Bucking the Cartoon Avatar Trend: Possible Reality Aims to Capture True Digital Likeness
Creating new and unprecedented technology takes more than just a unique vision. Introducing new ideas into the market requires timing, experience, and expertise, and even then, it’s ultimately up to the public to decide whether a certain product will be embraced and stand the test of time.
There’s no particular equation or model that can produce innovation, and there’s possibly even less data to cement how the marketplace will welcome certain technologies. However, one thing is clear: there is currently a lack of true digital likeness and diversity in the digital avatar space, and even more so, the existing options have produced less than stellar results.
“I’ve always been on the forefront of technology and developed a lot of firsts in the industry,” explains Michael Tigar, Possible Reality’s Chief Creative Officer. “I think the digital likeness of ourselves in synthetic worlds is ultimately going to be more desirable than what is currently available.”
Developing proprietary technology to create true 3D digital likeness from a single two-dimensional photo, Tigar believes Possible Reality’s INTARACT application and virtual marketplace will be the next step in avatar creation. Building upon the current cartoon renderings offered by major companies like Xbox Live (Microsoft) and Samsung, Tigar, who created many of the first talking animals in the visual effects industry, including the talking pig in Babe, is hoping to advance avatar technology and bring the market into a new era.
Although he understands why many of the big players are currently pushing cartoon-like avatars.
“You see so many developers going the cartoon route because it’s a safer bet,” comments Tigar. “As a developer, it’s just really unfortunate that with all the technology under the hood driving these cartoon characters, with the latest hardware that’s capable of stereo recognition and facial markers, very few systems, if any, actually allow developers to draw up that underlying technology.”
Explaining that the technology behind the creation of cartoon avatars has less of a barrier to entry than true digital likeness, Tigar equates current options to “the next step in text messaging,” questioning whether the public will embrace the product. Ultimately, however, he believes these first generation avatars will pave the way for Possible Reality’s true digital likeness.
“If what we’re seeing coming out in these early stages is indicative of what the big developers like Microsoft and Apple think the public wants, I think they may have gotten it wrong,” adds Tigar. “While it’s cute, ultimately why would we want to represent ourselves in a digital universe, if only it were for to produce the cartoon version of ourselves?”
Drawing upon his experience in the visual effects industry, where he helped establish award-winning animation studios like Rhythm & Hues and Sony Pictures Imageworks, Tigar also explains that the “uncanny valley,” an aesthetic theory that maps human emotional response to digital renderings, is also serving as a minor roadblock to the implementation and acceptance of realistic avatars.
“It’s a thin line because you’re throwing large sums of money at this digital likeness, a representation of ourselves, and playing with the ‘uncanny valley,’” explains Tigar. “But if done just right, this will absolutely be a game changer.”
Tigar anticipates other hurdles as he brings true digital likeness to Possible Reality’s avatar products. And while he is currently focused on bridging the gap across the “uncanny valley,” Tigar is also tackling the challenges presented by producing realistic hair for digital avatars, which he sees as the two main barriers to achieving true digital likeness.
As Tigar solves these few lingering issues, he expects the industry to respond, helping to push digital likeness into the avatar market, ultimately replacing the current cartoon products. From there, it’s up to the consumer and market to decide where avatar technology goes, but by then Possible Reality will already be implementing lifelike avatars into digital environments and a virtual marketplace.
Stay tuned for more from blogs featuring Possible Reality CCO Michael Tigar as we will dive deeper into the “uncanny valley” and address the creation of lifelike hair for avatars in the coming week.
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