This is half fascinating, half scary, and 100 percent freaky: Disney has invented a process to clone real humans into silicone-skinned robots. Their method analyzes the face of a target using 3D motion capture cameras. Then it calculates the precise shape, density and composition of a synthetic skin that accurately mimics that specific human's expressions:
This is the paper description, presented at this years Siggraph by Disney Research's scientists in Zürich:
We propose a complete process for designing, simulating, and fabricating synthetic skin for an animatronics character that mimics the face of a given subject and its expressions. The process starts with measuring the elastic properties of a material used to manufacture synthetic soft tissue. Given these measurements we use physics-based simulation to predict the behavior of a face when it is driven by the underlying robotic actuation.
After capturing the subject's expressions, their process precisely calculates how thick or thin the animatronics flesh should be in different points. This variable thickness allows for the perfect reproduction of humans' facial expressions. That's "the key component of our process", according to the researchers. Their "novel optimization scheme that determines the shape of the synthetic skin as well as the actuation parameters that provide the best match to the target expressions."
They actually call it "Physical Face Cloning." I can imagine this used in the near future for the development of androids that would be able to express themselves with facial movements, just like humans do. Add some artificial intelligence or some brain downloading and boom, instant immortality. Or Futurama-style talking heads. It can go either way.