Sony's SOEmote transposes facial expressions and voice onto your online avatar
June 4, 2012
When it comes to online role playing games, communicating with other players sadly hasn't evolved much beyond using in-game text chats, attacking each other, and talking to someone whose microphone is too close to their face. Sony's forthcoming SOEmote technology however, promises gamers the ability to express themselves through their online characters in a way that's more like real life. Using any webcam to track facial expressions, head movements, and voices, anything from an elf to an anthropomorphic frog will be able to mimic a player's own actions in real-time.
Sony Online Entertainment is planning to implement the new tech into its popular MMO, Everquest II, which is now in its seventh year running. The developer hopes it will create a more immersive role playing experience, which has been lost a bit with the popularity of voice chat (hearing a high-pitched voice coming out of a stern looking character kind of destroys the atmosphere of the game, for instance). With the new features in place, players will be able shake their head or even roll their eyes in response to a verbal question.
SOEmote uses Live Driver software developed by Image Metrics to measure different facial points in every image the webcam captures. On a typical webcam, the software is capable of making over 5,000 measurements per second while tracking 64 points on a person's face. It then takes this data - a smile, a raised eyebrow, a head shaking - and applies it to a player's online avatar as it's recorded. The new tech also features voice modulation, which can alter a person's voice to sound more like their character would. Combine these two elements and you can have a community of players talking while their character's lips move in time with their speech. As a bonus, players will be able to maintain their anonymity much better by not revealing their true voices.
Thus far, SOE doesn't have many specific uses for SOEmote aside from just enhancing in-game communication. The developer plans to adjust its features more once Everquest II players have had a chance to find their own uses for it. More details on the technology will be revealed at the upcoming E3 Expo.
If more games start using similar facial-recognition technology though, it could become the next must-have feature for online RPGs. After seeing a lizard man saying your words in its own voice while showing the same expression as you, why would you ever want to go back?
Everquest's director of development, David Georgeson, demonstrates just how smoothly SOEmote works in the video below.
Source: PC Gamer