Interface with a Familiar Face

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Donating your face for use as a library information terminal. It's like donating a park bench, except way creepier.

When an artificial intelligence is given the face and voice of a real (in the fictional setting) human being, instead of a made-up face.

Distinct from Virtual Ghost and Replacement Goldfish in that the resemblance is only skin deep—the AI has its own name and personality, and is not meant to be a replacement for the person—although the decision to give it that face may have been influenced by sentimental reasons.

Also, this is usually not a case of the AI taking the place of the person it's modelled on; the model is usually still alive, and they will generally go on to lead separate existences. Nor is it usually a case of the AI being introduced as a Suspiciously Similar Substitute; in fact, in series fiction it's very common for the AI to appear first.

If the AI does appear first, and especially if it's a regular character, then the longer the series runs the more likely it becomes that the model will make a guest appearance. The odds of this happening are given a boost if the AI's creator did it without the model's knowledge.

There seems to be a trend for a male-seeming AI to be modelled on its creator, and for a female-seeming AI to be modelled on somebody the creator knew. This may just be a reflection of a preponderance of male AI creators in fiction, though.

Although the title we've given this trope puts the emphasis on computer interfaces, all of the above can also apply to androids.

Contrast Virtual Ghost and Brain Uploading, where the artificial intelligence is meant to be the same as the person it's copied from; all robotic forms of Doppelganger; and A Form You Are Comfortable With.

Examples of Interface with a Familiar Face include:


Comic Books[edit | hide | hide all]

  • In All Fall Down, AIQ Squared looks and sounds exactly like IQ Squared, when he was still a super genius.


Film[edit | hide]

  • In Resident Evil, the appearance and voice of the Red Queen's hologram were modeled after the head programmer's daughter. The daughter appears in the sequel, Resident Evil Apocalypse.
  • A few of these appeared in the Alien film series, particularly in the form of androids. Bishop, from Aliens, is established in a subsequent film as having been modelled on a real person.
  • In Terminator Salvation, Skynet manifests itself to Marcus with the face and voice of Dr. Kogan.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • In Isaac Asimov's The Caves of Steel robot R. Daneel Olivaw is modeled upon his creator. The resemblance is so good that his creator is murdered in mistake for him.
  • In The Peace War by Vernor Vinge, Paul Naismith has given his house AI a hologram body and voice modelled on his girlfriend who was one of the first victims of the Peace Authority.
  • In Sergey Lukyanenko's Labyrinth Of Reflections, the protagonist uses Windows Home as his computer OS. He keeps the original avatar of the OS, an attractive woman. While in Cyberspace, he is running away from a mob and runs into a virtual brothel. He then browses through the catalog and is stunned to find a virtual prostitute that looks exactly the same as his avatar. After meeting her, he starts developing feelings for her, which she cautions him against, as she can be a fat guy for all he knows. At the end of the novel, they agree to meet in the real world, and it turns out that this is what she really looks like.


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • In the Doctor Who episodes "Silence in the Library" and "Forest of the Dead", the computer information terminals in the Library have human faces. The Doctor explains that they're memorials to the faces' original owners, "like donating a park bench".
    • Later, in "Let's Kill Hitler," the vocal control interface can take the appearance of anyone. The Doctor chooses the form of 6-year-old Amelia Pond, since at that point he hadn't screwed her up yet.
  • In Eureka the voice of the house AI SARAH is actually a pitched up version of its inventor Fargo (because [fictionally] Sarah Michelle Gellar wouldn't agree to supply the voice).
  • In Red Dwarf, it's claimed in the episode "Beyond a Joke" that the android Kryten was designed as a caricature of his (female) creator's ex-boyfriend. (The episode "The Last Day" features a recorded message from an executive at the company that manufactured Kryten, who was played by the same actor as Kryten himself; this might suggest an alternative explanation, or just be a case of Significant Double Casting. Or maybe that was the ex-boyfriend.)
  • In Star Trek the Next Generation, Data (and his brother androids) were modelled after their creator, Noonien Soong.
    • Geordi got in quite a lot of trouble when he created an AI engineer for one episode in the holodeck, developed a crush on her/it, and then came to an abrupt awakening when the "model" visited the ship in a later episode.
  • The Emergency Medical Hologram in Star Trek Voyager has an appearance based on its creator. The creator makes a few guest appearances in later episodes.
  • In Time Trax, Captain Lambert's AI sidekick SELMA has a "visual mode" based on a picture from his childhood, which turns out to have been modelled on his Missing Mom.
  • A plotline in Century City involved one of the lawyers, who had developed a crush on his computerised PA, wanting to track down the actress she was modeled on, despite her pointing out this was a very bad idea.
  • A for Andromeda. The Master Computer kills a female operator, then uses the information gathered in the process to create an Artificial Human who looks exactly like her.
  • Played with in Warehouse 13; when they accidentally activate a long dormant AI, Claudia questions why it looks like its creator, and Fargo says AI designers often do that. However it later transpires that it is in fact, a Virtual Ghost of sorts; an artifact-assisted upload of its creator's right brain.


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Cortana from Halo was (according to the spin-off novel Halo: The Fall of Reach) not only physically modelled after her creator, Dr. Halsey, but the basis for her personality was a scan of Halsey's own brain.
  • In Mass Effect 2, you learn that a street kid has been making and selling VIs that look like Shepard. You never see it, but you can ask for a copy.
    • In Mass Effect 3, you can see the VI, who can "predict what Shepard would say with 7% accuracy." Shepard is worried if he really sounds like that.
    • Also, The creator of the reapers takes on the form of the child Shepard watched die to talk with him.

Bailey: Yeah. When you erased a file, it would say "I delete data like you on the way to real errors." Buggy, though. It crashed every half-hour and the error message was about how the galaxy was at stake and you should fix the problem yourself.

  • Ma3a from Tron 2.0 straddles the line between this and Virtual Ghost. While she has a distinct (and utterly cryptic) thought process and purpose, it's all but stated that her appearance, voice (yes, it is Cindy Morgan under all that distortion), and some of her personality was constructed from the deceased Dr. Bradley.


Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • Lovelace from Narbonic looks and sounds like Jennifer Connelly.


Real Life[edit | hide]

  • HUBO, a Korean robot with a wide repertoire of facial expressions, and, the better to demonstrate them, a life-like human face: Albert Einstein's.


Other[edit | hide]

  • Einstein and Shakespeare are available as helpers in Microsoft Office programs.