As gamers move into the newest generation of gaming with the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, the never-ending quest for realistic graphics is on the minds of a lot of people, including those at Activision. The publisher, known for the Tony Hawk Pro Skater and Call of Duty series, has recently patented a collection of licenses that may help it create more realistic faces in future games.
Actors such as Elliot Page have lent their likeness to video games, and famous historical figures like US Presidents have appeared in games as well, but Activision’s patent seems to be aimed at making it easier to include a fully realized likeness of anyone in any game. The truly unique element to the technology is that it would build the 3D model of the face from a 2D photograph.
As explained in the filed document, the idea is to use a set of systems and methods to determine key points present in a two-dimensional photo and infer three-dimensional information. Essentially, the computer would learn the face from the picture and that would allow it to be made fully 3D within a game. It’s similar to deepfake methods being used by Hollywood to generate younger versions of aged actors, as well as putting actors like Millie Bobby Brown in Star Wars.
The most popular method of 3D modeling used in video games today has a 2D texture applied over a 3D model of a character, but this can often contribute to the uncanny valley effect, where there’s something not quite right about the face. Activision, which recently renewed a different patent revolving around esports tournaments, aims to overcome the limitations inherent in this current method of 3D facial construction with this collection of licenses.
If successful, the technology could make it easier for Activision to add new pro skaters to the Tony Hawk games, for instance, but could also potentially make it possible for users to upload a photo of themselves or their friends into a game to make a “build your own character” that would be a one-to-one representation of their likeness. This, in turn, could theoretically lead to the simplification of character customization screens. As it currently stands, many modern games like The Sims have so many customization options that it can be hard to even navigate the menus to find them all.
While the detail in video game faces has improved since the blocky graphics of Nintendo 64, the fact that studios are more or less using the same texture mapping techniques that were employed in the 1990s is enough to make anyone wonder if there isn’t a better way. Luckily, it seems Activision is working on fixing that very problem.