Faceware debuts realtime facial capture in gaming

The highly anticipated Star Citizen will use Face Over Internet Protocol to animate game avatars.

Faceware Technologies and Cloud Imperium Games (CIG) recently announced realtime 3D facial motion capture is coming to CIG’s upcoming video game Star Citizen. This marks the first time that live facial tracking and rendering will be coming to the gaming world.

Faceware’s ‘Face Over Internet Protocol’ (FOIP) technology is implemented in Star Citizen thanks to the company’s LiveSDK and sister company Image Metrics’ realtime technology. Functioning somewhat like a live-animated Skype video call, players can have their real-life facial movements rendered on the faces of their in-game avatars as they speak with one another in the game.

The Face Over Internet Protocol software matches your real-life expression to that of your in-game character as you play. (Source: CIG)

“This is the first time any game has used this kind of technology to detect and stream the facial movements of players in realtime, and I believe it’s a revolutionary step in gaming,” said Chris Roberts, chairman and CEO of Cloud Imperium Games. “For the first time we’ll be able to deliver the full range of human emotion, not just voice. Our players’ facial expressions will be translated onto their avatars’ face. Combine that with a player’s voice correctly positioned in the virtual world, and you have the most lifelike player-to-player communication ever.”

The new feature was recently shown off at Gamescon 2017 in a live demonstration of the FOIP technology. When it releases, Star Citizen players will be able to take advantage of the feature using either Faceware’s upcoming facial motion sensor or a normal webcam. While Faceware states that the quality of facial detection may vary depending on your webcam, it’s nonetheless noteworthy that the feature does not necessarily require the purchase of additional peripherals to function.

Showing is better than telling; realtime facial capture can add an interesting new dimension to online social interactions. (Source: CIG)

What do we think?

Game companies are intrigued by the possibilities of realtime animation, but Cloud Imperium is first out of the gate. In this case, first-move advantage will be significant. Players—as their characters—can chat about their next mission in the game or what they had for lunch in the real world. Perhaps this is delivery on the promise—or tease—Second Life made a few years ago.

Promotional video showing the facial capture technology in action within Star Citizen. (Source: CIG)

Freelance technology journalist Johan Keyter contributed to this report.