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Software Brings Eye Contact To Video Chat, With a Little Help From Kinect 111

Zothecula writes "Skype has been around for ten years now. Once a science fiction dream, the video calling service has 300 million users making two billion minutes of video calls a day. One problem: most of them can't look each other in the eye. Claudia Kuster, a doctoral student at the Computer Graphics Laboratory ETH Zurich, and her team are developing a way to bring eye contact to Skype and similar video services with software that alters the caller's on-screen image to give the illusion that they're looking straight at the camera."
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Software Brings Eye Contact To Video Chat, With a Little Help From Kinect

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  • Which is hardly a natural act, so you should position your camera just above your screen if possible because that's where you're looking, at your screen. :)

    • by Atzanteol ( 99067 ) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @03:19PM (#44749537) Homepage

      Then you're not looking the other person in the eyes. Hence no "eye-contact."

    • by Anonymous Coward

      If you're looking at the camera, then you're not seeing the other person, which defeats the purpose of a video chat.

    • No where in the article does it say they are looking directly at the camera. And if you look at the photos they are showing, you should automatically realize that the viewer is looking away from the camera (presumably at the screen displaying the other person's face), and the image is adjusted to give the illusion that the viewer is looking into the camera (thus achieving digital eye contact). Come on folks, this is Slashdot. We used to be smart. Let's bring that back.
      • Come on folks, this is Slashdot. We used to be smart.

        You must be using a different slashdot than me because that's not my experience at all.

        • Yeah... and I didn't help myself for not fully reading their comment. Read the article and not the comments, I should be banned, right?
        • I don't know if this should be rated funny or insightful.

        • "I see in Slashdot the strongest and smartest men who've ever lived. I see all this potential, and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don't need. We're the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War's a spiritual war... our Great Depression is our lives. We've all been raised on te

    • by asylumx ( 881307 ) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @03:51PM (#44749933)
      If both people are only looking at the camera, why bother even displaying a picture at all? Nobody is looking at it... Except the NSA perhaps.
    • You should position a small camera directly in front of the screen between the eyes of the person on screen.
    • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

      You mean like how Every Acer, Samsung, Toshiba, macintosh, and dell has the camera on their laptops and all in one pc's?

    • by cusco ( 717999 )
      Back in 1999 my boss hung up the phone after several minutes of yelling at her kid. She sighed and said, "Remember Brian, when we were kids and they told us that in the year 2000 everyone would have phones where they could see the other person?"

      I agreed that yes, I did remember that. I said that with MSN Messenger and some of the other new software we were actually getting pretty close.

      She said, "I don't so much want to see the other person, as I want to be able to reach through and SLAP them!" The
    • by chihowa ( 366380 )

      They're all looking up, though, which would indicate that the camera is below the screen. Every setup I've seen puts the camera atop the screen, which makes more sense with regards to eye contact as the contact's eyes will be closer to the camera (and filming from slightly above is more flattering than filming from slightly below).

      I've done a little video chatting and it never looks as dramatically awkward as the pictures they show. You can tell that the other person is looking at the screen and not the cam

  • by Anonymous Coward$(KGrHqIOKpMFIJv(N8KvBSD6I3QPTw~~60_35.JPG?set_id=880000500F

  • I have an aversion to maintaining eye contact with people I don't completely trust, you insensitive clod!

    Even if it is fake.

    • You just have to not activate the feature yourself. On the other hand, your peers will be relieved to have a more natural communication. I had a professor that while speaking with anyone never makes eye contact, looking to a corner of the ceiling... I cannot describe how disturbing that was.

      • I disagree, not looking at people in the eye during chat isn't weird at all. It's the way that video chat is done.

        By permitting the computer to change your eyes, you solve one problem, while taking away the meaning with which your eyes communicate with people. Suddenly, you can't just roll your eyes without telling the computer that you want to roll your eyes as the computer isn't going to know that it should break eye contact.

        If you happen to live in a culture where eye contact is maintained through out, t

        • I haven't video called much and it took a little bit of getting used to but then was OK. At appropriate times I'll look directly into the camera and the other person sees that. And vice versa. Works, and only a little awkward. This new software is nifty but unsettling in its own way. Until I use it I'll reserve judgement.

          • I've never had a problem with it, I just look at the screen as one is intended and focus on communicating. It's really freaky to be on video chat and focusing on the camera, it sounds like you were sitting too close to a camera with a screen that's too large. With my 11.6" screen, the difference between looking at the camera and looking at the screen is minimal.

            If you've got a larger screen then you're likely going to have to sit further away in order for the effect to disappear.

            Still, it's a damned sight b

            • Didn't say I had a problem with it, only that it was a bit of getting used to. Camera is in bezel of laptop's 17" screen; sometimes I'll be leaning back in my office chair, other times leaning forward to type some thing, once with my nose to the screen, "What are you doing?" "Seeing if you got more wrinkles that I do." At a comfortable viewing distance there's still around 5 degrees of separation eyes-to-camera, so that's the "getting used to." Also, with several people, we'll each look directly at the

              • This sounds a lot like people prior to video cameras becoming ubiquitous. If you've ever seen a Beatles film you'll know what I mean, it's all awkward because they're paying a ton of attention to the camera rather than just ignoring it and going about their business.

                The video conferencing equipment is the same way, you're not supposed to be changing your behavior to suit the device, you're supposed to be looking on screen. I'm not sure how that would look weird, because it's never looked weird on any device

                • I'm not sure about the "supposed to" so much; so far people and I just do what seems natural to us, but I think I know what you mean.

                  If one could know that the Kinect is locked down then I'm all for it just 'cuz it's a nifty toy at the least. What these folks have done with it is way cool whether one wishes to use it or no.

                  My laptop cam has a light also but I'm not sophisticated enough to rest totally assured that the software I use reports correctly as to whether it and the microphone are on or off - offh

      • I had a professor that while speaking with anyone never makes eye contact, looking to a corner of the ceiling... I cannot describe how disturbing that was.

        Having grown up very close to a deaf person, I've developed the tendency to stare at people's mouths when they speak.

        You want disturbing? Try learning to lip read.

  • by 3D-nut ( 687652 ) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @03:06PM (#44749391)
    Why not put a half-silvered mirror (plate beamsplitter) at a 45 degree angle to the screen, a piece of black velvet beyond the beamsplitter as a light trap, and point the camera so it sees your face reflected in the glass? Like a teleprompter.
    • Why not put a half-silvered mirror (plate beamsplitter) at a 45 degree angle to the screen, a piece of black velvet beyond the beamsplitter as a light trap, and point the camera so it sees your face reflected in the glass? Like a teleprompter.

      Not a bad idea really. Software could remove the ghostly reflected face probably, and it would be a far better use of software than manufacturing where your eye is looking. That just sounds like it would look creepy.

    • Terrific idea, but you'd have a pretty hard time getting that setup into a laptop bezel. Video-conferencing didn't really seem to catch on en masse until the cameras came built into every piece of hardware sold. As a dedicated device, I could see this idea working really well, but I don't think people are willing to sacrifice price and portability just to be able to see someone they're talking to. Of course, there could be exceptions, such as when people are doing high-value business transactions, where eye
      • Difficult to do on a phone or laptop but you'd make fortune.

      • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

        It doesnt make or break a deal. I sell high end AV systems (They cost more than your house and your parents house) that use $15,000 or more Pro Videoconference systems. and they dont maintain eye contact. the camera is either mounted above or below the screen. and when you are using a 80" LCD the camera is WAY up there.

    • Why not put 4 cameras in each corner and use software to combine the image in such a way that the senders image is in the centre?
  • Hey! Eyes up here!
  • by Russ1642 ( 1087959 ) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @03:24PM (#44749593)

    They're putting out software that changes what your eyes look like so that it looks like you're not looking up a little bit. This will not work. It will make people's eyes look wrong and creepy. We are perfectly attuned to looking at eyes and anything that's a bit off will get noticed immediately. Start by fixing people's teeth or something but not the eyes.

    • Apparently they're actually moving the whole head to look like it's aiming at the camera, not just making the eyes look like they're aiming at the camera.

      In most of the images, it looks reasonable, but in a few it just looks a bit off somehow.

      • Whatever. Tilting the face, changing angles and trying to make the eyes look like they're pointed a different direction will just look wrong. It sounds like wonderful technology but everyone's going to try it for five minutes and then turn it off because it looks creepy.

        • I'm completely with you. I was just pointing out what some people might see as a big difference between what you were talking about and what was actually happening. As I said, a couple of their sample images looked a bit off already, so I imagine it would look creepy as hell in practice.

      • In most of the images, it looks reasonable, but in a few it just looks a bit off somehow.

        I'd call the latter a bit of an understatement: []
        The left guy in the right picture looks like he's changed race or even species.

        Considering that these are undoubtedly the cherrypicked best results and that the example images are low resolution, I'd say that the technology needs some more work. Having said that, there is nothing wrong with the idea in itself.

    • by naoursla ( 99850 )

      The Kinect gets 3D information. They can take the polygons mapped with the video image and apply small rotation from the picture of the other person onthe screen to the camera. You'll get some artifacts where you are exposing areas that the camera can't see, but maybe those can be filled in with surrounding pixels so you don't notice so much.

    • by Ichijo ( 607641 )

      It will make people's eyes look wrong and creepy.

      Or maybe they'll look like Terry Gilliam's cutout animations [].

    • Didn't RTFA of course but the smart way to do this is to start with video of someone actually looking at the person on the screen rather than the camera. That way camera sees an off angle but "correct" picture. that picture is then rotated so the remote video looks "right".

    • []

      Given this demo from two years ago using a single hacked Kinect I have to believe that the technology is only going to improve. As long as the camera isn't occluded the 3D point data can be used to map sections of the 2D image onto a mesh created from the 3D point cloud. Then the camera can be virtually re-positioned and the scene rendered. Most of this is pretty easy using commodity hardware rendering engines.

  • And still no decent alternative. Well how about it, science?!
  • Altering the image doesn't provide eye contact. Eye contact is a palpable connection between two people, not just me staring into the eyes of an image. Unless it communicates the "connection" (for lack of a better word) created when you actually look someone in the eye, it's just a gimmick.

  • I don't think it's natural to always look someone straight in the eye. When I do it people get squirmish.
  • The only way to solve this is to embed the screen with a grid of cameras clustered around the center, and allow the software to decide which camera to active by detecting where the other party's eyes are on the screen. Redrawing people's eyes just seems like the wrong way to go about it... even if it looks perfect 99% of the time, the remaining 1% will freak the sh*t out of everybody.
  • Paste a photo of tits next to the lens.

  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @04:27PM (#44750411) Homepage

    Most people do not make Eye contact when talking, people look at the other persons mouth mostly aiming the eyes at the center of the face. direct eye contact is seen as agressive even in the human species.

  • by Nova77 ( 613150 ) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @04:42PM (#44750609)

    It's a 2012 siggraph (Asia) paper. Here's the link with the video. []

  • There were several frontier demos of how to use gaze tracking for video games and variable resolution rendering []. I think this is facilitated by turnkey table top boxes that can track your gaze.
  • a few years back, i have seen a demo where they used 2 cameras at the sides of the screen, made some interpolation vodoo and voila, you could look at the screen AND have eye contact. Worked like a charm. I always wondered why nobody included this in their notebooks, as it also worked "one-sided" where the user on the other side did not have this setup.

  • The tech shifts the angle of the person, not just the eyes.

    So, eye roll at will.

  • Can it be set to give me a better view of women's cleavage while still making me look like I am making eye contact?

This process can check if this value is zero, and if it is, it does something child-like. -- Forbes Burkowski, CS 454, University of Washington