Moving photographs and portraits are one of the coolest parts of the fascinating world of Harry Potter. But we never considered that muggle scientists would really be able to animate photos of people.
But now, researchers at the University of Washington have magically created software that brings your photos to life, using facial detection software that apparently stitches together multiple images, a la Microsoft’s Photosynth.
"I have 10,000 photos of my 5-year-old son, taken over every possible expression," said co-author Steve Seitz, a UW professor of computer science and engineering and engineer in Google's Seattle office, in a UW press release. "I would like to visualize how he changes over time, be able to see all the expressions he makes, be able to see him in 3-D or animate him from the photos."
The software starts with photos from the web or personal collections that are tagged with the same person. It locates the face and major features, then aligns the faces and chooses photos with similar expressions to create smooth transitions. The tool uses a standard fade between images, which the researchers discovered can produce a surprisingly smooth transition that gives the appearance of motion.
An example video uses photos of a Google employee's daughter taken from birth to age 20. The owner scanned the older photos to create digital versions, tagged them with the subject's name and manually added the dates. The result is a movie in which the subject ages two decades in less than a minute.
For modern babies, who are digitally chronicled from before birth, such films will be much easier to create.
One version of the tool is already available to the public. Last year during a six-month internship at Google's Seattle office, co-author Rahul Garg, a UW doctoral student in computer science and engineering, worked with Kemelmacher-Shlizerman and Seitz to add a feature called Face Movie to the company's photo tool, Picasa.
The Face Movie version includes some simplifications to make it run more quickly. It also plays every photo tagged with the person's name, but not necessarily in chronological order.