The video you’re about to watch contains a computer-generated face that is so realistic as to necessitate this disclaimer pointing out that it’s not an actual human.
The clip embedded at right comes courtesy of Activision’s research and development division, which, as you can see, has been tasked with creating a new generation of lifelike facial animation technology. Granted, this digital person isn’t perfect and one can pick out the flaws by paying close attention – most glaring is the lack of proper texture work within the mouth that becomes visible as the lips open and close – but overall this is an undeniably impressive demonstration of the direction computer-generated graphics may take in the near future.
More impressive is Activision’s claim that this faux person was rendered on current graphics hardware. We have to assume they mean current top of the line graphics hardware, but still, according to Activision, this face was generated by the same technology you can find on the shelves at your local Fry’s.
Despite the impressive aesthetics on display here, it’s important to keep in mind that you won’t be likely to find these kinds of facial animation techniques in near-future videogames. The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 simply lack the necessary power to render such things. That said, you can expect games on the next generation of Sony and Microsoft consoles to take advantage of the concepts Activision’s R&D department is employing for this clip. Launch titles may not look quite as realistic as this, but once developers have time to grow accustomed to the new hardware they’ll be working with over the next few years, we should see titles that rival or surpass this level of visual fidelity.
In the mean time, consider this nothing more than what it actually is: An impressive tech demo designed to herald a future in which games feature characters with almost photo-realistic pores, skin texture and interplay between bones and soft tissue. Of course, this means nothing without talented artists to conceive impressive ways to utilize this technology, but we’ll leave that to the developers to figure out.