Sony's SOEmote transposes facial expressions and voice onto your online avatar


June 4, 2012

Sony is adding facial recognition software to Everquest II that will use a webcam to translate players' facial expressions, head movements, and voice onto their online avatar in real time

Sony is adding facial recognition software to Everquest II that will use a webcam to translate players' facial expressions, head movements, and voice onto their online avatar in real time

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

About the Author
Jonathan Fincher Jonathan grew up in Norway, China, and Trinidad before graduating film school and becoming an online writer covering green technology, history and design, as well as contributing to video game news sites like Filefront and 1Up. He currently resides in Texas, where his passions include video games, comics, and boring people who don't want to talk about either of those things. All articles by Jonathan Fincher

I could see it being used to make a lot of youtube shows and stuff like Red vs Blue. It would allow kids and people that would never normally have access to the technology usually required to make animated movies.

For a lot of people it would replace what they are using xtranormal for as well. (example: )


I think this is a awesome idea that has been a long time in coming. Many a times playing an MMO have I frowned at the simplistic animations of faces and the voices... This also has a lot of applications outside of gaming as well i think.


This will also be useful in more serious cyberspace interactions, such as business meetings, or simply socializing in Second Life; The face is the most expressive part of the body. >:)

M. Report

OK.... but is the technology proprietary and how does Sony, which has lost money for the last 5 years, make money off of it. The technology is nice... but Sony needs money makers.

Dana Lawton

Sony will make money off their mmo by interrupting gameplay with an ad. Check the most commented article and you will see. Its like that old comedy where the monk asks the trainee "what is the sound of one hand clapping?" the guy says "i dont know" then the monk smacks him and says "now you know" sony will get their money one way or another even if they got to smack the cash out of their customers.

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