If you have an online presence in any form, you will be
aware of avatars – small portrait-like images that are attached to your
username, giving you an identity by which other internet users can locate and
play games with or host watch parties with people that they ‘know’ and have
interacted with before.
While some users are quite happy to hide behind an anonymous image and name, others want their online persona to match, as closely as possible, with their real life identity. These will predominantly be people who need an authentic persona because their online image is closely tied to their work or their mission – writers and other artists, charity fundraisers and website owners and many many more.
With the above needs in mind, Facebook Reality Labs is looking into how to make very realistic avatars, especially those that can react in real time, their mouths moving in time with actual speech and picking up and communicating facial expressions and so on.
The technology does exist to do this, but the process is lengthy, complicated and very expensive. The subject must go to the studio where the massive array of facial capture cameras and the bulky – and hideously expensive – equipment all resides.
The subject must position themselves in exactly the right place for the multiple cameras to pick up all the angles of the face while a range of expressions and sounds are repeated. The aim, obviously, is to try and capture the full range of facial movement and emotion so that when the avatar is moving along with speech, the facial features will move in an authentic manner, so the call recipient buys into the illusion that they are talking to the avatar.
This technology will be developed alongside games technology, so that chatting in multi-player online games and online chats will become a friendly and more authentic experience – and of course, it will have applications in businesses that do not yet exist yet – it is estimated that sixty per cent of school children will work in industries that have not yet been invented. These jobs will require features and skills that are currently being used in different applications.