Activision R&D Unveils Eerily Realistic Facial Animation Technology

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Activision R&D Unveils Eerily Realistic Facial Animation Technology

The video you're about to watch contains a computer-generated face that is so realistic as to necessitate this disclaimer pointing out that it's not an actual human.

The clip embedded at right comes courtesy of Activision's research and development division, which, as you can see, has been tasked with creating a new generation of lifelike facial animation technology. Granted, this digital person isn't perfect and one can pick out the flaws by paying close attention - most glaring is the lack of proper texture work within the mouth that becomes visible as the lips open and close - but overall this is an undeniably impressive demonstration of the direction computer-generated graphics may take in the near future.

More impressive is Activision's claim that this faux person was rendered on current graphics hardware. We have to assume they mean current top of the line graphics hardware, but still, according to Activision, this face was generated by the same technology you can find on the shelves at your local Fry's.

Despite the impressive aesthetics on display here, it's important to keep in mind that you won't be likely to find these kinds of facial animation techniques in near-future videogames. The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 simply lack the necessary power to render such things. That said, you can expect games on the next generation of Sony and Microsoft consoles to take advantage of the concepts Activision's R&D department is employing for this clip. Launch titles may not look quite as realistic as this, but once developers have time to grow accustomed to the new hardware they'll be working with over the next few years, we should see titles that rival or surpass this level of visual fidelity.

In the mean time, consider this nothing more than what it actually is: An impressive tech demo designed to herald a future in which games feature characters with almost photo-realistic pores, skin texture and interplay between bones and soft tissue. Of course, this means nothing without talented artists to conceive impressive ways to utilize this technology, but we'll leave that to the developers to figure out.

Source: YouTube

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That's impressive, but the current level of graphics is already incredibly expensive to develop for, which is why you see games like Dead Space 3 needing to sell in huge quantities just to break even.

As amazing as it would be to have games with that kind of facial animation, I just don't think it's an economically sound move. I can't even imagine how many man-hours it would take to render an entire game with that kind of fidelity.

I agree with UltimateChosen. Unless this technology is implemented with powerful tools to automate the process of creating the model, textures, rig and animations, I don't see it getting much use.

It was pretty good at first, then they started moving the lights around while he spoke and it became really impressive. Moreso because it's apparently rendered in real time. To be super-impressive they'd need to build something like this without having to resort to mo-cap, but still, the skin texture and movement was exceptional.

That needs a disclaimer?

I mean it's very impressive and all. When it's not moving.

But that's not a smile. And unless you've got some sort of growth on your inner cheek that's not how you talk. The whole thing just doesn't move right. Animation-wise that thing is still very firmly in the uncanny valley.

All this really demonstrates is that whomever made this thing simply doesn't understand what makes things look lifelike. It's not the graphical fidelity. It's movement and animation. Things have to move naturally, organically. Then they'll appear life-like. I've seen robots, the ones that are nothing but a metal frame, that appear more life-like than this thing, because the motions they go through are simply right.

Impressive technology, but we all know that it's going to get wasted in CoD.

You can tell by the textures and the edge of the lips.

UltimatheChosen:
That's impressive, but the current level of graphics is already incredibly expensive to develop for, which is why you see games like Dead Space 3 needing to sell in huge quantities just to break even.

So if money is polygons and polygons are emotions, how many emotions is money?

It's impressive but still pretty much in the uncanny valley.

Worgen:
It's impressive but still pretty much in the uncanny valley.

I agree. I mean, it is bloody impressive to look at, and I was actually surprised at how realistic it looked, but there is still definitely something off about it. Perhaps it needs more Emotions.

Captcha: Mark it Zero.

That's a bit harsh, I think it was a job well done.

Hagi:
*snip*

The eyes stretch in some exceedingly uncanny ways when he raises his eyebrows too.

Hagi:
Sanity snippage

My thoughts exactly. Seeing such a realistic face move like that was creepy beyond belief. It's incredibly impressive tech, but I can't say I'd actually wanna see it implemented as is.

I wonder how it would look if you applied this kind of fidelity to a stylized game? Something with the art direction of, say, Okami or Skyward Sword? I'm thinking more the polygon counts and texture quality here.

This is going to suck a budget dry. They should be focusing more on 3d facial mocap and improving the fidelity and textures of the result. Having an animator work eight hours to reproduce something an actor can do in 10 minutes is so wasteful.

DVS BSTrD:
You can tell by the textures and the edge of the lips.

UltimatheChosen:
That's impressive, but the current level of graphics is already incredibly expensive to develop for, which is why you see games like Dead Space 3 needing to sell in huge quantities just to break even.

So if money is polygons and polygons are emotions, how many emotions is money?

According to sales numbers. Emotions is money at ratio of 1:4. And this is so many emotions...

CriticalMiss:
Impressive technology, but we all know that it's going to get wasted in CoD.

Honestly, if the CoD juggernaut has the money to build increasingly complex pieces, it doesn't matter if they don't get used again for CoD. What's important is that then those resources exist in a form they could potentially be borrow by other Activision devs for other games.

NOTE: This is mainly true in my ideal world where Activision is staffed by people who care about good game design and careful use of programming resources.

Worgen:
It's impressive but still pretty much in the uncanny valley.

Pretty much this. Hell, just looking at the mouth as it talks pretty much gives it away for me since I usally look there sometimes when someone talks. It's still very impressive but I can't even begin to think of how this would be a drain on a games budget. Honestly though, I'd rather have an amazing story and tight gameplay than more details like this.

they know how to get the skin right, alright.
but they never seem to get the eyes right. that disclaime was kind of unnecessary since it goes well into the uncanny valley.

also the teeths

Well, all we need now is a character creator for characters like that and an oculus and we'll all have the avatars we want to look like.

Interesting, but likely to be left behind if shared or priced incorrectly. In this day and age, it needs to be made clear that it's more important to price your middleware within reach of indie budgets instead of hoping to rake in the big cash from AAA developers looking for the best technology that can run on consoles. Otherwise, it's going to never unlock its full potential unless it reaches the hands of a few unsavory types. Accessibility is key!

BTW, look at Jorge Jimenez's homepage. He's one of the guys responsible for several programming advancements like this:

http://www.iryoku.com/

GAH!! That thing's gonna give me nightmares!!

You know, it's very realistic, but as far as I can tell it's just throwing more polygons and animation points (read: more power) at the same techniques we're currently using. The Source Engine does the same basic thing, just less photo realistic.

Also, that thing has dead eyes. Why was a disclaimer needed again?

This is so gonna get hijacked for porn, I just know it.

Well, it's as impressive as any other tech demo.

But it's all just a flashback to that Alfred Molina demo back when the PS3 was revealed. When it comes to graphics in games, actual gameplay footage is what matters, and I doubt we'll see many (if any) games in the next five years that'll come close to matching that level of detail and "emotion".

I call fucking shenanigans.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=5d1ZOYU4gpo

Nvidia's tech. Not Activision's.

Ah, excellent! More polygons, and with these polygons we can achieve true emotion in gaming!

Too bad we won't see it for another six or seven years in practical form, LEST THE CONSOLE MANUFACTURERS GET UPSET. Until then, you get games that are 90% scripted.

Hmm... What was the term again? Oh yes... Uncanny valley.
Burn it, please. Burn it with fire, lest you wish for this abomination to haunt my endless nightmares to come. :(

I will be impressed when they can get the damn teeth right its always the inside of mouths that really get me they look terrible always with the nasty teeth strips and no texturing on the inside

Goodness, that's allot of polygons. This must be what porn looks like for someone like David Cage.

The facial expressions are impressive but they'll never get the eyes right. No matter how realistic you can make the textures and muscle movements I don't believe we'll ever capture that 'focus' that real eyes have. It's always as if they're looking right through something and never at it... if that makes any sense.

Why is Activision getting all of the credit? They are clearly using nVidia's powerful new FaceWorks technology, they are even using the exact same model and facial animations used in the nVidia Tech Demos. http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2013/03/20/gurnaphics-card-nvidias-face-works/

Now entering the Uncanny Valley, enjoy your stay

Hagi:
That needs a disclaimer?

I mean it's very impressive and all. When it's not moving.

But that's not a smile. And unless you've got some sort of growth on your inner cheek that's not how you talk. The whole thing just doesn't move right. Animation-wise that thing is still very firmly in the uncanny valley.

All this really demonstrates is that whomever made this thing simply doesn't understand what makes things look lifelike. It's not the graphical fidelity. It's movement and animation. Things have to move naturally, organically. Then they'll appear life-like. I've seen robots, the ones that are nothing but a metal frame, that appear more life-like than this thing, because the motions they go through are simply right.

I've seen smiles that are deeper in the uncanny valley than that in real life.

it's more like a strange leather mask that doesn't quite have the flexibility of an actual face yet

i'm sure they can resolve that issue easily using current technology though

we have almost achieved emotional gameplay...

I agree it's not perfect, but it's still pretty bloody impressive. And yeah, it'll be expensive, but surely eventually it'll be relatively affordable for most devs? Progress has to be made some time.

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