Facebook Reality Labs (FRL) is using groundbreaking 3D capture technology and AI systems to create lifelike virtual avatars. The technology could one day make social connections in virtual reality as natural and common as those in the real world.
Facebook has worked on virtual avatars for several years. At F8 2016, Facebook Chief Technology Officer Mike Schroepfer introduced new avatars for Facebook Spaces, replacing the floating blue head in use at the time with an updated model featuring new facial features and lip movement. At F8 last year, he debuted Facebook’s efforts into more lifelike avatars being developed by FRL Pittsburgh. In the brief demo, audiences saw two realistic digital people animated in real time by members of the team.
The FRL team has made significant progress in the two years since Schroepfer debuted their work on lifelike avatars. “We’ve completed two capture facilities, one for the face and one for the body,” says Yaser Sheikh, the Director of Research at Facebook Reality Labs in Pittsburgh. “Each one is designed to reconstruct body structure and to measure body motion at an unprecedented level of detail. Reaching these milestones has enabled the team to take captured data and build an automated pipeline to create photorealistic avatars.” With recent breakthroughs in machine learning, these ultra-realistic avatars can be animated in real time.