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Microsoft Graphics

Microsoft Patents "Cartoon Face Generation" 117

theodp writes "The latest round of patents granted by the USPTO included one for Cartoon Face Generation, an invention which Microsoft explains 'generates an attractive cartoon face or graphic of a user's facial image'. Microsoft adds, 'The style of cartoon face achieved resembles the likeness of the user more than cartoons generated by conventional vector-based cartooning techniques. The cartoon faces thus achieved provide an attractive facial appearance and thus have wide applicability in art, gaming, and messaging applications in which a pleasing degree of realism is desirable without exaggerated comedy or caricature.' A Microsoft Research Face SDK Beta is available. Hey, too bad Microsoft didn't have this technology when they generated Bob from Ralphie!"
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Microsoft Patents "Cartoon Face Generation"

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Well, $SUBJECT says it all, really.

    Sigh. When will those plagues disappear.

    • by Barefoot Monkey ( 1657313 ) on Tuesday May 14, 2013 @07:53AM (#43718477)

      They're not patenting the entire concept of "cartoon face generation", just a particular approach to the problem that they worked on. Read the patent - they even refer to almost three dozen existing papers on the subject, so they're certainly not pretending to have invented the entire field. MS Research's algorithm tends to produce results that are recognisable and flattering at the same time, which I imagine they could find very useful for XBox Live.

      I think the real problem here is the misleading "X patents Y" headings used on Slashdot to alarm people.

  • by raburton ( 1281780 ) on Tuesday May 14, 2013 @05:45AM (#43718069) Homepage

    Before you waste your time downloading the SDK note that it is for windows phone 7 only. I know they did sell a few, but I've never met anyone who bought one.

  • I am sure I have seen those "photographic" type booths in service stations that do cartoony caricatures of people - are these not prior art? and what about avatars for forums - does Microsoft now own the patent on these? What about services like befunky? are they now going to have to pay MS a license fee for continuing to provide services?

    • Funnily enough all those wavy characters underneath the title of the patent are a text - in the English language, no less - which describes what has actually been patented. The title is... well, it's the title. It doesn't actually define the patent.

      • by JSurguy ( 85240 )

        My apologies - I am not well versed with the US patent process but I thought that the detailed description saying:

        "Described herein are systems and methods for cartoon face generation. In one implementation, an exemplary system generates a cartoon face from an original image, such as a photo that portrays a user's face. The style of cartoon face resembles the likeness of the person portrayed in the original photo more than cartoons generated by conventional vector-based cartooning techniques. The cartoon fa

  • So instead of drawing a cartoon face yourself, which is something everyone can do and enjoys very much, Microsoft wants to automate this "task" away from you so you can do what? Have a good time with Excel instead?

    It's just like the horror that is Microsoft Song Smith [], where Microsoft wanted to automate the "tedious chore of composing music" by letting a computer generate tunes instead. It's just stupid. It has no application. It leads to nothing. I'm not against fundamental research or anything, but this s

    • by havana9 ( 101033 ) on Tuesday May 14, 2013 @06:08AM (#43718143)
      Microsoft Song Smith is useful to obtain amusing Youtube videos. See for yourself: []
    • Presumably it's so that the next-generation Kinect will be able to assemble user avatar faces automatically using its camera. Trying to assemble a good face using sliders and decals, as in current implementations on the Wii and Xbox, is a pain in the arse, so having it knock together a reasonable starting point using 3D scanning and face recognition would be nice..

      Doesn't the 3DS already do this, in fact?

      Obligatory: this gives MS a patent on an approach to cartoon face generation, not the entire idea. I've

      • by mwvdlee ( 775178 )

        Obligatory: this gives MS a patent on an approach to cartoon face generation, not the entire idea. I've not read the claims so they could all be obvious, previously existing and unpatentable waffle but it history suggests we'll have a raft of comments about "blah blah did this already" without reading the patent.

        In theory you're right. In reality, patents are so broadly written that they actually do cover the entire idea.

        • They can't cover the idea because the idea has already been implemented multiple times before through other mechanisms. There is not only prior art, there is patented prior art. All they can do is patent their implementation of that concept, in however broad of language they can.
    • I haven't learned how to draw in 40 years and I certainly do not enjoy drawing.
    • You will of course let me know when they patent the "Face Palm"
    • Isn't Song Smith an extensions of the kind of DirectMusic research that gave us videogame soundtracks that respond to the current action? That's been pretty useful.

      Just because you see a cute consumer-facing endpoint that you don't find useful doesn't mean the entire project was "automate composing music".

      • by dingen ( 958134 )

        Adaptive music in video games has absolutely nothing to do with what Song Smith attempts to do. This is Song Smith's algorithm: it analyses a melody (recorded by voice), then does a bad guess at the suggested tonal scale and harmonies (which is basically impossible to get right, because the data just isn't there) and then uses these guesses to accompany your singing with chords, played by a cheap sounding midi rhythm machine. The result can barely be called music at all and is completely unrelated to anythi

        • I would argue that whoever creates the music generation system is the one doing the expression in this instance, inasmuch as the design of the algorithm is determined by the author's sense of what is musical. Is this really any less expressive in principle than any other piece of algorithmic art?

          I don't think we have to worry about algorithmic music taking over creative expression at any rate. By necessity, if the prevalence of such a system caused an objectionable reduction in expression in music, non-gene

        • Songsmith is just a cheap ($30) little program obviously aimed at the casual or party game market to allow people to experience what it is like to be a singer with a backing group. It is not intended for serious use or to replace real musicians. If that had been the intention then they would have priced it much higher to compete with Band-in-a-box [].

          Similarly, this cartoon drawing system is not part of some plot to put real artists out of work. It is designed to incorporate stylised caricatures within games o

    • by kav2k ( 1545689 )

      where Microsoft wanted to automate the "tedious chore of composing music"

      [citation needed], I can't find this line anywhere.

    • So instead of drawing a cartoon face yourself, which is something everyone can do...

      Not everyone can draw a plausible caricature of themselves. Try it sometime.

      Long time back, Microsoft Research China released an IM client for low bandwidth video chat at dial-up speeds. (less than a 15K modem)

      It's just like the horror that is Microsoft Song Smith, where Microsoft wanted to automate the "tedious chore of composing music" by letting a computer generate tunes instead.

      Not stupid at all.

      The most obvious practical application would be in video games, where synching art, animation, music, audio and visual effects to the player's actions without odd incongruities and obvious repetition is a major problem and expense.

    • (1) Not everyone can draw a cartoon version of themselves that would be aesthetically pleasing.

      (2) They animate the face to match captured motion.

      Now, granted, for (2) they could instead analyze a cartoon face drawn by a human and figure out how to animate it...but I'm guessing you would think THAT was a waste of time as well.

      I used to work in creating educational software. Having this technology would have been a boon for some of the stuff we were planning.

      You sure are down on what, I think, are interestin

      • by dingen ( 958134 )

        I'm genuinely interested: how could these sort of research projects be of any help at all with anything? Isn't it this simple: if you want a drawing but can't draw one, hire an artist. If you want music but can't make music, get a musician. It's not expensive nor complicated to get some help from an expert on these things.

        Software as a tool to empower people who create is great, but software that actually generates creative content itself is completely useless in my opinion.

  • Microsoft patented the technique. Now, clam down...
    • From looking at the patent, the problem is it appears to be a pretty status-quo technique with only arbitrary differences from what anyone else might do. If anything there is really innovative, I'd like someone to point out what it is. To be fair, this article says less about Microsoft and more about the patent office's low bar for granting patents.

      I understand that the patent office has limited resources and a lot of requests, but we cannot continue to depend on the court system to sort out what is novel a

      • by kav2k ( 1545689 )

        The burden should really be on the patent submitter to point out exactly what is so innovative as do deserve a government enforced monopoly over the approach. If the patent is 90% mundane details, it should not be the job of the patent office to pick out what is worthwhile. If the submitter cannot make a concise and convincing argument, then they don't deserve a patent.

        Then it falls back to the patent office to pick out which arguments are convincing, which is a pretty much similar task.

        • The point is to get the scale of the task more manageable. There are already ways for the public to make arguments against patents (though I'm sure there's room for improvement), but when the burden is on the reviewers (whether in the patent office or outside) to counter every piece of fluff in the application, it becomes a huge task. I suggest something like this...

          The submitter is required to highlight what they consider to be innovative aspects of the patent with the most novel listed first. They get onl

  • How about just using a photograph instead?

  • 3DS and Wii U (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Psyborgue ( 699890 ) on Tuesday May 14, 2013 @06:23AM (#43718191) Homepage Journal
    Already do this. The device takes a picture through it's front facing camera and automatically generates a "Mii" with similar features. I'm sure somebody else can find similar software that did this even before.
    • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

      Basically what thousands of animators have done when using an actors image to create an animated character. When the animated character is computer generated this B$ patent allows M$ to sue every animation company across the globe who has down this. Note is does not include or exclude human activity in the process. This is a straight up long term grab for cash as M$'s other products die and they become more patent suit orientated.

    • by Bigby ( 659157 )

      Back in the, you could patent a door once. But today, you can patent the door thousands of times, as long as you change the way it is constructed.

  • by tlambert ( 566799 ) on Tuesday May 14, 2013 @07:19AM (#43718357)

    'generates an attractive cartoon face OR graphic of a user's facial image'

    So it can either be attractive OR look like you.

    • My first thought was - well at least I am still free to generate an UNattractive cartoon face based on my own image.
    • So it can either be attractive OR look like you.

      If they said 'XOR' I'd see you're point, but they didn't. It's obviously a logical OR, not a colloquial one.

    • by flatt ( 513465 )

      Clippy: Would you like help generating an attractive cartoon face for yourself? [Yes]
      Attempting to generate an attractive cartoon face...
      Error 7923: Damn, you ugly.

  • Now, I admit I can't be bothered to actually read the patent, but does it describe the algorithms for the method? Or is it just like the linked picture? (Photograph->"magic box"->cartoon picture)

    I surely hope not, because then the patent system is useless. But it also would mean that I could patent any input->magic box->output method I can dream of.

  • It will probably look like this! []

    Good ol' chat.
  • The whole f**king world has gone stark staring mad.
  • by Begemot ( 38841 ) on Tuesday May 14, 2013 @08:27AM (#43718679)

    First of all the bottom line - patents suck shit. I'll try to explain, although there's so much to tell.

    The only positive thing about patents was the original idea that inventors need a tool to protect themselves from copycats. A pretty good idea, but then came other people and turned the idea into a steaming pile of shit, as we often do with everything.

    There's a number of complexities that people do not take into account when they file a patent:

    1. It's freaking expensive because at some point you have to work with patent attorneys. You can submit provisional yourself, but you must hire patent attorney in PCT or National phases and it's unlikely that you can use proper language that the patent attorney will use, so you risk not having your provisional be considered a priority document (which sets the priority date, when your invention is considered to be created).

    2. You'll spend a lot of time on it. Time that could better be spent on building and improving your product.

    3. You'd have to reveal all details of your invention to everyone. What if it's hard or even impossible to prove if anyone infringes it later? Patent attorneys will never tell you not to patent it (see #2 above).

    4. There's a very good chance that there's something like you invented already, so you won't get a patent despite all the efforts. In other words, unless your invention is abso-fucking-lutely genius, you're doomed to fail on "novelty" or "inventive step" requirements. Almost no doubt about it. Patent examiners are not the sharpest pencils in the box. Read this if you don't believe it:

    5. Let say you got your patent granted. You think you just skipped to the "profit" bullet? Ha! In order to benefit from your patent you need someone who infringes it and benefits enough from it to pay you damages. Not a small startup, they won't be able to pay you damages so no sane lawyer will take your case. If the infringing party is rich enough they still need to benefit enough from the infringing product or again no sane jury will give you the damages. Take into account that the bigger the infringer is, the stronger they'll fight you. They will bully and starve you.

    6. IP cases take a very long time and cost millions of dollars, and their lawyers will drag you all the way through Inter Party Review at USPTO (where they'll reexamine your patent, another year and $500K) and it's quite possible that they will find some freaking conference presentation in Chinese that's close enough to your invention. Nobody will give a shit that you don't understand Chinese and never been to that conference.

    7. In the US you could go to ITC (International Trade Commission) instead of a district court, but that only works when the infringing party is a foreign company and they import the infringing products into the US. ITC also doesn't give you damages, they can only stop the import of infringing products.

    All the above taken from my very bitter experience in managing about 40 patent apps in different country.


  • It take to patentee to file the patent but then the USPTO to grant the patent and those involved in granting this patent need to be fired for their incompetence. Characachers have been around for a long time and I have seen booths at arcades and Dave & Busters that do exactly this since the late 90s. This is beyond obvious prior art.
  • Can I patent my algorithm for automatically generating unique patents?
  • Q: So, girly, you like roller skatin'?
    | --> A: Yes --> Yeah, everybody loves roller skatin'..
    | --> A: No --> Yeah, everybody loves roller skatin'...

  • Sftware and business method patents simply should not exist. Period.

  • Ohh yeah, isn't it nice to be in a country that is moving away from this insanity? [] []

No extensible language will be universal. -- T. Cheatham