The amazing avatars of dr. Mark Sagar

Avatar, Spider-Man 2 and King Kong, Mark Sagar’s creatures have already won Mark Sagar two Oscars. Director of the animation laboratory at the Bioengineering Institute in Auckland, this New Zealander has devoted his research career to human-computer interactions but also to animating faces. The result of his work is troublingly realistic. 

Faces animated by artificial intelligence

Mark Sagar began in medical research by modelling the human eye to allow surgeons to perform virtual operations. After several years of experience in the world of cinema, he became head of the animation laboratory at Auckland University in 2012. His team will then create synthetic characters with disturbing realism. Male, female, child and even baby with the BabyX project, these animated characters seem to feel feelings as the movements of their faces are realistic. Unlike the usual techniques in the world of 3D animation, where animators will work on 3D models to give them the expressions desired by the director or the use of Motion Capture, Dr. Sagar’s avatars implement biomechanical models that reproduce the exact functioning of facial muscles.

The copying of the “functioning” of the biological face does not stop there since these software muscles are animated by a network of artificial neurons. Mark Sagar created Soul Machines, a company responsible for marketing his creations, including BabyX version 5, a synthetic baby that is undoubtedly easier to manage for a director than its human equivalent.
The New Zealand researcher is one of the pioneers in the use of artificial intelligence techniques in 3D animation, but the approach is now increasingly being taken up by several other international research teams.

There is no doubt that tomorrow, not only will synthetic actors be appearing more and more frequently in castings, but castings will not only be chosen for their aesthetics, but also for their virtual personality.

Translation : Deepl

Sources :

An Artificially Intelligent Baby Could Unlock the Secrets of Human Nature“, Futurism, September 10, 2017

Mark Sagar Made a Baby in His Lab. Now It Plays the Piano“, Bloomberg Newsweek, September 7, 2017


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