FEED Issue 25

61 SITE VISIT InterDigital

MIXING IT UP An InterDigital researcher demos tech for creating mixed reality on the fly

our physicality. These things, according to Seydoux, can be turned into the numbers – the speed at which a person blinks, the sequence of facial movements that occur when a person is feeling an emotion. Seydoux painted a picture of the future of communications: “I can build an avatar with all my behaviour and my expressions, and when I chat to my friend in Australia with my goggles on and I load my avatar and they load theirs, we can be in a convincing virtual space together. I can move around and see him or her from every angle and we talk and there’s a real telepresence. “I think there’s a market there. We’re building the technology here for that. But there are many technology hurdles still in order to avoid falling into this ‘uncanny valley’ where something doesn’t feel right, but we don’t know exactly why. If I look at my avatar and I don’t believe in one aspect of it, maybe just the way the mouth moves, it’s not going to work.” DIGITAL DNA Interdigital’s Imaging Science Lab is run by computer scientist Lionel Oisel, who was also head of research at LA’s Technicolor Experience Center (TEC), which worked to develop practical technologies for VR and immersive storytelling. InterDigital already

FEED editor Neal Romanek volunteered to enter a wired-up tent, which looked like some construction out of a superhero origin story. However, inside was a well- illuminated chair and an encircling array of DSLR cameras. The capture itself took no longer than a shutter opening and closing, the bulk of the process was taken up by about 20 minutes of digital stitching and rendering, which resulted in the appearance of an uncannily realistic bust on a monitor, grinning, grimacing and blinking as it ran through a series of preset animation cycles. The digital avatar system, in its current configuration, does not render hair. But adding locks to an avatar is probably only a matter of the resolution of capture, getting

the physics right and just sheer processing speed. Fortunately, the hair issue was a moot point for FEED’s editor – the bald head was startlingly realistic. One can imagine a future where sitting to get your digital avatar done will be as easy as having your passport photo taken. The complex issue will be how that digital avatar might be used in an increasingly complex virtual world. Gaël Seydoux pointed out that the physical image of a person is only one small part of producing a digital avatar. Attached to it could be large amounts of additional data about the person, as well as motion data. One of the things that makes one person indistinguishable from another is movement, the timings and rhythms of

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