One of the problems with Skype video calls is that you and your counterpart are rarely looking each other in the eye, because you’re gazing at their on-screen image rather than directly into your webcam. It’s all a bit jarring.
A new software prototype from the Computer Graphics Laboratory ETH Zurich aims to change that using facial recognition and the Xbox 360’s Kinect camera. The camera and software isolate the caller’s face and rotate it slightly, creating the illusion of eye contact. Only the face is moved, and done so seamlessly – the rest of the image remains untouched.
Coming to normal webcams soon
“We want to make video conference calls as similar as possible to a real meeting,” says Claudia Kuster, a doctoral student working on the prototype. “Mutual gaze awareness is a critical aspect of human communication. Our goal is to perform gaze correction without damaging the integrity of the image while completely preserving the facial expression of the person.”
The results are a touch creepy, but decidedly effective, and the idea is to use the prototype to bring a solution to home video-callers: Kuster and her colleagues are in the process of building a Skype plug-in, which will eventually be available as a free download.