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Theme-Park Dummy Trick Becomes Teleconference Tool

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A trick used in theme-park animatronics could help people act more naturally during videoconferences. Shader lamps is a technique that projects an animated face that looks three dimensional (3D) onto a blank dummy face, and the trick could be used to project a person's face onto an animatronic double at a meeting.

Before the dummy's blank face can be animated, the real person must have still photographs taken from the front and side to create a 3D model of their head, which allows the output from a single camera to be distorted to make the image look correct when projected onto the dummy. The user wears a headband to track head movements that can be matched by the dummy, and the person can see the dummy's surroundings using a panoramic camera in the dummy's head.

University of North Carolina computer scientist Greg Welch says the shader lamps system has several advantages over conventional videoconferencing. "In existing [two-dimensional] videoconferencing systems, the remote person is kind of a second-class citizen: they're in this box sitting in one place, they look different," Welch says. The camera position on conventional videoconferencing also can make it difficult for viewers to determine where an on-screen person is looking.

Future versions of the system may use multiple projectors to portray the sides of the users face. Making the system more mobile could allow doctors to visit patients who are unable to leave their house or in remote locations.

From New Scientist
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