Tag: ‘Imaging’

Motion Portrait: Instant 3D animation from photos

01 Aug 2007

Motion Portrait --

Motion Portrait is a killer little piece of digital animation technology that easily transforms an ordinary digital photograph of a face into a living 3D animation that can blink and move its eyes, turn its gaze to follow the movement of the mouse cursor, express a range of emotions, sneeze and more -- all in a matter of seconds. In addition to being fast and easy to use, Motion Portrait is much lighter than conventional 3D animation engines, making it ideal for use in cellphones, handheld games and other portable devices.

Originally developed at the Sony Kihara Research Center two years ago, Motion Portrait now belongs to Motion Portrait Inc., which was founded this July after the research center closed its doors last year. As the company continues to develop Motion Portrait, it is on the lookout for new ways to put the technology to use.

While the technical details are being kept secret, the company says Motion Portrait works by automatically recognizing the eyes, nose, mouth and other facial features in ordinary digital photographs to create an instant three-dimensional map of the head. The data is then run through Motion Portrait's Expression Engine to create a range of facial expressions. Here are a few examples of Motion Portrait at work: 1, 2, 3.

In addition to photographs of human faces, Motion Portrait can also breathe life into pictures of pets, with a little manual input. Check out this fun yet sinister-looking dog (pictured above). Grrrr!

The technology can also be used to create anime from illustrations, and it is already being used in a PSP game -- the Promise of Suzumiya Haruhi (Suzumiya Haruhi No Yakusoku) by Bandai Namco Games -- due out in early August. With the ability to create a wide range of facial animations from a single image, Motion Portrait promises to reduce game development costs and improve quality. In addition, when used in conjunction with the company's voice recognition technology, Motion Portrait automatically syncs the animated lips with voice data to create realistic-looking talking mouths. Here are two anime examples: 1, 2.

The company also sees potential uses for Motion Portrait in advertising and in creating avatars used on social networking sites. Further, as a simulation tool, beauty salons can use Motion Portrait to show customers how they might look with different hairstyles and makeup, and eyeglass shops can use it to help customers choose their next pair of eyeglasses.

No word yet on when Motion Portrait will be made available to the general user.

[Source: Motion Portrait via IT Media]

Hitachi finger vein money

25 Jul 2007

Finger vein authentication -- On July 24, Hitachi announced the development of a biometric cardless credit payment system, called "finger vein money," which allows shoppers to pay for purchases using only their fingertips. The company plans to begin field testing the finger vein money in September.

Finger vein money relies on Hitachi's finger vein authentication technology, which verifies a person's identity by reading the pattern of blood vessels in his or her fingers. These blood vessel patterns are unique to each individual, much like fingerprints or retinas, only they are hidden securely under the skin, making them all the more difficult to counterfeit. Hitachi's finger vein authentication technology is already being used to verify user identities for ATMs, door access control systems and computer log-in systems in Japan and elsewhere.

In the finger vein money system, consumers first register their finger vein pattern data with the credit card company. The data is then entered into a database along with the individual's credit account information. Later, when shoppers want to pay for something, they simply go to the cash register and place their finger in a vein reader, which uses infrared LEDs and a special camera to capture a detailed image of their vein structure. The image is converted into a readable format and sent to the database, where it is checked against the records on file. When the system verifies the identity of the shopper, the purchase is charged to the individual's credit account.

Hitachi's three-month field test, which is set to begin in September, involves 200 Hitachi employees volunteering to use finger vein money at the company cafeteria and shops in the Hitachi System Plaza Building located in Shin-Kawasaki. If all goes well, Hitachi -- who is conducting the test with the cooperation of major credit card company JCB -- plans to expand the trial system to all of its company buildings.

As a cardless payment system that promises the ultimate in convenience and security, finger vein money could help contribute to the disappearance of credit cards and all the anxieties associated with their loss and theft. When that day comes, we may only need to worry about losing our fingers.

[Source: Nikkei Net]

NEC’s drive-thru face recognition system

20 Jul 2007

Drive-thru face recognition system -- On July 19, electronics giant NEC announced it has developed the world's first automated border control system that uses facial recognition technology capable of identifying people inside their automobiles. The system is already in operation at checkpoints on the Hong Kong - Shenzhen border.

Built around NEC's NeoFace biometric face recognition system, as well as NEC's electronic passport technology, the system is designed to boost the speed and efficiency of Hong Kong Immigration Department operations by allowing residents with microchipped national ID cards to remain in their vehicles while automated cameras verify their identities. Hong Kong residents aged 11 or over are required by law to carry a national ID card (HKID), and the recently issued "smart" IDs are embedded with chips that contain biometric and personal data.

The system works by first reading a vehicle’s license plate as it approaches a border gate. Because each vehicle in Hong Kong is registered to an individual driver, a simple automated database check determines who the driver should be. Next, the cameras scan the face of the driver and a database search is performed. If there is a match, the immigration process is completed and the gate opens, allowing the vehicle to pass through.

For now, NEC's setup only works with truck drivers, but coming improvements promise the ability to identify up to 8 passengers per vehicle. The cameras have been installed at 8 of the 40 border gates on a new road connecting Hong Kong and Shenzhen, with all 40 gates expected to be upgraded by August.

NEC eventually hopes to develop a face recognition system so quick and accurate that it would eliminate the need for fingerprinting.

[Sources: Softbank Business + IT, NEC press release]

Frozen baby mammoth headed to Japan

09 Jul 2007

Baby mammoth --- Researchers at Japan's Jikei University will soon be checking the mailbox for a cool package from Siberia -- the recently discovered frozen body of an ancient baby mammoth. The nearly complete body of the female calf, said to be one of the best-preserved specimens of frozen mammoth ever discovered, is estimated to have been less than one year old before it was preserved in ice about 10,000 years ago.

According to the Russian Tass news agency, a reindeer herder stumbled upon the 130 cm (4 ft 3 in) tall, 50 kg (110 lbs) frozen mammoth in May in an area of permafrost in northwestern Siberia, near the Yuribey River on the Yamal Peninsula, which extends into the Kara Sea. The mammoth, whose trunk and eyes remain intact and which still has some fur on its body, was shown to an international panel of experts that convened on July 5 in the town of Salekhard, near the discovery site.

Preparations are now being made to ship the baby mammoth to Jikei University School of Medicine, where researchers will use advanced computed tomography (CT) scanners to obtain three-dimensional images of its internal organs. "This is the first opportunity for anyone to perform an analysis on a complete mammoth body," says Jikei University professor Naoki Suzuki, "and it should provide a more complete picture of its anatomy and how it lived."

[Source: Yomiuri]

Nandemo Microscope provides USB-powered ear, teeth and skin checks

04 Jul 2007

Nandemo Microscope by Thanko --

Want to know how you really look? USB gadget maker Thanko is planning to release a USB-powered microscope called the "Nandemo Microscope," which ships with four separate attachments, each specifically designed to provide close-up views of different parts of the anatomy. In addition to the standard attachment, the three other attachments allow users to perform oral exams, check inside ears and get close-ups of skin and hair.

With a 1.3 megapixel CMOS sensor, 640 x 480 (VGA) resolution, adustable LED lighting and software for viewing and saving video and still images, you're only a USB connection away from hooking your computer screen up with a very intimate picture of yourself. Whether or not you would actually want to look at it is another question.

The Nandemo Microscope, which is compatible with Windows 2000 Professional/XP/Vista, goes on sale in mid-July at a price of 12,800 yen (slightly more than $100).

[Source: Nandemo Microscope page via IT Media]

QR code on shrimp crackers

05 Jun 2007

QR Ebi-sen -- Internet content creator Hertz has launched a new marketing service called "QR Ebi-sen," which allows companies and individuals to print QR code on shrimp crackers. QR code, a type of two-dimensional code that enjoys widespread use in Japan, connects users to mobile web content when they scan it with a QR code reader-equipped cellphone.

Using natural dye extracted from tamarind seeds, the QR code is printed on the smooth surface of white crackers provided by ebi senbei manufacturer Shimahide, whose factory is located in the city of Kanonji in Kagawa prefecture -- a place known for delicious ebi senbei. The resulting cracker has a high-contrast, high-quality image readable by a cellphone QR code scanner.

The price for the service starts at 10,000 yen ($85), with an additional fee based on the number of crackers printed. Visitors to the NET Marketing Forum held at Tokyo Midtown from June 6 to 7 will get the first taste of QR Ebi-sen courtesy of the Web Technology Corporation, who will be handing them out from their company booth.

[Source: Impress Watch]

Movie QR code and kung fu high school girls

26 Apr 2007

Movie QR Code -- Hakuhodo DY Group i-Business Center and IT DeSign have developed "movie QR code," a type of QR code that incorporates moving video into the design.

QR code is a type of two-dimensional barcode that has grown popular in Japan in recent years, because it provides a simple, automated way for users to enter data into their mobile phones. By using mobile phones to scan QR code that appears in an outdoor advertisement, for example, users may be directed to a website containing more detailed product information.

To personalize the appearance of printed QR code, which looks like a chaotic arrangement of tiny black and white squares, IT DeSign recently developed "Design QR," which incorporates static images of logos, characters or photos into the code. Movie QR code takes this concept a step further by incorporating moving images into the design, thus optimizing it for use on video screens, where it promises to be more effective in attracting the attention of potential scanners. Seriously, how will anyone be able to resist scanning a bit of on-screen QR code if, for example, it contains a cute, bug-eyed critter that literally begs you to scan it?

Movie QR code works just like standard QR code -- any user armed with a reader-equipped cellphone can scan it.

On May 21, the companies plan to launch a new type of advertising service built around the use of movie QR code. Details of the service will be announced soon.

Interestingly, a commercial video containing QR movie code has been circulating the web for a while. The video, called "Kung Fu High School Girls" (Kanfuu Joshi-kousei), begins with two high school girls talking about Black Jack (the famous manga character), who they both think is cool. Things quickly turn ugly when the girls disagree about whether Black Jack is a foreigner or Japanese, and a full-on kung fu battle ensues. After a while, a boy wearing a giant QR code headpiece arrives on his bicycle and urges the girls to stop. By scanning his face, he explains, they can find the answer to their question and settle their dispute. (This is a cue for the viewer to scan the computer screen with a cellphone QR code reader.)

Scanning the movie QR code takes you to http://aniful.jp/pr/ (which appears to be accessible only by keitai), where there is a link to another video that contains the answer. For some reason, the Pink Tentacle keitai is having problems downloading that video, so we may never know the truth. Is Black Jack Japanese? Or a foreigner?

[Sources: IT Media, "Kung Fu High School Girl" video (non-YouTube version)]

NTT’s eye-tracking system monitors pupil size, blinking

15 Mar 2007

Eye-tracking system recognizes viewer interest --- The NTT Group has unveiled technology that analyzes the interest level of TV viewers and web surfers by monitoring their eye movement, pupil size and blinking.

Improving on conventional eye-tracking systems that provide an understanding of where viewers cast their gaze, this new computer-operated system features cameras that monitor and analyze unconscious physiological reactions to interesting viewing material -- namely, enlarged pupils and changes in the rate of blinking.

The technology, which became commercially available on March 14, was developed by NTT Learning Systems (NTTLS) and the Visual Interactive Sensitivity Research Institute (VIS), both of which are involved in visual content creation. NTTLS says the technology can be used in conjunction with driver safety training videos, and negotiations with a major automaker are now underway.

NTTLS claims the system appeals to a wide range of potential users, including those involved in TV commercial advertising and web content creation. Television audience ratings alone do not provide producers a clear picture of the level of interest in commercials, and web traffic stats do not show which parts of a web page visitors find interesting. With this system, however, producers can get a more accurate understanding of what the audience is looking at and how interesting they find it.

Judging from the large size (and presumably high cost) of the device that sits between the viewer and the monitor, though, the system is clearly designed for use in the laboratory. But it's just a matter of time before this is standard computer monitor/TV screen equipment and producers keep one eye on the real-time audience pupil data while they develop and deliver content.

[Source: Asahi]

Tiny robot reduces need for surgery

26 Feb 2007

Surgical microbot ---

On February 26, researchers from Ritsumeikan University and the Shiga University of Medical Science completed work on a miniature robot prototype that, once inserted into the body through an incision, can be freely controlled to perform medical treatment and capture images of affected areas. The plastic-encased minibot, which measures 2 cm (0.8 inch) in length and 1 cm (0.4 inch) in diameter, can be maneuvered through the body by controlling an external magnetic field applied near the patient.

While other types of miniature swallowable robots have been developed in the past, their role has mostly been limited to capturing images inside the body. According to Ritsumeikan University professor Masaaki Makikawa, this new prototype robot has the ability to perform treatment inside the body, eliminating the need for surgery in some cases.

The researchers developed five different kinds of prototypes with features such as image capture functions, medicine delivery systems, and tiny forceps for taking tissue samples. MRI images of the patient taken in advance serve as a map for navigating the minibot, which is said to have performed swimmingly in tests on animals. Sensor and image data is relayed back to a computer via an attached 2-mm diameter cable, which looks like it can also serve as a safety line in case the minibot gets lost or stranded.

[Source: Chugoku Shimbun]