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Skype eye contact finally possible (w/ Video)

August 28, 2013 | Telepresence Options

skype eyecontact

Story and images by Angelika Jacobs / PHSY.org

Those separated from family and friends by long distances often use video conferencing services such as Skype in order to see each other when talking. But who hasn't experienced the frustration of your counterpart not making direct eye contact during the conversation? A software prototype from the Computer Graphics Laboratory ETH Zurich may be able to help.

"We want to make  calls as similar as possible to a real meeting," explains Claudia Kuster, a doctoral student at the Computer Graphics Laboratory ETH Zurich. Lack of  is said to be a considerable obstacle to the feel of a 'real' conversation. This problem arises because the speaker looks mainly at their counterpart's picture instead of at the camera. Kuster and her colleagues are now offering a solution to the problem for everyday use:  that recognises the face in the  and rotates it so that the person appears to be looking at the camera.

Until now, only larger companies have been able to afford the luxury of creating artificial eye contact during video conferences; this has required complex mirror systems or several cameras and special software. No satisfactory solution to the problem has existed for private use.

Depth map and facial recognition

This is now changing thanks to the new software that Kuster has developed under the guidance of Markus Gross, Professor of Computer Science at ETH Zurich. Thanks to Kinect, a new generation of cameras that collect colour and depth information simultaneously, the system is available for home use. The software developed by Kuster uses a depth map calculated from the image information and a programme that recognises faces in real-time video.

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