Video: Digital avatar created from quick selfie

Ever fancied having your very own digital avatar? You’re in luck – soon you’ll be able to create one with a few selfies.

The process, developed by Alexandru Ichim and his colleagues at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) involves using your smartphone to take selfies from different angles to map out small details such as skin pores and hairs. Next you take short videos of various facial expressions to construct dynamic details like smiles, frowns, yawns and wrinkles.

Once the avatar is ready, you can play around with it in real time on devices such as mobile phones and laptops, says Ichim. The goal is to allow users to create their own “digital double” that you can use in your favourite games, 3D version of skype or in virtual reality meetings.

“Movies and most blockbuster games have absolutely huge budgets,” says Ichim. “We only need 5-10 minutes” with the system, he says.

At the moment, all the processing has to happen on a computer that is connected to the smartphone; the quality of the image depends on the smartphone camera used. The team hopes to develop an app version of the software in the future.

John King, a psychologist at University College London says personalised avatars could be useful in his studies. When doing exercises in which people used avatars to practise compassionate behaviour, he needed to use off-the-shelf unrealistic characters, but he thinks making avatars that look more like patients may be effective.

The low price is also beneficial, says King. “Currently a realistic body-scanned avatar is costly in time and money, and few centres have the equipment.”

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