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Disney researchers can now digitally shave your face, clone it for animatronics (video)

Disney researchers can now digitally shave your face, clone it for animatronics (video)
Sean Buckley
Sean Buckley|@seaniccus|August 12, 2012 3:15 AM

The minds at Disney Research aren't only interested in tracking your face -- they want to map, shave and clone it, too. Through a pair of research projects, Walt's proteges have managed to create systems for not only mapping, digitally reconstructing and removing facial hair, but also for creating lifelike synthetic replicas of human faces for use in animatronics. Let's start with the beards, shall we? Facial hair is a big part of a person's physical identity, a quick shave can render a close friend unrecognizable -- but modern face-capture systems aren't really optimized for the stuff. Disney researchers attempted to address that issue by creating an algorithm that detects facial hair, reconstructs it in 3D and uses the information it gathers to suss out the shape of the skin underneath it. This produces a reconstruction of not only the skin episurface, but also of the subject's individual hairs, meaning the final product can be viewed with or without a clean shave.

Another Disney team is also taking a careful look at the human face, but is working on more tangible reconstructions -- specifically for use on audio-animatronic robots. The team behind the Physical Face Cloning project hope to automate part of creating animatronics to speed up the task of replicating a human face for future Disney robots. This complicated process involves capturing a subjects face under a variety of conditions and using that data to optimize a composition of synthetic skin to best match the original. Fully bearded animatronic clones are still a ways off, of course, but isn't it comforting to know that Disney could one day replace you accurately replicate your visage in Walt Disney World for posterity? Dive into the specifics of the research at the source links below, or read on for a video summary of the basics.