Solving the Hair Problem: Filling the Final Follicles Toward Digital Likeness

INTARACT 3-D Digital Avatar Creation Sample

Curly, straight, or wavy, long, short, or buzzed, human hair has countless varieties, not to mention colors, tints, and dyes.

Hair, for most, is integral to personal style and look, and it is also the final hurdle in the quest to deliver a 3-D avatar with true digital likeness.

With Possible Reality Chief Creative Officer Michael Tigar already bridging the gap across the uncanny valley, delivering lifelike results that generate a positive emotional response, he has shifted his focus to creating realistic hair.

“I can scan my face. I can do a frontal scan. I can do a 360-degree scan of my head that looks absolutely like myself, and I can get a realistic version of myself, except it’s bald,” explains Tigar. “I can do all of that today, but I still have to figure out my hair. Hair is ultimately the thing that’s gonna be the problem in completing the digital likeness.”

Currently in the process of “taking the edge off complete realism” to appease the parameters of the uncanny valley, Tigar is fixing to the hair problem through a proprietary digital representation. And while a volumetric hair solution does already exist, Tigar is creating one that is more cost effective. It’s a major part of the competitive advantage and value proposition that Tigar and Possible Reality aim to bring to the world of digital avatar creation.

Given the sophistication of developing such a solution, while making it cost effective enough for the market to embrace, Tigar believes that the current limitations on creating realistic hair for avatars is a major reason that the industry has shown an early preference for cartoon human renderings. However, he foresees a seismic shift in the landscape once he cracks the code.

“A volumetric hair solution does exist, but is computationally expensive,” offers Tigar. “Everything we’re seeing is a result of needing to compute stuff in real time, and what we end up with is an unrealistic representation. That’s why you see the cartoon stuff emerging first, because you don’t have to deal with real hair in a cartoon version of yourself.”

There is good news for one segment of the population, however. “Only those who are bald are gonna feel most satisfied with what the technology can produce on devices like phones or tablets so far,” comments Tigar, who is nearing completion on the code for Possible Reality’s INTARACT application, along with a number of AR environments.

But as he goes on to say, “until we can produce hair that is realistic enough to ourselves, we’re not solving the problem completely, and maybe even dipping our toes into the uncanny valley.”

Beyond the consistency and look of digital hair, Tigar is also concentrating on creating a realistic response to environmental changes like wind or rain, giving Possible Reality avatars a truly lifelike representation, commenting that “advanced as all this stuff is, hair, especially if it’s many people in a single environment, still remains a separate solution.”