The character creation mode found at the beginning of many video games nowadays is a truly wonderful thing.
Over the years I have created some right monstrosities using this feature, along with a mix of more realistic game faces.
You can spend hours tweaking the size of an eyebrow or the character’s jawline – plus you can throw in the odd scar or weird haircut. But it can be very difficult to put yourself or another person into a game using these customisation options.
While games like FIFA allow you to take pictures of yourself and upload them online, before rearranging them into a single 3D model, the outcome isn’t always the best – and it can be difficult to produce a finished article you’re happy with.
Intel’s RealSense face-mapping technology is hoping to change that. I checked it out at the Intel Extreme Masters eSports event in Poland this weekend – and was impressed with the results.
Me being scanned into the game (not really, I don't have that much hair)
First, I was asked to take a seat while an Intel member of staff took a 360-degree scan of my body. They pointed a tablet with RealSense technology in my direction and walked around me slowly for around one minute, in order to produce a 3D model.
I’ll be honest, there was a big grey mark on the side of my virtual face which looked really odd. But the assistant said that can happen and asked me to wait a few minutes for the 3D model to render fully.
After a short while, the virtual version of my face was ready, and it was beginning to look more like me. Well, the nose was a little big and slightly crooked for my liking – and as much as I wanted to blame the technology for that, I knew deep down I couldn’t.
My digital birth was far from beautiful, but the errors were soon corrected
Using a demo version of Uraniom – freeware that allows people to put themselves in the hit PC game Fallout 4 – Intel went ahead and put me into the game.
While I was waiting to be loaded in, I noticed the 3D model of the journalist who had taken a demonstration before me. Her face had been captured remarkably well; unfortunately the rest of her body was that of a man.
The demo version of Uraniom had no access to female models, meaning her face had been planted onto a generic male body. While the journalist had joked that it “looked kind of sexy”, I had to disagree.
It came to my turn, and after a bit of tinkering with the software (Intel tilted my face and changed the shape of my head very slightly to get the proportions correct), I was finally in Fallout 4. I scanned around and was proud of the creation, though my head did look a little small in proportion to the virtual body – and the skin colour on my face was different to the body, but I’m sure that could be easily tweaked.
Intel then emailed the facescan over to me and sent me on my way. All I need to do now to access it is download the Uraniom software on my PC and import the facescan file into it.
My digital self had already caught the attention of the virtual ladies - can you blame them? Look at that 3D hunk
What else can RealSense do?
Intel’s RealSense technology is relatively new and developers are still coming up with new ways to use it.
There was a host of PCs and devices on display in Intel’s showroom this weekend, including a virtual reality testing space for the HTC Vive headset, Lenovo all-in-ones, Acer small form factor PCs, Razer gaming desktops and a couple of RealSense computers. On one, I played a first-person archery game. Using my right hand to aim the bow, and my left hand to draw the arrow back, I pulled my left hand back to fire the arrow at the target.
There was another PC that allowed the user to play a LEGO racing game using RealSense technology. After it scanned my face in, I could physically move my body to the left or right to swerve and control the car.
Another screen mimicked the user’s face, adding comedy effects such as turning it into a hamburger.
Of course, RealSense can be used as a security feature. It can detect a person’s face down to unique details such as eyebrow size and so on, meaning only that person can log onto their PC when recognised by the RealSense camera. The tech can even recognise a person’s finger joints as they wave at the screen.
While you need a RealSense-specific tablet to put your face into Fallout 4, slowly this type of technology will become the norm. A few years down the line, it could become a standard feature on devices that the majority of people own.
This technology will clearly change and improve the PC gaming experience for many users out there, and we’re excited to see what it will do next.