Via Technovelgy, The Times Online has a report on a company called Image Metrics which has developed an animation technique that promises the most lifelike computer generated humans ever–good enough to finally get over the uncanny valley, which is responsible for that creepy feeling you get when you see an artificial face that is almost, but not quite, totally realistic.
The demo reel is pretty impressive–this is a creation whose eyes are full of life, not the gateways into zombie hell typical of many previous attempts at creating photorealistic images of humans. Still, the artificial Emily is a digital duplicate of a real actress (Emily O’Brien, shown at 1:30 in the reel) used for the image capture that drives the performance. What I actually find more impressive, if slightly less polished, is the demo on Image Metrics homepage that shows a synthetic character with a different face than the performer’s. It’s only a matter of time before someone puts together a prime time hit that, like The Simpsons, features no on screen real-life performances, but, unlike The Simpsons, has a cast of characters that wouldn’t be out of place on the Oscar red carpet.
Bill Christensen over on Technovelgy has a story and a bunch of links about a new emotive robot being demonstrated in the UK, the Heart Robot. The idea is that it can provide emotional feedback to small children. While it’s not quite human-enough looking to ping my uncanny valley detector, it’s still awfully creepy looking. Especially as it’s mostly a loose limbed puppet, putting me in mind of nothing other than a dying goblin or somesuch.
Now, while I’m in favor of children being exposed to a certain amount of useful scariness (e.g. listening to unsanitized fairy tales, or watching Doctor Who from behind the sofa), on the grounds that they deserve to be given some hint that world beyond their family’s protective embrace can have some rough edges, being faced with a glowing monster that just wants to hold your hand in its own cold, dead, plastic fingers seems the stuff of nightmare. But, to be fair, the kids seem to take it in their stride. Hopefully they’ll have learned some fear by the time we need them as soldiers in the coming war against the robots.