Lauren Goode

Recent Posts by Lauren Goode

Hollywood Facial Animation Tech Comes to Sony PC-Based Games

Motion sensor technology isn’t exactly a new thing; neither is facial recognition technology, although both are still being fine-tuned in their various consumer use cases.

But precise animation technology is usually reserved for Hollywood movie making. Think of movie stars standing against a green screen, wearing special suits with buttons on them while their movements are recorded and translated to an animated character. Now, add that to your PC games, with a little help from a Web camera.

At the E3 video game convention in Los Angeles this week, Sony Online Entertainment has been showing off technology that makes an animated character on screen mimic a gamer’s facial expressions.

In a demo, SOE showed how an animated frog on a PC screen talks, yawns, nods its head and raises its eyebrows exactly as the gamer is doing so. Voice-altering technology also changes your voice to suit your character’s.

“SOEmote” is targeted at the thousands of MMO, or massive multi-player online, gamers who are looking to convey emotion and add personal expression — and in some cases, mask their voices — to the other players they’re communicating with through the games.

Sony licensed the technology from a California-based company called Image Metrics. The voice-altering tech comes from Vivox.

This feature is in its earliest stages and is expected to be available this month. To start, SOEmote only works with one title, the eight-year-old EverQuest II, though Sony says it plans to add SOEmote to all of its online games. And the SOEmote tech suffers from the same problem we’ve seen with other motion sensor and gesture recognition tech: When someone else walks by your screen, the sensors sometimes pick up on that movement, interrupting the intended effect.

For an idea of how it works, check out this video below:

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I’m a giant vat of creative juices.

— David Pogue on why he’s joining Yahoo