Computer Generated Celebrities Bring Us One Step Closer to Augmented Reality

Wednesday, 09 December 2015 - 9:50AM
Virtual Reality
Wednesday, 09 December 2015 - 9:50AM
Computer Generated Celebrities Bring Us One Step Closer to Augmented Reality
In the sci-fi comedy Simone, a film director pulls a fast one on viewing audiences by filming a movie with an entirely virtual lead actress (who goes on to win an Oscar). Now, we might be one step closer to digital creations replacing human beings, as researchers from the University of Washington have recreated and animated celebrity faces with astonishing accuracy.

The creepiest part starts around 1:10:



The machine used in the above video scans huge photo databases of human faces, and its algorithms map out 49 points on a person's face that change depending on facial expression. As a result, the researchers can animate the faces to make any expression they want, and they'll still look "like them," retaining all of their own specific mannerisms. Obama, for example, will still look like Obama while saying George W. Bush's words, even if he's making a "Bush face."

Opening quote
"If we can produce a realistic model after transferring expressions, it means that we captured something," Ira Kemelmacher-Shlizerman, an assistant professor of computer engineering at the University of Washington, and one of the authors of a paper that is set to be presented at the International Conference on Computer Vision this month, told The Atlantic. "Something in the [data] flow that seems like it captures that person's identity. We cannot say yet that because George Bush raises his eyebrows some particular way, this is what makes George Bush George Bush."
Closing quote


While other technologies, particularly in Hollywood films, have digitally recreated human faces with very realistic results, the techniques usually require that person to cooperate while their specific face is scanned, while the new technique can recreate any person with photos on the Internet (which is everyone). The former type of technology was used to age Brad Pitt's face in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button:

Opening quote
"The expressions were later used to create a personalized blend shape model and transferred to an artist created sculpture of an older version of him," Kemelmacher-Shlizerman and her co-authors wrote in their paper. "This approach produces amazing results, however, [it] requires actor's active participation and takes months to execute."
Closing quote



This technology is a little frightening, because it basically means that we can never trust anything we see on video again. With the 2016 presidential campaign in full swing, can you imagine how much damage people could do by, say, creating a video of Bernie Sanders saying a few of Donald Trump's greatest hits? (Of course, we would all know his voice anywhere, but you get the idea.) Kemelmacher-Shlizerman claims that the same technology that can create these digital copies can also determine whether a video is faked, but it's still a little creepy.

On the brighter side, this technology could also be a breakthrough in virtual reality, which is making strides seemingly every day:

Opening quote
"One of the applications is in augmented reality and virtual reality," Kemelmacher-Shlizerman said. "We're not there yet, but our research leads to that."
Closing quote

While there are many potential applications, one of the most intuitive is augmented reality phone calls. Many sci-fi works (and How I Met Your Mother) have predicted futuristic phones that project a hologram of the person's face in front of you while you're talking to them, like sci-fi Facetime, and according to the UW researchers, this machine could help make that happen.

Opening quote
"What if you could do that, just to take it forward a few steps and make it more realistic? Make it like the person is in front of you in three dimensions, so you can see the actual expressions in detail," Kemelmacher-Shlizerman said.
Closing quote

Via AV Club.
Science
Technology
Virtual Reality

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