Your Face Here: The instant virtual you could soon be everywhere you look

Face-Animation.jpgThe last time I had my head turned into a virtual me, it took hours. The results were impressive. Weird, but impressive. Have a look.

So when I heard about a company getting ready to launch a technology that promised to create a virtual me instantly, without a long makeup session, multiple takes, and extended processing time, I thought it was worth taking a look. Potentially, I could collect virtual meâ''s. Not sure what Iâ''d do with them, but Iâ''ve got all sorts of things sitting on my computer Iâ''m not entirely sure what to do with.

Unfortunately, while X-iD, based in Redwood Shores, Calif., and Singapore, could show me other virtual people, it wasnâ''t quite ready to live demo and create a virtual me on the spot; Iâ''ll have to wait until June 15 for that. This week, X-iD was introducing a face recognition system for personal computer security (you smile at your webcam

instead of typing in a password when you boot up your computer). The 3-D head comes later.

Both products stem from the companyâ''s face recognition software, used for several years in building security. The software reconstructs a 3-D image of a face from a mug shot and simple identification of key points, like the eyes, sides of the face, and the ears. In building security applications, X-iD uses the 3-D image to recognize a person entering the building even if his head is turned or tilted. It recently occurred to company principals that not only are these image files really cool, they could have consumer applications.

Hence the computer log-on, available now for $19 or free for a one-month trial. And on June 15, X-iD will launch a social network (I wish they had called it something else, but everybody wants to play in the social network game these days) in which you can create your own virtual face and stick it onto an avatar or into a greeting card. The application is currently called FaceTheater, soon to be renamed Tycoona. (You actually donâ''t have to use your own face, anything with basic eyes, mouth, nose will workâ''the sphinx, your dog, Mona Lisa.) Eventually, the company hopes video game companies will use the technology to put you (or your friends or enemies) into video games to make them a little more personal.

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