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"Emily" Takes Computer Animation To New Heights, Realism

By Paul Bright     Aug 19, 2008 in Technology
First there was Steamboat Willie. And now we have "Emily", being touted as the world's most lifelike human to be portrayed in animation. Could she be the next "S1m0ne"?
A California company called Image Metrics unveiled their photo-animation character "Emily" to the world. Emily looks stunningly real compared to other animated humans in previous movies and games.
Image Metrics has produced similar animation for media such as the game Grand Theft Auto, but this brings closer the boundary between human perception of real and animated.
They did this by focusing on the littlest details such as eye movement.
"Ninety per cent of the work is convincing people that the eyes are real," Mike Starkenburg, chief operating officer of Image Metrics, said."The subtlety of the timing of eye movements is a big one. People also have a natural asymmetry - for instance, in the muscles in the side of their face. Those types of imperfections aren't that significant but they are what makes people look real."
Typically computer animators generate photo-animation characters by adding one controller for the face. Image Metrics took it a step further and added separate controls for various parts of the face such as the corner of lips, separate eyelid controls and even one for just cheek muscles.
The power lies in Image Metrics' use of a special computer chip by AMD that would have taken an entire room-sized computer to run 12 years ago. Nowadays that same chip fits into a standard PC.
I love what someone commented on the original article:
If I wasn't told she was CG, I'd have assumed she was a live girl with weird mannerisms, possibly taking amphetamines.
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