Realistic avatars for the virtual zoo | 6/21/2018 | Staff
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Filmmakers and developers of computer games will have a new way of animating animals in the future. A team led by researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Tübingen, Germany, has developed a technique that uses photographs alone to create lifelike 3-D models of almost all quadrupeds. Animations of these avatars can realistically imitate the movements of animals. But the simple method of bringing animals to life on the computer is not only interesting for the entertainment industry. Many people have lost a beloved family pet. Now this technology can bring them back to "life" as a virtual 3-D avatar. It could also benefit biologists in species protection and help to make children in particular aware of the importance of biodiversity.

"Populating the virtual world with animals used to be a lot of manual work," says Michael J. Black, director of the Perceiving Systems department at the MPI for Intelligent Systems. Today, animators laboriously design 3-D animals using graphics software. While there are technologies to create realistic 3-D avatars of humans, no such technology can automatically capture the shape of wild animals. "You can't bring a tiger into the lab to be scanned and you can't take expensive scanners out into nature," says Black.

Team - Technique - Avatars - Animals - Fur

The team, whose technique creates avatars of animals including their fur or skin with reasonable effort, includes scientists from the CNR Institute for Applied Mathematics and Information Technology (IMATI) in Milan and the University of California in Berkeley as well as Max Planck researchers. "Ultimately, 3-D animal capture is about reconstructing the 3-D structure from 2-D images of moving objects captured by various unknown and moving cameras," explains Silvia Zuffi, the lead author on the project from IMATI.

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