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The new faces of today’s technology

by Chiho Komoriya

Be whoever you want to be

Recently, there has been a rise in virtual YouTubers, or “VTubers,” in Japan — the use of motion-sensing technology to turn an anime character into a person’s online alter ego. To do this, though, involves a bit of setup, including face-recognition software and, if you want to move your arms and legs around, a motion capture system.

Xpression: 4D Face, though, is making the option of borrowing someone’s face available to anyone with an iPhone 6 or above. Developed by the creators of EmbodyMe, an app available on Steam and Oculus VR that can animate avatars via the user’s movements, Xpression can animate video clips, photos and pictures on the iPhone. It replaces the expression of the source face in real time with the facial movements of the user via the phone camera.

All you need to do is use the app’s search to find a clip or image, or use one of your own; make sure your face is in the right position in the frame pictured top right of the screen; then make expressions and talk. There’s the option to copy your mouth to the video, which allows you to stick out your tongue or bare teeth, and you can download the clips when done. It’s not seamless, which adds an amusing creepiness (try replacing the expressions of your own face), but it’s a fun app that is available for free.

itunes.apple.com/app/id1350290382

The virtual makeover

If you’re looking for a cosmetic makeover for your real self, but aren’t sure what would you suit you, DHC Corp. has taken advantage of augmented reality to allow its customers to try out a range of beauty products without having to step into a store.

The app uses 3D face-recognition technology to simulate lipsticks, eyeshadows, blushers and other makeup items onto the user’s on-screen face. It works in real time and, since it uses AR, you can move your head around to view the makeover from all sides. There’s also an on-screen slider that allows you to toggle between before and after looks.

The app is free, but it’s designed to promote DHC goods, so the choices are limited to the brand. If you do find what you’re looking for, though, you can access the DHC online store directly and purchase it right away. For anyone who is already a DHC fan, the company says it will also use the app to highlight new, limited-edition and seasonal products.

top.dhc.co.jp/contents/app/dhcmake/info (Japanese only)

Design your robot helpers

Curiosity Inc. is about to release the Chararoid — a customizable service-industry robot, designed to match its owner’s needs both visually and functionally.

According to Curiosity Inc., the concept behind the Chararoid is to help “make the anime world exist in reality.” So the robot’s outer shell, which is designed by computer graphic artists, unsurprisingly looks like a giant anime character — a humanoid with a huge head, big eyes and dainty hands. Clients, however, can have the Chararoid’s defining features customized to match a brand. For example, it can be made to look male or female or have different hair styles.

Using software designed by engineers who animate theme-park attractions, the robot can move its arms and head to make simple gestures, while its eyes are screens that light up with typical anime expressions. It also has speech recognition and responds in a voice that the client can choose. All this is controlled by software that is compatible with background music (BGM), signage and projection mapping programs.

The Chararoid may not be as sophisticated as robots like Softbank Group Corp.’s Pepper, but Curiosity Inc. explains that it is cheaper to produce than other service robots and quicker to build. This makes it a possibility for smaller businesses.

The price has yet to be released, though, so to find out more, contact Curiosity Inc. directly.

www.curiosity-inc.jp/chararoid (Japanese only)