Avatar Mirrors: an inquiry into presence in facial motion capture animated avatars

Smith, Donald Anthony
Charlton, James
Marks, Stefan
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Master of Creative Technologies
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Auckland University of Technology

This study explores factors responsible for a higher sense of presence in a Computer Generated (CG) avatar animated using real time facial motion capture technology. The intent of this research is to maximise presence in the user and to minimise feelings of uncanniness. Facial motion capture and CG animated faces are used to explore the relationship between participants, their embodiment in a facially imitative avatar and the virtual environment that it inhabits. The research proposes new perspectives on how avatars might be embodied by participants and offers new viewpoints and types of mirrors for reflection. The current “selfie” fad enabled by the latest mobile phone technology is treated as the equivalent to the myth of Narcissus in which the young hunter becomes entranced with his own image in a pool of water. Both are seen as manifestations of our fascination with our own image and indicative of a desire to better see and understand our own image. The research found that increased fidelity and responsiveness of sensor coupling; in this case real time facial motion capture, along with manipulations of the virtual environment caused participants to report feelings of presence. Social presence; the feelings of presence of another intelligence, was explored with the use of high fidelity data scans producing convincing morphology and motion detection of user’s contributing to engagement.

Avatar , Facial motion capture , CG , Presence , Embodiment , Facial Action Coding System
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