Design Engineering

New avatar design process creates virtual twin in minutes


Automation algorithm Virtual Reality

System uses a virtual person acting as a coach that helps the user practice and improve motion sequencing with real time feedback.

James Cameron’s Avatar brought awareness and curiosity to viewers of a unique virtual world. Interest was peaked in this technology and researchers began working to bring these virtual persons to life.

virtual twin avatar

In order to test the new process, doctoral student Jascha Achenbach had 40 cameras photograph him simultaneously (left). Ten minutes later, the virtual version of the researcher was finished (right). Photo courtesy of CITEC/Bielefeld University

ICSpace, the virtual fitness and movement environment at Bielefeld University’s Cluster of Excellence Cognitive Interaction Technology (CITEC), is focusing its attention on developing avatars.

The system uses a virtual person acting as a coach that helps the user practice and improve motion sequencing with real-time feedback.  The user is able to see themselves as avatars — virtual copies of themselves in the mirror of the virtual room — a feat that used to take days to develop. The CITEC researchers have now developed an accelerated process.

In order to create avatars for the ICSpace system, the researchers “scan” people using a circular array of 40 DSLR cameras to photograph the respective person from all sides and use these images to compute several million three-dimensional sample points on the person’s body.


“Our virtual human model was generated from more than one hundred 3D scans and contains statistical knowledge about human body shape and movement,” says Professor Dr. Mario Botsch, head of the Computer Graphics and Geometry Processing research group and one of the coordinators of the ICSpace project.

One of most beneficial features of the system is that it provides a highly accurate detailed virtual person photorealistically, explains Botsch.

This is extremely important — studies have shown that users identify better with such a custom-tailored individualised avatar than with an avatar that does not resemble them, even if it looks similarly realistic, explains Professor Dr. Marc Latoschik from the University of Würzburg, who holds the chair for Human-Computer Interaction in Würzburg.

Botsch adds that up until recently, the individual processing steps for creating avatars were barely automated but the new process changed this.

The team developed algorithms that accelerate the complete processing of the photo data right up to the animatable avatar for the most recent study — enabling the team to generate an avatar of any person within ten minutes, explains Jascha Achenbach, lead author of the resulting publication

“We create the virtual avatars in a format that is also used by the computer games industry,” says Thomas Waltemate, who, like Achenbach, works in Botsch’s research group. This makes the avatar generation also interesting for commercial use.

The researchers presented their development of accelerated avatar generation in Gothenburg (Sweden) at the conference “ACM Symposium on Virtual Reality Software and Technology.” The study on how personalised avatars are accepted by users will be presented at the IEEE Conference on Virtual Reality and 3D User Interfaces, the world’s leading conference on virtual reality, in the spring of 2018.



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