Brussels, 03 Apr 2003
A Eureka project that set out to create virtual three dimensional (3D) actors for use in television production has instead produced a talking head that can be used to read e-mails or news reports on devices such as mobile phones.
Originally, the '3D Toolbox' consortium of UK, German and Belgian partners was hoping to use digital media techniques to create 'synthactors', which could look, talk and act like anyone the designers wished. However, it soon became clear that while this would be possible to achieve within five years, it was not feasible within the project's lifetime.
Instead the team used the technology that they had already developed to create 2D images for use on mobile phones or personal digital assistants (PDAs) which could incorporate behaviour techniques in order to produce, for example, realistic news broadcasts.
As Peter Stansfield, project coordinator explains: 'People prefer watching news rather than reading it. The talking head gives all those non-verbal messages we give off without thinking, making it far better than a computer displaying syntax error.'
The team have also come up with a method of delivering the large amounts of data needed to display the talking head to devices with narrow bandwidth, such as mobile phones. Instead of streaming all the information to the phone, the talking head itself is already stored on the device, and only the information telling the head how to move is streamed to the phone.
Another spin-off from the team's original efforts was the development of 3D clothes shop, where customers are scanned in booths and can see themselves wearing clothing and fabrics of their choice. If the customer decides to purchase, the software will create the necessary pattern for pieces to be cut and made into the finished article.
Given the failure to achieve their original objectives, the team point to the flexibility of the project and its partners as the reason behind their eventual, albeit unexpected success.
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