Disney Researchers Develop New Physical Face Cloning Method

Posted on August 13, 2012

Disney researchers have created a new physical face cloning method. The automatic process designs, simulates, and fabricates synthetic skin. Disney Researchers says creating animatronic copies of real human individuals is currently a "difficult and labor-intensive process requiring the manual work of skilled animators, material designers and mechanical engineers." Researchers at Disney Research, Zurich, ETH Zurich, and Walt Disney Imagineering R&D have developed a new computational design process for cloning human faces they say could great simplify and speed up the process.

To deliver realistic performances, animatronic characters, like those in the Hall of Presidents attraction at Walt Disney World, must produce a vast range of facial expressions, each having different deformations and wrinkles. Manually designing the shape and material properties of a single skin that is able to achieve all of these targets is a complex and challenging task. The Zurich researchers invented a computational method for automatically designing synthetic skin to match real individuals. The process starts by scanning 3D facial expressions from a human subject. Then, a novel optimization scheme determines the shape of the synthetic skin as well as control parameters for the robotic head that provide the best match to the human subject.

Dr. Bernd Bickel, researcher at Disney Research, Zurich, says, "With our method, we can simply create a robotic clone of a real person. The custom digitally designed skin can be fabricated using injection molding and modern rapid prototyping technology. We 3D print a mold and use elastic silicon with properties similar to human skin as base material."

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