Iris Ophelia's ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style
Redgrave (an incredibly popular avatar fashion brand in Second Life) recently shared a pretty impressive clip on their Facebook page, where they often share previews of their upcoming releases. It's an animated mesh head, and it animates much more dramatically than others we've seen so far, and it may even conform to your avatar's facial shape. As interesting and technically impressive as it is, I can't decide if it's stumbled a little too deep into the uncanny valley or not for my tastes. Take a look for yourself:
It's a well done machinima, and a beautiful head that must have taken ages to perfect... But don't the mouth animations seem just a bit... Uncanny?
The technical aspects of this head are impressive regardless. Shirousagi Noel's mesh head (which, rumor has it, might be launching within the next few months) animates using layers of textures of varying opacity, while Redgrave's head seems to animate through "specially made animations" (according to their original post) for the avatar. Noel's head is much more stylized than Redgrave's but I have to admit that I find Noel's animations a lot more smooth and natural looking. (Edit: As Damien Fate pointed out to me on Plurk, much of this has to do with the fact that the jaw on Redgrave's head doesn't pivot as a natural jaw would, but rather seems to unhinge when opened.) Given that we've only seen alpha footage of each head it's hard to say if that will still be the case by the time they're both released.
And how the animations will be controlled, beyond the "specially made animations" Redgrave mentions in their original post? Voice-activated lip sync? A HUD? Maybe even gestures?
This head is also made using Redgrave's brand of special shape-conforming mesh, a technique pioneered by Kesiika Markova of RedPoly which they've dubbed "Liquid Mesh", that fits to aspects of your shape beyond just the skeleton, so I'm anxious to see how much it will vary based on the underlying facial shape. Will it be able to mirror or translate certain facial features, even? It's probably nothing that complicated, but there may be much more variation available with this than there is with what's currently on the market.
It's hard to say what the final product will look like and how many rough edges still need to be smoothed, but what do you think? Is this high-tech head ultra cool or uber creepy?
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Iris Ophelia (@bleatingheart, Janine Hawkins IRL) has been featured in the New York Times and has spoken about SL-based design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan and with pop culture/fashion maven Johanna Blakley.