Catalyst: Avatars – ABC TV Science

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 whatΒ you think.

Catalyst: Avatars – ABC TV Science.

cheers

Meeks

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About acflory

I am the kind of person who always has to know why things are the way they are so my interests range from genetics and biology to politics and what makes people tick. For fun I play online mmorpgs, read, listen to a music, dance when I get the chance and landscape my rather large block. Work is writing. When a story I am working on is going well I'm on cloud nine. On bad days I go out and dig big holes... View all posts by acflory

24 responses to “Catalyst: Avatars – ABC TV Science

  • Colin

    Wouldn’t that be nice. Becoming a handsome hero in some computer game instead of a mundane writer-nerd in real life. πŸ˜€

    Like

  • geooorge

    The best thing that MS gave to science is probably releasing the gaming system in a USB plug. The internet is flooded with codes and small programmes to take advantage of it. A guy did a 3D model of his room by using 2-3 kinects to scan around. MS has its own lab and are making nice things that don’t see the light of day for years and is sponsoring universities that are into robotics and stuff, but releasing this thing with a USB plug instead of something proprietary is nice.

    Like

    • acflory

      Yes, I must admit I’m a … LOT… surprised. For years I’ve had this perception of MS as an organization that just swallows people with new ideas and doesn’t come up with much innovative stuff themselves.

      Plus releasing Kinect is a brilliant marketing move because if it takes off then the MS apps that already use it will probably take off as well.

      Like

  • lorddavidprosser

    As long as it can do my writing while I laze on a beach somewhere……….

    Like

  • Candy Korman

    I guess it’s my mystery background, but the technology would also have intriguing criminal applications in identity theft and foiling facial recognition software.

    Like

    • acflory

      Oh! Good thinking 99. Yes, it could lead to all sorts of new-ish crimes and all sorts of new crime fighters/sleuths. If the internet is the wild wild west, then it’s about to get wilder.

      Like

  • metan

    I love tech and when they develop exciting new stuff I can see that it has benefits. Still, I always imagine the day when the streets are empty and people just live inside glued to a screen, their digital life having become their total reality. (she says sitting inside, glued to the screen…. πŸ˜‰ )

    Like

    • acflory

      lol – yeah, I can imagine myself ‘living’ online even more than now but I don’t think the effects are going to be that great. Unless they incorporate some kind of physical exercise into all that arm waving. πŸ˜‰

      Remember that tv cartoon The Jetsons? How when they took a call their avatars would appear all bright and sparky while the real person had bed hair and bad breath?

      Now, imagine if all the gorgeous avatars hid overweight, pasty faced people who never saw the light of day! Talk about buyer beware.

      Like

      • metan

        I never believe what I see on the interweb, I always suspect that the photo/avatar is a best case scenario, far removed from reality! If you compare a photo of the real me to my gravatar you will find that my eyes are nowhere near as staring and my fangs are considerably smaller. πŸ˜‰

        If we could all take on the appearance we wanted instead of our reality many people would never want to show their real faces. It is kind of like digital plastic surgery.

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        • acflory

          rofl – you make me laugh! My ninja chibi avatar encapsulates who or what I’d like to be. Sadly the real me has trouble hitting a fly! Roll on digital plastic surgery!

          Like

          • metan

            My little fangy face is like my trademark, I’ve been drawing it for far longer than the annoying twilight vampire craze has been around too!

            I put it on lots of the kids things including the school excursion lunches. When all the bags go in the basket and they have to find them when they stop for lunch it is much easier to find that than read their names. Plus it makes then laugh πŸ˜€

            Like

          • acflory

            -grin- I’ll bet the other kids are kind of impressed as well.
            I can’t take any credit for my little chibi – The Daughter drew it and I just pinched it. After all, I’ve fed her all these years, right?

            Like

          • metan

            I draw all kinds of things on their bags, sandwiches are good for spiderwebs ‘cos they stay nice and flat. And yes, the other kids get a laugh out of them too.

            Like

          • acflory

            You are a strange and wonderful Mum! πŸ˜‰

            Like

          • metan

            Awww thanks πŸ˜€ I admit that I can conduct intelligent discourse with small boys over the relative merits of various Pokemon, Monsuno, dinosaurs and Lego and am often asked my opinion of such things before class of a morning. πŸ™‚

            Like

          • acflory

            Ah this made me smile. I’m so glad you can enjoy stuff with your kids as well. I LOVED playing video games with The Daughter when she was younger. In fact we still have the most ridiculous conversations about the various mmo’s we both play! I’m sure if anyone else heard us they’d think we were nuts.

            Like

  • Carrie Rubin

    That’s pretty cool. I like the raising of the eyebrows. πŸ™‚

    Like

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