Getting more animated at High Fidelity

HF-logoOne of the things people have critiqued High Fidelity about is the look of their avatars. Yes, they can use 3D cameras to capture a user’s facial expression and translated them into facial movements on an avatar but, well, the avatars just look a little odd.

Or at least, that’s an oft-heard or read comment. I’m not entirely in disagreement; SL avatars may not be technically up-to-snuff in many ways, but they can look good, and over they years, they have spoiled us somewhat.

However, High Fidelity is still only in an alpha phase; and things are bound to improve over time with the look and feel of their environments and their avatars. As a demonstration of their attempts to improve things, the HiFi team have recently released a couple of videos and a blog post from their animator, Ozan Serim, formerly of Pixar Studios.

In the post – which marks his first time writing  for the blog, Ozan explains how he’s trying to bring more advanced animation to the platform’s avatars to, as he puts it, “make live avatars look really amazing – as close to what we see in animated films today.” This isn’t as easy at it sounds, as he goes on to note:

This is a big challenge – we have to do everything in a fraction of a second without the benefits of an animator (like me!) being able to ‘post-process’ the results of what is motion captured.  So I’ve been working on the ‘rigging’: how a live 3D camera and a motion capture package like Faceshift is able to ‘puppeteer’ an avatar.  With less accurate data, we have to be clever about things like how we move the mouth to more simplistically capture the phonemes that make up speech.

To demonstrate the result, Ozan includes a video of Emily Donald, one of the other HiFi staff members, singing

 As well as this video, using the “default” format of HiFi avatar, Ozan and members of the HiFi team have been working on improving the overall look of their avatar, and some early results of their efforts can be seen in another music video released at the start of August, and which is linked-to in the blog post.

This is again experiment in rigging facial expressions to more fully match those of a human being, with special attention being paid to the “A”s and “M”s as the avatar (Ozan) lip-synchs to Freddie Mercury singing Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. This is another video where it’s worth watching the avatar’s mouth movements – and also eye and eyebrow movements, which also reflect a strong level of emotion.

Again, there’s a fair way to go here, but these early results are fascinating, and not just for the technical aspects of what is being done here: capturing, processing and rigging subtle facial expressions in real-time. As a commentator on the Bohemian Rhapsody notes, “cool but creepy” – a reflection of the fact that HiFi have taken a further step into the Uncanny Valley. It’s going to be interesting to see how well they fare in crossing it.

Related Links

With thanks to Indigo Martel for the pointer.

 

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6 thoughts on “Getting more animated at High Fidelity

  1. Well Emily Donald can certainly sing, what a lovely voice.

    Facial expressions are going to be interesting, I’m not sure we actually pay as much attention to them as we do in these videos, so they seem a little odd.

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    1. I think it comes down to the context of use. If we’re immersively engaged in an environment such as those found in SL, or in some form of HiFi game play, then probably not. But if HiFi gets a the kind of footing that Mr. Rosedale seems to want, one as much focused on communications through avatars as it is about anything else, then maybe we will subconsciously register avatar facial movements in much the same way as we do when communicating directly with one another in the physical world.

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  2. All the avatars are created by either the alpha user creators or the HyFy team. There is not ‘default avatar’ really, so the users are creating avatars from the ground up. I imagine what you see now is nothing like what maybe available to users Down the road, it’s exciting stuff.

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    1. Yup. I should have expressed it as “default” (in quotes), as it’s really the style of avatar most people are familiar with seeing in the various presentations and videos on HiFi.

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