative design, can be methodically traced through the lens of the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) scale. This scale, originally developed by NASA and now widely used across various technological domains, provides a structured framework to assess the maturity of technologies. In the context of digital human development, the TRL scale highlights a journey from conceptual understanding to full commercial deployment.

  1. Technology Readiness Level 1, the journey begins with basic research. Here, the focus is on understanding the fundamental principles that underpin the creation of digital humans. This includes theoretical research into human anatomy, behavior, and physiology, forming the bedrock upon which more applied research will be built. It’s a stage more concerned with the ‘why’ and ‘what’ than the ‘how’.
  2. Technology Readiness Level 2, the focus shifts to applied research. The potential applications of digital humans become clearer, whether it’s for enhancing user experience in virtual reality, augmenting customer service through virtual assistants, or elevating realism in digital entertainment. This stage is marked by identifying the practicality of these applications and confirming the potential of various methods and technologies to achieve them.
  3. Technology Readiness Level 3, proof of concept is established. Early prototypes of digital humans are developed, though in a rudimentary form. These prototypes might demonstrate basic human movements or facial expressions based on predefined scripts. The purpose here is to validate the feasibility of creating more interactive and realistic digital humans.
  4. Technology Readiness Level 4 sees the development and lab testing of alpha prototypes. These prototypes incorporate more complex features such as improved graphics and rudimentary interaction capabilities. The testing at this stage is conducted in controlled environments, aimed at assessing the viability of the prototypes in performing basic interactions.
  5. Technology Readiness Level 5 involves laboratory testing of these systems in an integrated or semi-integrated form. The digital human models are enhanced with more sophisticated systems such as AI-driven response mechanisms or natural language processing capabilities. The validation in a relevant environment is crucial at this stage, as it ensures that the digital human can interact in scenarios that mimic real-world applications.
  6. Technology Readiness Level 6 is a significant leap where the prototype system is verified in an operational environment. Here, the digital human is tested in a more realistic setting, such as a customer service interface or a virtual reality platform. This is where the technology is fine-tuned to ensure its efficacy and interaction quality in real-time applications.
  7. Technology Readiness Level 7, the technology is demonstrated in an integrated pilot system. This could involve deploying the digital human in a commercial video game or as a virtual assistant on a public platform. Extensive user interaction and feedback collection are integral to this stage, as they inform further refinement of the technology.
  8. Technology Readiness Level 8 is the pre-commercial demonstration phase. The digital human technology is now mature enough to be incorporated into commercial designs. It is at this stage that the technology undergoes final refinements based on extensive testing and feedback. The digital human is now ready to be integrated into various commercial products.
  9. Technology Readiness Level 9 represents the culmination of this journey: the full commercial deployment of the digital human technology. At this stage, the technology is not only mature but also proven through its effective functioning across multiple platforms and applications. It demonstrates reliable and realistic human-like interactions, adaptability, and learning capabilities.

Throughout this development process, the TRL scale provides a clear and structured pathway for the maturation of digital human technology. From theoretical underpinnings to practical applications, each stage builds upon the last, ensuring that by the time of commercial deployment, the digital humans are not only technologically advanced but also capable of delivering realistic and engaging user experiences. The journey of developing digital humans, as mapped by the TRL scale, is a testament to the intricate blend of technology and creativity, a journey that transforms conceptual ideas into tangible, interactive realities.