Disney has revealed its scientists have perfected how to recreate a human face on a robot head.

The team at Disney’s Zurich research lab say the breakthrough could lead to a new generation of digital animatronic characters far more lifelike than those currently seen in its theme parks.

‘We propose a complete process for designing, simulating and fabricating synthetic skin for an animatronics character that mimics the face of a given subject and expressions, Disney said in a researcher paper.

We are naturally intrigued by the prospect of creating virtual humans in the likeness of ourselves – and it is not far-fetched to say that this is also a driving force for computer graphics research,’ the document said.

‘While the latter strives to photorealistically [sic] create human characters on a computer screen, animatronics aims at creating physical robot characters that move and look like real humans.’

The breakthrough could lead to a new generation of ultra realistic animatronic models.

The researchers say the process could soon be used for all of Disney’s animatronic models at theme parks across the world.

‘Our experimental validation shows that using this process provides a principled way to design soft-tissue animatronic features,’ the document concludes.

‘We believe that our computationally guided process for designing and fabricating animatronic characters will serve as a blueprint for how future robots with soft tissue should be built.’

A separate team at the Disney research studios has also revealed it has found a new way to recreate facial hair in 3D characters.

Working with Cornell University, researchers have invented a system to digitize facial hair and skin.

It can digitally recreate ever hair on an actor’s body, allowing realistic human actors.

Disney says the system can even be used to digitally ‘shave actors’

‘Our method captures individual strands of facial hair and stores them separately from the actual human face, said Thabo Beeler, a computer scientist at Disney Research, Zürich.

‘This approach allows us to ‘shave’ people with facial hair virtually with the computer.’

The system employs several consumer-grade photo cameras to capture a face in a fraction of a second.

The method then automatically detects hairs in the captured images and recreates them ad a 3D computer model..

Prof. Markus Gross, director of Disney Research, Zürich, said: ‘The long-term goal of our research is to make facial animation and special effects more realistic and ultimately indistinguishable from reality.

‘This method is going to be a very important step toward this long term goal.’




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