Continuing on from the remarkable research at Auckland University by Mark Sagar and his team – which we have previously highlighted here at fxguide for their incredibly impressive realtime BabyX project – Auckland Uni today released a new video highlighting the work of their Auckland Face Simulator. The project is part of the larger research group Mark Sagar heads at Auckland University, that he started after leaving Weta Digital.


At Weta, Mark was key in the FACS face pipeline that was used on King Kong, Avatar and continues to be used by the Weta team moving forward.

“If I had my time again I’d want to spend it in this lab”

  Alvy Ray Smith
  Co-founder of Pixar on a recent visit to the lab in NZ

As part of his realtime behavioral studies and computer simulations, Mark Sagar and his team have developed a streamlined face pipeline for the generation of real time digital human faces. The key is that these simulations are interactive and run in real time. The Auckland Face Simulator is being developed to cost effectively create extremely realistic and precisely controllable models of the human face and its expressive dynamics for Psychology research. On an recent  visit to the Lab, co-founder of Pixar, Dr Alvy Ray Smith expressed his delight after reviewing the team’s research by saying ““If I had my time again I’d want to spend it in this lab”.

Applications of the technology encompass both Pure Research and Commercial Applied Research, including:

∎    Exploration and embodiment of theories of brain function and behaviour through computational modelling.

∎    New, more natural ways of interacting with technology through expressive human-machine communication.


“We believe the best way to simulate biological behaviour is through biological models, ” explained Sagar, who recently spoke at FMX and who estimates that each digital face of this quality takes less than 6 weeks for his team to complete from start to interactive rendering. Thanks

While the Baby X project continues and will soon move to version 4, the team has also been under license, servicing commercial clients. The first such project is a digital airport check in assistant called Xyza. Watch her interact in the screen recording of her realtime display in the video above, “everything you see in the video is real time source with no post processing, apart from editing the cuts together” joked Sagar talking to fxguide from his lab in Auckland today.

For more on Mark Sagar and BabyX, see our fxphd preview class.

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