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New avatar app brainchild of UBC professor Liane Gabora

May 12, 2014 - 10:42 AM

Ever wonder what you would look like as an animated 3D avatar zombie?

Good news:  there’s an app for that. And its functions don’t stop there. Say you want to take your personal 3D avatar and mate it with another avatar created from an impromptu cell phone picture of the cute guy or girl you met at the bar. Voilà – now you know what your offspring could look like.

The app, Face Fries, has been recently updated and rereleased by its creators Liane Gabora, associate professor of psychology at UBC’s Okanagan campus, and Steve DiPaola, director of the Cognitive Science Program in the School of Interactive Arts and Technology, and an associate professor at Simon Fraser University. Face Fries uses advanced image processing, psychological models of personality and emotion, and animation technology to detect faces in photographs and turn them into realistic, 3D animated avatars with the capacity to talk.

“Most recently, by using on-board analysis and cutting edge model-mapping, we added the ability for the app to generate countless avatars from a single face and an almost infinite variety when two faces are 'mated' together,” says Gabora. “And thanks to our newly added simple-to-use modification tools, users can manipulate the appearance, voice, and behavior of their avatar. Additionally, our 'talk back' feature enables users to record and share any message with your custom avatar.”

In addition to the endless fun that can be had with the app, Gabora and her team envision a number of practical applications they plan to explore further.

“The new app could have a focus on applications to combatting racism in children,” says Gabora, who is exploring the idea with UBC Assistant Professor of Psychology Andrew Baron.  “By mixing and mating your face with the faces of people from other racial backgrounds, and by hearing your own voice ‘talk through’ the face of someone from a different race, one's sense of being different diminishes.”

There are also clinical applications, says Gabora. For example, someone who is depressed can wake up in the morning and say hello to their “happy self.” Or, when advice or an enlightened perspective is needed, you have the ability to talk to your “wise old self.” There’s also potential in the area of forensics, where a created avatar could replace sketches of criminal suspects.

“There are so many possibilities, playful and practical. We want to expand into niches that include 3D entertainment, perhaps in social media or gaming,” says Gabora. “Taking 2D photographs and turning them into 3D talking avatars and having the ability to combine these avatars is a new technology, and all sorts of different things can be realized with that.”

The idea for Face Fries came to Gabora in the mid-90s while working at Warner Bros in Los Angeles, but it wasn’t until mobile apps became widespread and she was able to partner with DiPaola, who has expertise in facial animation, that the idea seemed feasible.

Gabora and DiPaola are supported by $20,000 in grants from Graphics, Animation and New Media / Graphisme, animation et nouveaux médias NCE Inc. (GRAND NCE)

Visit for more information or visit the App Store on iTunes to download the Face Fries app for free.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014
InfoTel News Ltd

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