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Digital Actors Go Beyond the ­ncanny Valley


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A digital re-creation of the late rapper Tupac Shakur performed at the 2012 Coachella festival.

Graphics specialists say that over the next decade, computer-game characters will become indistinguishable from filmed humans.

Credit: Activision R&D/USC ICT

Graphics specialists are close to developing interactive and photo-realistically lifelike digital humans that will transform acting, entertainment, and computer games.

Experts say over the next decade computer-game characters will become indistinguishable from filmed humans, and a convergence of movies and games will result in new forms of entertainment. The entertainment industry hopes to seamlessly blend real and virtual worlds so that if people can imagine something, they will be able to actually see it.

Filmmakers already use computer-generated humans, but doing so currently requires enormous amounts of computing resources. Five minutes of film requires 7,200 frames, based on the standard rate of 24 frames per second, making realistic digital doubles currently unfeasible for video-game creators.

However, game makers believe realistic digital doubles will appear in games within a decade due to technological advances. Bringing this closer to a reality, the University of Southern California has created a real-time, photo-real digital human character called Digital Ira. Digital Ira starts with image data created by a three-dimensional scanning system, and then graphics processors turn the data into a moving image using calculations that determine movement and scene lighting. Individual frames appear on screen as they become available, at a rate of 60 frames per second.

From IEEE Spectrum
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