The Human Face of Next-Gen Animation

ANIMATIONLAND—Activision has released a character demo of its real-time graphics capabilities that is so realistic that even Mashable was forced to enthuse, “The character's skin, facial expressions and eyes look so real, it's uncanny.”

This latest demo by Activision was provided by the company’s real-time graphics R&D expert Jorge Jimenez, who revealed the new capabilities during a presentation Wednesday at the game development conference, GDC 2013. The demo can be seen here.

Mashable reported, “According to Jimenez, this face and others like it represent ‘the culmination of many years of work in photorealistic characters.’ At the presentation, Jimenez showed ‘how each detail is the secret for achieving reality.’”

But that’s just the tip of the rendering iceberg. “The trick for these gaming developers,” Mashable added, “is not only to create photorealistic animated characters, but to ensure that such animations can play in real time on video cards and computers that ordinary people actually own. And that's what Activision has done, using standard bone animation, facial scanning, performance capture and lots of intricate artwork to make skin look real.”

Actually, Mashable writer Charlie White was not 100 percent convinced by the demo, writing, “I think this is impressive, but not perfect yet. For instance, look at the guy's teeth,” and suggesting that the absence of hair on the character might be because it isn’t ready for primetime. Some commenters to the Mashable post also thought the results were mixed, with one even saying, “You can see from miles this is computer generated.”

And we agree that there is room to quibble with the rendering of a specific piece of anatomy or movement here and there, but overall, in terms of detail and realistic facial activity, Activision’s bald-headed animated character is getting dangerously close to being indistinguishable from the real thing.  

Indeed, we really do appear to be a big step closer to that terrifying future in which there is no longer any need to hire humans to perform in recorded productions. And to that point, we hope to soon be able to see how all the other parts of this animated dude’s anatomy are working. You know, to make sure he's a complete package.