THE FUTURE IS IN FACES
Despite the encroaching challenge of new gaming consoles, NVIDIA’s senior vice president Tony Tamasi said that the future is “nothing but goodness for the PC.” His optimistic outlook is based on the premise that console game developers can create games with outstanding content for the PC platform.
One of the main technologies unveiled by NVIDIA this year was Face Works. Face Works is based on facial and motion capture technology titled Light Stage. Developed by the Institute of Creative Technology at the University of Southern California, Light Stage has the amazing capability to record image data down to the tenth of a millimeter with the help of the latest photographic techniques. With Face Works, it’s possible to capture the minute subtleties of an actor’s face, as well as the proper texture and consistency of human skin.
The data obtained is stored as a digital mesh, which can be later reconstituted back to the original image. The real magic of Face Works lies in compression; 32GB of captured raw data can be whittled down by approximately 98 percent to just 400MB. This small data size, which is easier and quicker to transmit, opens up avenues of rendering photorealistic human expressions in real time.
During the PlayStation 4 unveiling, Sony was keen to showcase similar performance on their console. The realism offered by the new gaming device was illustrated with a demo of an old man’s face, rendered live with the help of developer Quantic Dream’s proprietary new engine.
PC game developers, however, can count on Face Works being made available as a platform for game development, giving the PC a leg up on the consoles in the battle for realism.
The Face Works demo from NVIDIA was running on the GTX Titan GPU, and it’s safe to postulate that it will not be available for the new consoles. In fact, both the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 lag behind in terms of available development tools, and will only offer the PhysX and APEX middleware engines for developers (both available for the PC). This move may help console game achieve better physics, more realistic simulation of rigid bodies and proper collision dynamics, but PC games will already be moving on with the help of NVIDIA’s additions such as Wave Works.
It will take time for technologies such as Face Works and Wave Works to be fully implemented in PC titles. But even though the next generation consoles boast “next generation graphics cards”, the PC looks set to retain its throne as the platform with the highest quality visuals.