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Defense News’ Training and Simulation Journal Features ICT Work on Avatars for Army Training

December 12, 2012

A Training and Simulation Journal article highlighted ICT research and development efforts to create avatars that mirror their real world counterparts. Stating that more realistic avatars could revolutionize training, the article, which ran in the magazine and is online at Defense News, noted that ICT’s Light Stage system can collect data to create photoreal digital doubles that can match the lighting conditions in game engines like VBS2 and can also transition between facial expressions. ICT executive director Randy Hill stated that research indicates that people identify more with virtual humans who are realistic.

“If you’re going to be embodied by an avatar in a virtual environment, if it looks like you, you’re going to have more of an identity with it,” Hill said. “It’s going to feel like it’s really you.”

The story also stated that Lt. Gen. Robert Brown, current head of I Corps and former commander of the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, has asked TCM Gaming to determine whether more realistic avatars might improve training. During a visit to ICT Brown had his own face captured in order to personalize his avatar. His hope is that face capture will fit in with a push toward virtual replicas as an aid to motivation and training, the story noted.

“My common sense tells me the more realistic, the better,” Brown said of photorealistic faces. “But there needs to be more research on that.”

Hill also explained that ICT wants to make a portable version of Light Stage that is both inexpensive and quick. The device could then be set up at training depots to rapidly capture faces and expressions for avatars, stated the story, which also quoted Abhijeet Ghosh, of ICT’s Graphics Lab, who said that the Light Stage could be used to create, “a digital asset that can mimic the real actor.”