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MotionPortrait Makes 2-D into 3-D, With Animation

Updated on September 19, 2007

Back when that Simpsons Movie first came out, the marketing campaign included these Burger King commercials encouraging people to go to www.simponizeme.com. I once tried it, and found that users could put in 2-D portrait shots of themselves and turn them into cartoonish images that looked like they were plucked straight out of Springfield. I have to admit that the simpsonizeme picture of me did not impress me much, but now there is a program that takes a photo-to-animated character to the next level.

This program, called MotionPortrait, allows a user to take a 2-D picture and transform it into a 3D model that can be animated. As you can see from the video below, this Japanese lady was scanned into the computer, then rendered in 3-D. So now they can make her speak, move her eyes, blink, wear glasses, and everything else that only a character born in a computer could do.

This technology was originally developed by the Sony-Kihara Research Center, but was then acquired by a Japanese company who appropriately called themselves MotionPortrait. Supposedly, this MotionPortrait Technology can work with a one-gigahertz CPU that is enough memory to animate in real-time, and these animations can then be viewed on a graphic accelerator at 30 frames per second. Their output can be shown on all kinds of devices, including a PC, TV, Game Console, or Mobile phone.

I don’t know about you, but I can think of limitless possibilities for this technology. Just think of the way you could scan your own picture to make an avatar, and then animate it with a cool background. Just think of how much fun it would be to play Second Life or some MMORPG when you actually have yourself in 3-D.

Think of the advancements in animation that could be achieved with MotionPortrait. Instead of all the rigmarole that goes into making a Pixar style animated cartoon, characters can just be drawn, scanned, and made to do their thing a lot quicker.

However, I will ask the question that I always ask when new technology comes out. How does the computer know how to read a face, much less draw it out in 3-D? Oh well, I suppose that is the magic of digital technology.

Right now, the program is in the early stages, and so all there is just the images we have like of this anime character looking around at the screen. It looks pretty good, but I want to see more. Please develop this, digital techie guys!

I can’t help but wonder how far away we are at scanning in pictures and making 3-D images that are indiscernible from the real thing. I mean, we could make Brittney Spears do a really bad show at the Video Music Awards!

Oh wait, I guess we don’t need to do that.

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