Remember talking portraits from Harry Potter? Facebook is testing something similar for profile pictures
Click and post, let people know, that’s how one trends on social media, isn’t it? After all, it’s all about being vocal. Social networking sites are centered around voicing one’s emotions and expressions by posting pictures, stories, comments, likes etc. Now, imagine that somebody likes your picture on Facebook, and instead of responding to him with a smiley emoticon, your profile picture starts smiling. Wouldn’t it be a great feature to have, what say?
Well in today’s time anything is possible, even reactive profile pictures apparently. Bringing this thought to reality, a joint effort of researchers from Tel Aviv University and Facebook has revamped the concept of digital animation by bringing up a new method to manipulate human expressions in a still picture.
Why change expressions and click multiple pictures, when a single picture can offer multiple expressions? As can be seen in the above image, the expression researchers have come up with an interesting technique to bring still images/portraits/selfies to life, similar to Apple’s live photos or Google’s Motion Photos.
So how it is possible? Well, to understand this, you need to understand the concept of ‘driving video.’ It’s basically a video which expresses various emotions by animating a still portrait. The team says “we use a driving video (of a different subject) and develop means to transfer the expressiveness of the subject in the driving video to the target portrait“.
The target portrait or animation is processed in a two steps. First is a ‘coarse animation‘, where geometric or 2D warps are used to mimic facial transformation in the driving video. It focuses on expressions of full face.
Next comes the refinement of expressions, done with the help of ‘fine-scale dynamics. It digs deep into the regions hidden in the face to catch hold on the minute detailing. For example, getting to see the teeth when smiling.
The team also added that “our technique gives rise to reactive profiles, where people in still images can automatically interact with their viewers“.
No points for guessing why Facebook is involved in this research – the company is clearly targeting today’s selfie-loving youth, and trying to keep audience hooked on to its platform with the concept of animated profile pictures, which – as already mentioned in the beginning – can express gestures like smile, anger and even surprise.
Take a look at how the technique works: