Magazine article National Defense

Air Force Creating Realistic Avatars with 3-D Scanning Technology

Magazine article National Defense

Air Force Creating Realistic Avatars with 3-D Scanning Technology

Article excerpt

* To create an object with a 3-D printer, the user first must obtain either computer-aided design data or a 3-D scanner that can capture the object's appearance and create a digital model.

But for the Air Force, the use of 3-D scanners extends far beyond additive manufacturing. The Air Force Research Laboratory's 711 Human Performance Wing is employing such technology to render high-fidelity avatars for simulation and video game training, officials told National Defense.

John Camp, leader of the biofidelic avatar modeling team, said there are three parts to creating a new avatar: the skeletal structure that gives the individual its unique proportions, the animation and what developers call the "mesh" - the visual representation of a human in the virtual world.

To create the mesh, the team uses a whole body scanner comprising several cameras arranged in a ring around the subject, said Dustin Bruening, biosignature discovery team lead. Each camera takes a photo, which produces a digital, 3-D cloud of points on the body. Connecting those points with lines results in the creation of a mesh.

Animation and skeletal structure is captured with motion capture technology similar to the process used to create Gollum in the Lord of The Rings film trilogy, he said.

"We put a lot of reflective stickers or dots on a person and have them move around in a motion capture area, and motion capture cameras take the reflections of those dots," Bruening said. "The end result of that is a stick figure or a skeletal model of a person moving around. …

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