New 3D tech could give you a live makeover on Skype

Microsoft's showcasing exciting new technology, that may one day bring the magic of motion capture to online chat.

In recent years, we've become used to seeing actors like Andy Serkis filmed and then turned into apes, monsters and wide-eyed aliens using motion capture (as shown below).

Motion capture as practised at Andy Serkis's studio The Imaginarium

But what if you could similarly change your image, live, when chatting on Skype? Okay, most of us wouldn't want to appear as aliens, but what about a digital nip and tuck to smooth out those wrinkles or clear up those bloodshot eyes?

However tired or hungover you were, you could give yourself an instant makeover – just like kids cartoon The Jetsons imagined many decades ago:

Well we're not there yet - but Microsoft is currently demoing some intriguing new tech that could one day lead to just that kind of service. At SIGGRAPH 2014, it's been showing off a combined hardware and software solution for markerless reconstruction of non-rigidly deforming physical objects with arbitrary shape in real-time.

The system uses a single self-contained stereo camera unit built from off-the-shelf components and consumer graphics hardware to generate spatio-temporally coherent 3D models at 30 Hz. A new stereo matching algorithm estimates real-time RGB-D data.

Microsoft claims its system is an order of magnitude faster than state-of-the-art methods, while matching the quality and robustness of many offline algorithms.

Check out the video below, which shows how this tech can be used for interactive scenarios including re-texturing, online performance capture and preview, and real-time shape and motion re-targeting. And no pingpong balls need to be attached anywhere!

What applications can you see for this new technology? Share your vision with the community in the comments below.


Tom May is a freelance writer and editor specialising in design and technology. He was previously associate editor at Creative Bloq and deputy editor at net magazine, the world’s best-selling magazine for web designers. Over two decades in journalism he’s worked for a wide range of mainstream titles including The Sun, Radio Times, NME, Heat, Company and Bella. Follow him on Twitter @tom_may.