Avatars are a core element of ICSpace, the virtual fitness and movement environment at Bielefeld University's Cluster of Excellence Cognitive Interaction Technology (CITEC). The system makes it possible to practise and improve motion sequences by providing individualised feedback in real time. The system is embodied by a virtual person acting as a coach. In addition, users see themselves as avatars - virtual copies of themselves in the mirror of the virtual room. The creation of such personalised avatars used to take several days, but CITEC researchers have now developed an accelerated process.
In order to create avatars for the ICSpace system, the researchers scan people. The computer scientists use 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. A generic virtual human model is fitted to this data in such a way that it corresponds to the shape and appearance of the person scanned. The resulting virtual people can be animated in detail: they can move all joints, even individual fingers, and communicate through facial expressions, speech and gestures.