Noah J Nelson on Monday, Jan. 6th
Here’s another step closer to the “metaverse” science fiction fans were promised in the 90’s.
A small team of software developers in Romania are drumming up crowdfunding support via IndieGogo for FaceRig, which maps a 3D modeled digital character to motion captured input from a webcam. Smile, and the cartoon fox smiles. The demo video the that has been making the rounds of tech sites shows off a handful of characters appearing to be controlled in real time by a fairly standard looking webcam feed.
If what the developers are claiming is true–and they’ve gambled their career reputations on this claim–this is a rather impressive implementation of consumer mo-cap. The FaceRig team is offering licenses on IndieGoGo starting at $10, which sounds like quite the bargain. With thirty days to go as I write they have blown past their $120,000 goal into the $200,000 dollar range.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a mo-cap toy aimed–at least primarily–at the gaming market. Sony’s Everquest game unleashed a webcam based avatar animation system in 2012. The big difference here is that the FaceRig developers are looking to make this platform agnostic. No one game will have a monopoly on the tech in their vision.
Of course, that also means they’ve set themselves up for a labyrinth of API compatibility issues and business deals that can go sideways, but let’s not be pessimistic from the word jump.
The developers are looking at creating five versions ranging from a mobile edition to a studio edition aimed at serious mo-cap uses. With the rate they are pulling in cash these versions may come sooner than later…while still coming later than anyone actually wants. This is crowd funded software development we’re talking about, nothing ever ships on time.
Which isn’t a reason to not be excited about the vision of the future of gaming that is rapidly materializing around us. Between campaigns like FaceRig and the Oculus Rift VR system crowdfunding has seemingly jumpstarted a dash towards a more “out there” future than what game publishers tied to the bottom line have been able to provide. That these technologies will inevitably spill out beyond the cradle of the gaming community is practically icing on the cake.