Activision’s Facial Character Animation Tech Demo Is Freakily Realistic

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News Posted: Fri, Mar 29 2013 3:48 PM

One of the best things about any Game Developers Conference is that it's where much of the interesting tech soon to hit our video games is first shown off. It's no surprise, then, that it's been the place to be for advanced character rendering and of course, the Holy Grail of them all, facial animation. While facial animation has come a long way over the years (L.A. Noire was an outstanding example), we've hardly seen a perfect example. In our opinion, though, Activision's demo at this week's GDC could be the closest we've ever come to that. It's again not perfect, but at certain points in the demo video, you may just be freaked out by the realistic reactions of the character.

This demo was crafted by Activision's R&D team, which it showed off during its GDC presentation called "Next Generation Character Rendering". "Demo" implies that it was actually shown in real-time, and it was. According to Activision, the entire thing ran at around 180 FPS using a GeForce GTX 680. Impressive, but bear in mind, it's easier to show demos like this off when there's virtually nothing to render around the character. I'd love to see a company someday show off tech demos like this but actually create a scene out of it. I haven't played a game that involved just looking at a face before, and I am not sure I have great interest to.

The face data was acquired from USC Institute for Creative Technologies, and was then converted to a 70 bones rig, with some polish applied with the help of DirectX 11. For even more examples of what's possible with this technology, I'd recommend hitting up this blog. Some of the models are simply mind-blowing - easily mistakable in some cases for a real photo.

Who wants to guess when we'll first see this tech appear in a video game?

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realneil replied on Fri, Mar 29 2013 8:15 PM

It's right about Parfaits.

Dogs are great judges of character, and if your dog doesn't like somebody being around, you shouldn't trust them.

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turtle replied on Sat, Mar 30 2013 6:41 AM

I've always believed the problem has been with features layered BEHIND other features. IE the mapping of skin has looked good for some time in my opinion, but eyes have always looked odd because they are naturally sunken in. In that respect, this demo looks amazing. The eyes look pretty fabulous.

Now they just need to work on the inside of mouths (teeth etc.)

I feel terrible saying that, because if it's not one thing it will always be another, but still...not quite there yet. That said, these guys did a remarkable job.

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Dave_HH replied on Sat, Mar 30 2013 10:35 AM

Totally agree with that, turtle. The rest of the face is AMAZING but the mouth movement and internal detail still isn't up to snuff. Still this is a big step in the right direction and it's going to be pretty creepy when they get it spot on - which isn't a matter of "if" but when...

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OSunday replied on Sat, Mar 30 2013 8:22 PM

Well the uncanny valley is starting to get crossed in the digital world, won't be long till it translates over to the physical with robotics and things of the sort. Still incredibly impressed by the level of realism animation is starting to achieve, when this gets put to use in Video Games and Movies it'll up the level of realism significantly

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