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Intelligent Machines

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Animating a person’s movements for a movie or video game can be costly and time consuming, requiring that actors be filmed with special cameras for every step and shrug. A new tool created by Zoran Popovic at the University of Washington and Aaron Hertzmann at the University of Toronto, however, can extrapolate a person’s movements from a single sequence of motions. First, the sequence is used to train the system. Then the animator picks a new movement for the digital character by, say, changing the position of its hands and feet. The system then calculates the most probable corresponding positions of the rest of the body. Popovic says that a clip of only 20 or 30 frames is enough information to give the system a good sense of how a person tends to move. Popovic imagines that the technology would be particularly useful for animators who make sports video games based on actual players. In fact, the technology is currently licensed to Redwood City, CA-based Electronic Arts, a maker of video games.

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