CSE alumnus Iman Sadeghi (M.S., Ph.D. ’08, ’11), who did his dissertation in computer graphics on controlling the appearance of specular microstructures, is now VP of Engineering for a Santa Monica-based startup. That company, Pinscreen, aims to revolutionize digital communication and online human interaction with user-generated and personalized 3D virtual avatars.
Sadeghi and other Pinscreen engineers staged a high-profile demo for Real-Time Live, an “interactive extravaganza” that was part of SIGGRAPH 2017 in Los Angeles this week. Like other participants, the team from Pinscreen did real-time demos of the company’s 3D avatar and tracking software (now in beta release). CSE alumnus Sadeghi led the demo on “Creating Performance-Driven Avatars in Seconds”, showing how the software can capture a 2D selfie taken with a webcam and convert it – in a matter of seconds – into a surprisingly realistic 3D avatar “that stops just short of the uncanny valley” (referring to the point at which a robot or avatar is so realistic that a viewer starts to feel uncomfortable with it). The software runs a neural network on a graphics processing unit (GPU).
Using the Unity game engine, the Pinscreen team also demonstrated how to insert the rapidly-created 3D avatar into a gaming environment, and showed how the expressive avatar can reflect different light conditions programmed into the game. They also showed 3D avatars draped over participants in real-time videoconferencing.
Sadeghi’s colleagues participating in the demo included Koki Nagano, Jaewoo Seo, and Carrie Sun, all from Pinscreen.