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File:VHML Example.png
Filename extension .vhml
Internet media type application/vhml+xml
Developed by
Type of format Markup language
Extended from XML, XHTML
Standard(s) 0.4 ,
(Working Draft)


VHML or the Virtual Human Markup Language is a set of tags and rules (an XML-based markup language) used to accommodate the various aspects of Human-Computer Interaction with regards to Facial Animation, Body Animation, Dialogue Manager interaction, Text to Emotional Speech production, Emotional Representation plus Hyper and Multi Media information.

Although general in nature, the intent of this language is to facilitate the natural and realistic interaction of a Talking Head or Virtual Human with a user via a Web page or application.


Human communication is inherently multimodal. The information conveyed through body language, facial expression, gaze, intonation, speaking style etc. are all important components of everyday communication. An issue within computer science concerns how to provide multimodal agent based system. That is systems that interact with users through several channels. These systems can include Virtual Humans. A Virtual Human might for example be a complete creature, i.e. a creature with a whole body including head, arms, legs etc. but it might also be a creature with only a head, a Talking Head.

The aim of the Virtual Human Markup Language (VHML) is to control Virtual Humans regarding speech, facial animation, facial gestures and body animation.

The language is XML/XSL based and consists of the following sub-systems:

  • EML Emotion Markup Language
  • SML Speech Markup Language
  • FAML Facial Animation Markup Language
  • BAML Body Animation Markup Language
  • XHTML HyperText Markup Language
  • DMML Dialogue Manager Markup Language
File:VHML Hierarchy.png
Figure 1: The VHML language hierarchy.

VHML is divided into three levels, where only five elements constitute the top level. At the middle level are the two sub languages that control emotions and gestures, EML and GML. Their elements are inherited to three of the low level languages, SML, FAML and BAML. Apart from these three, there are two additional sub languages at the low level, DMML and XHTML. The structure of VHML is shown in Figure 1. The dotted lines imply that the language on the lower level inherits the elements from the language on the upper level.

The intent of this language is to facilitate the natural and realistic interaction of a Talking Head or Virtual Human with a user via a web page or a standalone application. In response to a user enquiry, the Virtual Human will have to react in a realistic and humane way using appropriate words, voice, facial and body gestures. For example, a Virtual Human that has to give some bad news to the user may speak in a sad way, with a sorry face and a bowed body stance. In a similar way, a different message may be delivered with a happy voice, a smiley face and a lively body.

VHML is an XML based language. It uses a DTD in order to describe the rules of the structure of the language. The DTD for VHML can be found here. As with XML, all VHML elements are case sensitive. When creating a VHML document, the first line must contain an XML declaration followed by a DTD specification.
Example:	<?xml version=¿1.0¿>
		<!DOCTYPE vhml SYSTEM ¿¿>


  • John Stallo (2000)
  • Quoc Huynh (2000)
  • Simon Beard (2000-2004)
  • Camilla Gustavsson (2001)
  • Linda Strindlund (2001)
  • Emma Wiknertz (2001)
  • Carlo Bonamico (2002)
  • Andrew Marriott (2000- ) (Maintainer) Raytraceaem

Elements of VHML


<person gender="female" voice="english:en1" name="penguin_mermaid">
Hi <say-as sub="yasinta">Jacinta</say-as><break size="large"/>
Here is a little story about an Owl and a Pussy Cat.
The Owl and the Pussy-Cat went to sea
in a <prosody duration="500ms">beautiful</prosody> pea-green boat.
They took some honey, <smile intensity="low" duration="1"/>
<look-left duration="250ms"/>
and plenty of money <look-right duration="250ms"/>
wrapped up in a five-pound note.
Multi-media examples.

VHML documents

Status of VHML

See also


VHML is currently being used in several Talking Head applications as well.
  • 2004, Matthias Klusch et al., "Interactive Information Agents and Interfaces", in Robert W. Proctor and Kim-Phuong L. Vu (eds.), Handbook Of Human Factors In Web Design,[1] Routledge, ISBN 0-8058-4612-3, page 229,
As an alternative to character-specific adjuncts to programming languages, XML-compliant character scripting languages have been be defined, such as VHML ( or MPML (
  • 2004, Gebhard et al., "Coloring Multi-character Conversations through the Expression of Emotions", in Elisabeth André, ed., Affective Dialogue Systems: Tutorial and Research Workshop, ADS 2004, page 138,
[] this approach shares similarities with proposals for character scripting languages comprising emotion tags, such as AML, APML, MPML, or VHML.

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