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Good Thinking

Nito app turns you into an animated avatar

Have you ever wished you were an alien or a shark? Well, sorry, but you're never going to get to be one. The free Nito app, however, does let you appear as those characters or others, in recorded 15-second videos. It tracks your facial features and movements as you talk, and reproduces them in real time via an animated avatar of your choice. Read More

Health & Wellbeing

Avatars help schizophrenics gain control of voices in their heads

Imagine if there was a voice in your head that regularly threatened to harm you or your loved ones, or that even ordered you to do so yourself. Awful as that would be, such auditory hallucinations are one of the most common symptoms of schizophrenia, with approximately one in four sufferers continuing to experience them even once taking anti-psychotic drugs. Fortunately, scientists have recently helped some schizophrenics gain control of their condition, by turning those voices into interactive avatars. Read More

Robotics

OriHime is your eyes and ears back home

Ironically, humanoid robots may have to put aside their arms and legs if they're to gain a foothold in our daily lives. All those servos required to power multiple limbs can get expensive, they quickly drain the robot's batteries, and cause all sorts of problems if even one of them breaks. Eschewing this complexity leaves you with just a head and torso, a compromise adopted by several prospective household robots. Among those is a new communication robot by Waseda University's Ory Lab, launching later this year.Read More

Robotics

Mind-controlled robot avatars inch towards reality

Researchers at the CNRS-AIST Joint Robotics Laboratory (a collaboration between France's Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology) are developing software that allows a person to drive a robot with their thoughts. The technology could one day give a paralyzed patient greater autonomy through a robotic agent or avatar.Read More

Telecommunications

CORDIS plans to "beam" people to meetings

In recent years, telepresence systems have become more common. Unfortunately, most of them are little more than a videophone on top of a motorized stick. The EU Commission’s Community Research and Development Information Service (CORDIS) wants to change that, by developing a system called “beaming.” When fully developed, it should reportedly provide telepresence so real that for the operator and the people at the other end, it will be like the person is actually there. Read More

VR

Motus lets users 'film' within any 3D environment

In the creation of the film Avatar, director James Cameron invented a system called Simul-cam. It allowed him to see the video output of the cameras, in real time, but with the human actors digitally altered to look like the alien creatures whom they were playing. The system also negated the need for a huge amount of animation – every performance was captured in all its blue-skinned, pointy-eared majesty as it happened, so it didn’t need to be created from scratch on a computer. Now, researchers from the University of Abertay Dundee have built on the techniques pioneered by Simul-cam to create a new system, that lets users act as their own cameraperson within a 3D environment.Read More

Robotics

The $65,000 Emotive Robotic Avatar

Mail order retailer Hammacher Schlemmer is hoping that someone out there will be willing to plunk down the price of a luxury automobile on its Emotive Robotic Avatar. The US$65,000 device is essentially a stationary remote-control robot, through which its user can carry on conversations, make gestures, and convey five different emotions. On one hand it's a taste of the future, on the other... that's a very expensive puppet.Read More

Health & Wellbeing

Virtual auto worker will provide data on real-world physical strain

He may look like he stepped straight out of Second Life, but he isn’t here to kid around. Santos is a computer-generated auto worker who will perform various tasks on a virtual Ford assembly line, showing real-world researchers how those tasks affect his body. The avatar was originally developed for the US Department of Defense at the University of Iowa as part of the Virtual Soldier Research program where he was used to determine the physical strain that soldiers would experience in a variety of situations. Hmm... auto worker, soldier, university education, muscular, exotic name... perhaps he did just step out of Second Life.Read More

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