Uncanny valley and the biology of mind

This story is about Sophie Faber, the main character in the adventure game "Die Stadt Noah" which has been developed by students at HDM and other institutions in Stuttgart. Headed by Thomas Fuchsmann and with the help of many others a team of sometimes up to 50 artists, project managers and software developers created this 3-D adventure.

At the core of playing such a 3-D game is immersion: the ability of a game to draw the player so much into the game that the borders between game characters and player start to get fuzzy and the player somehow merges with a game character. But this requires the game character - Sophie in our case - to be absolutely believable or players would not be able to experience immersion.

Valentin Schwind - 3-D modeling expert and graphics artist (see valisoft) and Norman Pohl - expert game software developer - were responsible for the game character Sophie Faber and describe the steps needed to achieve a believable charakter. Sophie did not only receive looks, she also got animated with the help of an inverse kinematic system.

There is an endless number of modeling steps necessary to achieve perfection. The steps and the associated tools are all described in the thesis "Modellierung, Darstellung und interaktive Animierung virtueller Charaktere in 3D-Echtzeitanwendungen - Die Entstehung eines Charakters und die dynamische Animierung eines Biped-Systems für eine interaktive 3D-Welt" by Valentin Schwind and Norman Pohl. The following pictures and explanations were taken with permission from the thesis. The picture below shows the bones model used for animation of face and hair during rigging - which looks like a piece of art in itself at least in my mind. And there are some surprising principles which make it even harder to create a believable character. The character must be detailed and artistically satisfying while still being usable for high speed, realtime 3-D rendering as it is necessary for games.

Unfortunately I cannot show all the intermediate stages from the wire model to the final result. Sculpting, texturing etc. all create very interesting artefacts which would be worth showing. I just hope that the authors consider turning the thesis into a book. Gamers and game developers would certainly be interested to learn more about the currently available technology but also about the limits of character creation.

I am going to talk about:

The evolution of Sophie Faber
The Uncanny Valley
The biology of mind reading