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Wired

Anime Avatars Are Going Mainstream on Twitch

“I will never have to work out again!” Twitch streamer Imane “Pokimane” Anys said on her stream Sunday. She zoomed the camera out to show her full form: waved brown hair, enormous teak eyes, and a cropped purple top showing a flat tummy. Anime as hell, all of it. In lieu of her face, Anys had commissioned a 3D anime model of herself that tracked her words and movements, enacting them live. Anys was scrolling through Reddit and chatting with viewers, as usual, when one asked what in God’s name was going on. “Usually I stream with a cam,” said Anys matter-of-factly. “Sometimes if I don’t want to use a cam, maybe I’ll just use this! Nyah!” Her 3D model’s eyes closed, looking like a complacent cat’s. Anys was debuting “Vtuber Pokimane,” adopting a form popularized by the Vtuber communities of YouTube, Twitch, and other video-based platforms. Technologically adept operators use face- and voice-tracking systems to dance, sing, chat, play games, and emote like any other online personality—only through these 2D or 3D anime avatars. Their mouths move as they talk; their eyes widen with curiosity and narrow with anger. (Anys tested her hand-tracking tech by successfully giving the middle finger.) Often the operators are anonymous, their voices modulated onto kawaii frequencies. “Vtubing gives you a whole bunch of freedom that normal streams don’t.” Bunny_Gif, Vtuber To get started, Vtubers commission virtual, interactive models with a variety of animations and facial expressions. Then they map their facial expressions and mouth…Continue readingAnime Avatars Are Going Mainstream on Twitch

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Engadget

Apple buys a VR company that put real faces on virtual avatars

Before you began playing one of Spaces’ experiences, your face would be scanned by a wall-mounted camera. This data was then overlaid onto your in-game avatar, so your fellow players were playing with you inside the virtual world. It may not have been particularly accurate, but it added another level of fidelity on top of the sometimes-artificial VR experience. When COVID-19 struck, Spaces had to shut down its real-world business and pivot to stay alive, admittedly unsuccessfully. But it took that face-scanning technology and built a platform onto which you could scan your own face and place it onto a virtual avatar. You could then connect your VR setup to Zoom (or another video conferencing product) and present as a cartoon version of yourself. Given Apple’s interest in facial scanning and cartoonish avatars — memoji — it seems like there’s plenty of reason for Apple to buy Spaces. Perhaps it’ll use the Spaces team to bolster its existing efforts in the VR/AR space, or harness the technology to improve FaceTime with virtual characters. Source linkContinue readingApple buys a VR company that put real faces on virtual avatars

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Mashable

Indian students collect diplomas as avatars in VR graduation ceremony

As the coronavirus pandemic put the kibosh on in-person graduation ceremonies, the faculty and graduating students at one of the top technical universities in India still found a way to earn (and showcase) their technical stripes. On Sunday, the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IIT Bombay) held a “virtual reality” convocation ceremony for over 2,000 graduates. This wasn’t your normal virtual occasion: The university created avatars for each student, faculty member, and speaker.  Student avatars walked across the stage to receive their diplomas, and later even got to schmooze with classmates and colleagues as they virtually explored campus. In a statement, the university said it didn’t want to deprive students of the “pride” of graduating because of the pandemic, so it created the virtual effort. “Providing a virtual reality experience to all our graduates needed not only highly innovative steps but also a tremendous effort by our professors and staff,” Prof. Subhasis Chaudhuri, the director of IIT Bombay, said. “They did it for the students. Hopefully this will enthuse our graduates as well as other engineers in the country to think big and think innovatively.” Twitter highlighted the occasion in a Twitter moment, and IIT Bombay broadcasted the whole thing on Indian television channels, Facebook Live, and YouTube. Students, faculty, and family members happily shared clips and gifs from the ceremony on Twitter. The personalized graduating avatars are strangely endearing. They may look like Sims characters, but the customized outfits, proud walks across the stage, and final handshakes convey a…Continue readingIndian students collect diplomas as avatars in VR graduation ceremony

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The Next Web

Legend of Korra coming to Netflix after Avatar’s runaway success

After the wonderful animated show Avatar: The Last Airbender made a big splash on Netflix, its sequel series is now poised to join it. Netflix today revealed The Legend of Korra will be streaming on Netflix, starting in August. She’s the avatar, you’ve gotta deal with it. The Legend of Korra is coming to Netflix on August 14th in the US. pic.twitter.com/r16aGudm7s — NX (@NXOnNetflix) July 21, 2020 For those unaware, Legend of Korra takes place roughly seventy years after the events of Avatar and featuring Aang’s successor to the role of Avatar, waterbender Korra and her own cadre of friends, supporters, and colorful enemies. It originally ran for four seasons, or “books,” on Nickelodeon from 2012 to 2014. It skews slightly older than Avatar, with Korra herself being a teenager when the series begins (other than the brief shot of her as an adorable ass-kicker you see in the tweet above). As much as I love both series, I would caution any parents who’ve started their kids on Avatar since it arrived on Netflix that Korra is quite a bit darker than its predecessor. While I’d put the subject matter of both series on roughly the same level, Korra deals with it a bit more heavy-handedly; just to give an example, the big bad of Avatar‘s first season is an ineffectual Fire Nation general, while the same position in Korra is held by a domestic terrorist. There’s also quite a bit of what could charitably be called “teen drama” between characters in the first season that would have bored 10-year-old me out…Continue readingLegend of Korra coming to Netflix after Avatar’s runaway success

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VentureBeat

Genies creates an investment arm for companies using its digital avatars

Genies has built technology for creating expressive digital avatars for everyone from rockstars who want to give online concerts to influencers who can’t go to in-person meet-and-greets anymore. Now the company is launching Humans, an investment arm that will back projects using the company’s avatars. Genies will target companies that benefit directly from its avatars — animated characters whose actions mirror those of a human — to foster connections even when physical interaction is limited. Genie’s cartoon-style technology comes from the avatars you see in games, but they’re being used for mostly non-game applications. This kind of tech could also prove helpful in the eventual creation of the Metaverse, the universe of virtual worlds that are all interconnected, like in novels such as Snow Crash and Ready Player One. And it’s part of the trend toward virtual beings, or digital versions of real people. (FYI, I’m going to speak at the next Virtual Beings Summit on July 15). Humans has already invested in multiple companies, including Zebra IQ and Leaftail Labs. VB Transform 2020 Online – July 15-17. Join leading AI executives: Register for the free livestream. Genies announced separately that Pokimane, a popular influencer whose real name is Imane Anys, has invested in the company. Other investors include Thomas Tull, Jim Breyer, NBA star Victor Oladipo, musician Yoshiki, investment firm L Catterton, CAA, and New Enterprise Associates. Genies has raised $40 million to date. Digital twins for celebrities Above: Celebrities can make guest appearances or promo commercials with their avatars. Image Credit:…Continue readingGenies creates an investment arm for companies using its digital avatars

Categories
VentureBeat

AI model creates 3D avatars from a person’s picture

What if all it took to create a realistic digital avatar of a person was a single image? In a paper accepted to the Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR) 2020, researchers at Imperial College London and FaceSoft.io, a startup leveraging AI and machine learning for facial analysis, describe AvatarMe, a technique that’s able to reconstruct photorealistic 3D busts from “in-the-wild” photos. They claim it outperforms existing systems by a “significant margin” and generates authentic, 4K-by-6K-resolution 3D faces from low-resolution targets with detailed reflections. Rendering 3D faces has countless applications in domains from videoconferencing to virtual reality, but though geometry can be inferred without AI, much more information is required in order to render a face in arbitrary scenes. To extract this information, the researchers captured the pore-level reflectance maps of 200 peoples’ mugs using an LED sphere rig with 168 lights and 9 DSLR cameras. They then used it to train an AI model — GANFIT — to synthesize realistic maps from the textures while optimizing for the “identity match” between the rendering and output. VB Transform 2020 Online – July 15-17. Join leading AI executives: Register for the free livestream. Like other generative adversarial networks (GANs), GANFIT is a two-part model consisting of a generator that creates samples and a discriminator that attempts to differentiate between the generated samples and real-world samples. Both the generator and discriminator improve in their respective abilities until the discriminator is unable to tell the real examples from the synthesized examples with better…Continue readingAI model creates 3D avatars from a person’s picture