Celebrities get digital puppets made from paparazzi photos

Typically, recreating a celebrity as an animated 3D character requires painstaking modeling based on motion capture and laser scans. In the future, though, all you'll need is a few limo-chasing photographers. University of Washington researchers have developed a system that creates digital face "puppets" by running a collection of photos -- in this case, paparazzi shots -- through special face tracking software. The digital dopplegangers (such as Kevin Spacey and Arnold Schwarzenegger) bear an uncanny resemblance to their real-world counterparts, but are sophisticated enough to mimic the expressions of virtually anyone else. Want the Japanese Prime Minister saying Daniel Craig's lines? You can make it happen.

The development has obvious advantages for games and movies, which could incorporate actors and political figures without requiring either in-person scans or expert artists. However, it could also be helpful for producing likenesses of the deceased, or chat avatars that reflect who you'd like to be. This could get creepy (it's easy to imagine obsessive fans holding pretend conversations with their idols), but the advantages will hopefully outweigh the drawbacks.

[Image credit: Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic]