Virtual beings will live on for grieving families through Preserved Memories.

Family members could be kept alive forever virtually so living relatives could interact with their avatars, an academic has suggested.

Simon McKeown, a reader in animation and post-production at Teesside University in Middlesbrough, England, claims that within 50 years computers will be advanced enough to create "synthetic digital life" based upon people's past movements, preferences and history on social media.

The avatars would be created using a process called "photogrammetry" which can accurately reconstruct a virtual 3D shape of a human being from existing photographs and video.

Computer voice synthesis will take account of local and regional accents to deliver a more accurate representation of what they sounded like.

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The digital life form would also be linked up to social networks and large databases so they would be kept "up to date" with their relative's activities and could communicate with them.

McKeown has dubbed the idea "Preserved Memories" and claims people would be able to construct a reality to avoid ever having to say goodbye to loved ones.

"In the future with Preserved Memories, you will never have to experience the loss of a loved one," he said.

"You will be able to add to your family tree and select new family members, including famous faces and legends, all of whom will already know about you. Using emotion-sensitive human-computer interaction our artificially intelligent participants continue to acquire ongoing knowledge long after their death - they evolve digitally and do not die.

"This life form will be up to date and informed of your daily activities through GPS, wifi, health and fitness tracking, consumer records and much more. They will know if you have passed your exam, driving test, flown on holiday, bought new shoes, ditched your boyfriend. They will know what you tell it on social media and also by the constant tracking that occurs every day.

"Our prime data feeds mean digital participants instantly know what you have done and can sense your physical mood and excitement."

McKeown is showcasing Preserved Memories in Prague as part of the Brave New World Exhibition, which runs until January 25.