Communication and interaction in virtual reality (VR) will be one of the key factors in the technology’s success, advancing applications like videoconferencing buy putting people together in immersive environments for one-to-one and group exchanges. Apps such as AltspaceVR and vTime are already building user communities though various inventive solutions and events. But as more people use VR as a communication tool the more likely they are to want an avatar that realistically represents themselves. Today San-Francisco-based startup Loom.ai has unveiled its platform for creating personalised 3D avatars from a single selfie.
Founded by award winning visual effects veterans from DreamWorks and LucasFilm, Mahesh Ramasubramanian, CEO, and Kiran Bhat, CTO, respectively, Loom.ai’s face platform can take a single 2D image of someones face then automatically create a 3D animated version. The company built its own patent pending algorithms to enable far more powerful social interactions between people in VR and augmented reality (AR), and plans to release a public API for powering other applications such as videogames, e-commerce and virtual classrooms.
“The key to building believable digital characters is to extract the perceptually salient features from a human face in 3D: for instance, Mark Ruffalo’s version of the Hulk in The Avengers,” said Kiran Bhat. “The new suite of computational algorithms built by Loom.ai will democratise the process of building believable 3D avatars for everyone, a process that was previously expensive and exclusive to Hollywood actors benefiting from a studio infrastucture.”
“The magic is in bringing the avatars to life and making an emotional connection,” added Ramasubramanian. “Using Loom.ai’s facial musculature rigs powered by robust image analysis software, out partners can create personalised 3D animated experiences with the same visual fidelity seen in feature films, all from a single image.”
Alongside the platform announcement Loom.ai also revealed securing $1.35 million USD in a seed funding round by Silicon Valley investors, including Y Combinator and VR luminaries. The company also hired Jeremy Bailenson, founding director of Standford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, and Halo creator Alex Seropian, as advisors.
“Since the late 90’s I have been searching for an easy way to make 3D models of people – avatars that look and behave like their human counterparts. Up until now there has been no way to do this at scale and speed. Loom.ai has provided a solution that will revolutionise how avatars are made: it’s all automatic and requires nothing more than a simple 2D image,” Bailenson said. “This is important because social VR is likely to be the home run application in VR. Social Interaction via avatars will be much better than videoconferencing in terms of the tangible feeling of being with another person. It all starts with building avatars that look and behave like their owners.”
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