Tuesday, September 4, 2012

How Disney Research amazing technology will improve WDI Audio-Animatronics, might be used in Avatar Land, and more

You may have read last July that the wizards of Disney Research have developed a technology with which they'll be able to "clone" human faces for more realistic Audio Animatronics. It's a truly amazing technology and you can expect in the future Audio Animatronics stunningly realistic. The Disney Research "Physical Face Cloning" patent application could tell you more about how they do it but i have even better for you as Disney Research released some days ago an amazing video showing the whole process from the scanning of the original face and head to the final result with the new silicone face on a AA head.

As written in the video description text Disney Research "propose a complete process for designing, simulating, and fabricating synthetic skin for an animatronics character that mimics the face of a given subject and its expressions. The process starts with measuring the elastic properties of a material used to manufacture synthetic soft tissue. Given these measurements we use physics-based simulation to predict the behavior of a face when it is driven by the underlying robotic actuation. Next, we capture 3D facial expressions for a given target subject. As the key component of our process, we present a novel optimization scheme that determines the shape of the synthetic skin as well as the actuation parameters that provide the best match to the target expressions. We demonstrate this computational skin design by physically cloning a real human face onto an animatronics figure". Although it seems that some improvements remain to be done, specially on the lips movements, the result as you will see is pretty incredible so, enough said, launch the video!

It's not over yet as they ALSO have developed a technology for facial-hair reconstruction! : "Although facial hair plays an important role in individual expression, facial-hair reconstruction is not addressed by current face-capture systems. Our research addresses this limitation with an algorithm that treats hair and skin surface capture together in a coupled fashion so that a high-quality representation of hair fibers as well as the underlying skin surface can be reconstructed. We propose a passive, camera-based system that is robust against arbitrary motion since all data is acquired within the time period of a single exposure. Our reconstruction algorithm detects and traces hairs in the captured images and reconstructs them in 3D using a multi-view stereo approach. Our coupled skin-reconstruction algorithm uses information about the detected hairs to deliver a skin surface that lies underneath all hairs irrespective of occlusions. In dense regions like eyebrows, we employ a hair-synthesis method to create hair fibers that plausibly match the image data. We demonstrate our scanning system on a number of individuals and show that it can successfully reconstruct a variety of facial-hair styles together with the underlying skin surface".

Here is this next video and don't go away as there is more amazement coming from Disney Research!

This next invention is not related to Audio-Animatronics improvement but i won't be surprised if we'll find this technology in the future Avatar land. It is called "Botanicus Interacticus" and as Disney Research Lab explain: "Botanicus Interacticus is a technology for designing highly expressive interactive plants, both living and artificial. The technology is driven by the rapid fusion of our computing and living spaces. Botanicus Interacticus an interaction platform that takes interaction from computing devices and places it anywhere in the physical environment. In particular we are targeting living plants.

Botanicus Interacticus has a number of unique properties. This instrumentation of plants is simple, non-invasive, and does not damage the plants. It requires only a single wire placed anywhere in the soil. The interaction with plants goes beyond simple touch and allows rich gestural interaction. Examples include: sliding fingers on the stem of the orchid, detecting touch and grasp location, tracking proximity, and estimating the amount of touch contact between user and a plant.

Botanicus Interacticus also deconstructs the electrical properties of plants and replicates them using electrical components. This allows the design of a broad variety of biologically inspired artificial plants that behave nearly the same as their biological counterparts. The same sensing technology is used with both living and artificial plants. A broad range of applications are possible with Botanicus Interacticus technology: designing interactive responsive environments and new forms of living interaction devices as well as developing organic ambient and pervasive interfaces".

It doesn't sound perfectly clear for you? Have a look at the video below and then i have more to say about this Botanicus Interacticus.

Pretty incredible, isn't it? Now, just imagine what they could do with this technology in an Avatar land. I'm not sure that there is plants making sound or music in the first Avatar but i wouldn't be surprised if James Cameron being aware of this new tech as he probably is by now would create some new species in the upcoming sequels so WDI Imagineers could introduce them in the future land. Note that the same touch technology could be used on fake plants. Remember the big flower in Avatar who instantly disappear in the ground when you "caress" them? See what i mean?

Well, all this might work well...if the "Pandora" Avatar Land at Animal Kingdom is finally built. Unfortunately, as revealed by IGN yesterday not only the fourth Avatar sequel might be cancelled but IGN also said that "due to creative differences between Cameron and Disney’s Imagineers development team, it seems as though we’ll be waiting even longer on that project as well". All the question now of course is to know if the project is going to be shut down or not... All this reminds me what a good friend told me three months ago, i.e that James Cameron ego might not be easy to deal with for WDI Imagineers. Although i don't doubt that Cameron has a strong ego, i think that the problem might be coming from it's "all or nothing at all" side which can easily drive crazy WDI imagineers. In movies you now have almost no limits when you want to create a new world, but of course it's not the case in theme parks engineering where there is still a lot of limits even if, as we saw above, they are constantly pushed back. But may be recreating Pandora as perfectly as Cameron would like it to be is simply impossible...

Anyway, we'll see what happen for the Avatar land but i think we should watch closely the future inventions of Disney Research, as i have the feeling that the best is yet to come!

Video: copyright Disney - Disney Research

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Xavier said...

Somehow It reminds me of the fall out between J. K. Rowling & WDI as recollected by Jim Hill...

Marco Antonio Garcia said...

This technology is really amazing, and will certainly help Disney in getting ahead of the competition!

There are many ways in which they can use both technologies to make Avatar Land an incredibly awesome interactive environment, but if Cameron is not happy with it, I would like much more if they abandon this project and build beastly kingdom instead.