Don’t be put off by the title! This is something all science fiction fans will love because this is about science fiction becoming science reality.
I’ve mentioned the books of Otherland [by Tad Williams] a number of times now so many of you will know that the basic premise of these books is that in the near future we will be able to engage with the virtual world as if we were really there. James Cameron’s blockbuster movie ‘Avatar’ is based on the same premise, as is my much less famous short story, 2080. Last night however, I discovered that this particular bit of science fiction is now a fact. It is still in its infancy, but avatars are coming!
And now for a bit of tech! This first video shows the hardware and software behind the capture of facial expressions.
This next video shows a split screen with the avatar on the left and the human model on the right. The face of the human model is covered with a 3D mesh which tracks basic facial expressions and movements.
In looking for videos to show you, I discovered that this technology is already being used in various applications but the cheapest, and most accessible seems to be the Microsoft Kinect system. I’m not a big fan of Microsoft but their Kinect system looks set to revolutionize how we all interact online. It will also revolutionize the way we play games and use social media.
Quite simply, avatars [and all the tech behind them] will be the next major leap forwards.
Whether this new technology ends up being a good thing or a mixed bag containing some scary possibilities, only time will tell. The link below takes you to a video clip put together by the Australian ABC tv show Catalyst. It looks at the technology and asks some very interesting questions about how this emerging technology will change not only our virtual worlds, but also how we behave in the real world.
As a science fiction writer I’m excited by the possibilities but I can already imagine some of the dangers. Please watch this last video clip and tell me what you think.