As we work towards crossing the uncanny valley so that computer-generated humans don’t look like horrific plastic mannequins, every last facial feature needs to be recreated perfectly. That even includes teeth, which can now be digitized using nothing but a video of someone smiling.

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Previous methods used for creating believable CG teeth involved either modeling every last one from scratch, or using an intra-oral scanner to capture accurate digital copies which can be awkward and uncomfortable for a performer. What researchers at Disney Research Zurich, ETH Zurich, and the Max Planck Institute for Informatics have instead created is a non-invasive tool that can recreate a subject’s teeth by simply analyzing short videos, or even just photographs of their open mouth.

Since most photographs and videos of a person don’t reveal every last tooth inside their mouths, the researchers developed a system that matches visible teeth to a catalog of existing tooth models, and then based on those matches, automatically generates the rest of the occluded teeth to match with appropriate sizes and shapes.

The research could help streamline everything from the creation of visual-effect laden Hollywood blockbusters, to multi-million dollar video game franchises, making it easier and cheaper to create convincing computer-generated characters to either fool audiences, or just make an experience more immersive.

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[Disney Research]