Call Me Avatar

Dateline: 9/1/99

sandy avatar click me for the VRML version of the avatar sandy avatar
Avatar images courtesy AvatarMe.

Have you always wanted to get "into" a computer game? Wondered what you would look like as the next video game superhuman? Well AvatarMe has the answer. At Siggraph99 AvatarMe premiered an experimental booth which you step into and out comes a computer rendered avatar.

Stephen Crampton by the booth (note the hanim logo also) Approximately 2 years ago Stephen Crampton CEO of AvatarMe had the bright idea of scanning people and creating instant avatars. His company 3D Scanners, manufactured (guess what) scanners that create models more for industrial and engineering applications.

The process works as follows. First you step into the booth. stepping inside the booth A series of four photos are taken while you face forward, left, right and backwards. The technician controlling the booth is fairly careful about your pose, the position of the hands and arms must be fairly accurate. The process however is quite quick 2 minutes from start to avatar. After the photos you step out and a technician aids the texture mapping software by lining up key points on the face. Next the fun part in about 30 seconds you appear in one of four randomly selected scenes on a video screen next to the booth.

The four photos are seamed together into a texture files which are wrapped around the geometry of the avatar. The illustration below is the texture file for the head.

Of course this was great fun at the conference but what about going home. After the photo the technician hands you a card. There is an ID and password and all you have to do is download your avatar from the AvatarMe web site along with some additional software for playing with the avatar. Speaking of software, along with the avatar you need to download something called the Avatar Player. I had assumed this was simply something to let you view the avatar and maybe convert it to other formats like VRML. Well I was most pleasantly surprised by software that let's you play with the avatar. You can hit the random button and a series of locations with actions such as walking, running, jumping, climbing stairs and so on occur between the locations. The software can track the avatar in several ways such as constantly orbiting the moving avatar and you can record the animation to an AVI file.

Last but not least you can convert the avatar to VRML and to an HANIM compliant VRML file. The HANIM converter is kind of finiky and has only been tested with CosmoPlayer but this is research software. The VRML files work just fine and it is just so cool to play with one self...hmmm that sounded funny ;-) When exporting to an HANIM formatted VRML file you can also choose whether or not to include "walk" "jump" or "run" motions. The illustrations below are from the walking version of the HANIM avatar.

The practical applications for these types of booths are still down the road, but it would be totally awesome to see one of these booths in a mall or theme part. Imagine being able to load your avatar into your favorite Nintendo or PlayStation I hear human standards and interoperability anyone?

One Year Ago in Focus on Web3D The Voices of VRML


Share this Article Email this feature to a friend Related info at Virtual Humans.

[Tutorials] [Web3D Technology Comparison] [Virtual Humans]
[Virtual Reality] [Art] [People of Web3D]
[Panoramic Imaging] [FAQs] [Companies]

Previous Features