At the SXSW, Microsoft Research and Brooklyn-based media artist James George along with his partner Alexander Porter put on a computational photography tech demo that was impressive to say the least.
Microsoft has their own showroom during the festival to show off some of their cool products as well as promote existing ones like the Xbox One.
The first thing that happens to people willing to join in the fun is they have their entire body scanned and, while they move, a three-dimensional carbon copy representation of them appears in “space” on a large video screen, moving in exact time with their movements.
After that, they put on something called the Oculus Rift, form Oculus VR, a virtual reality 3-D headset that, more than likely, will blow gamers away when it (finally) ships. Moving their head allows them to explore different virtual “worlds” including things like a marshy volcanic environment, an Arctic tundra, and a desert landscape.
Four Kinect cameras connected to four Canon Eos 5D Mark III digital cameras make the body reconstruction in the Microsoft demo possible, capturing a person’s body image from all sides. The Canon cameras and color textures and the Kinect camera provide a remarkable sense of depth.
“When you see yourself in the image it’s not so abstract,” Porter says. “This is sort of the digital world entering the real world and vice versa.”
He adds that every pixel is accounted for in its correct space and compares the experience to a cross between Marvin the Martian and his “disintegrator gun” and a character from the movie Tron. “So many of the techniques and the tools we have now were previously science fiction objects.”
It’s easy to see how this technology could be used in interactive games, the cinema, and even education.
“Art has a practical place in the world,” said George, who’s mainly interested in the artistic possibilities. “It’s important that we look at these technologies not as products that are coming out but how they make us feel, the stories that we tell through them, the emotions we can have when we share (these) experiences.”
To demonstrate a new technology, Microsoft also brought along an Xbox One game called Kinect Sports Rivals that will allow players to capture their own likeness for use in the game. Using the technology you can customize your appearance including changing your hair color, adding facial hair and more and then, of course, challenge your friends to competitions as “yourself.”
The $59.99 Xbox game is expected to be released in a month.