Face-on with SOEmote, a real-time facial animation system for EverQuest

MMO's are fun and all, but imagine if there was technology to bring your face into the game. Sony Online Entertainment has taken a big step towards perfecting that technology with its new SOEmote software, which they showed off for EverQuest at this year's E3.

By using any available webcam, the SOEmote can capture 5,000 facial elements and scrunch them down to 64 nodes. The result pastes the player's face on an actual game character. On top of that, it follows the face's movement, capturing full facial movement in real-time. I tried out the software earlier this week and marveled as the software tracked my head's every move, right down to my eyebrows.

I tested SOEmote's abilities with Groucho Marx-style eyebrow movements and Cheshire Cat grins. The Froglok’s followed along without missing a step. I spent the next five minutes testing the limits of the camera, making as many silly faces as I could. The Froglok kept up without a problem. This was one of the coolest moments of my E3 and made me wish this was available in all of my RPG games.

The SOE rep noted the revolutionary possibilities that this software creates, particularly for the world of machinima. SOE is adding new bones and expressions with each passing day, so expect updates to come often. They also hope to improve voice-capture capabilities, in order to add player voices to in-game characters. The SOEmote is only available in the EverQuest series (including the upcoming EverQuest Next) for now, but SOE hopes to add it in future SOE titles.

SOEmote will be available at the end of June as a free download.

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