Avatars & Facial Tracking
Sony Online Entertainment is beta testing a new feature for EverQuest II, SoEmote. This sort of technology has been around for a while, but to my knowledge, this is the first time it has been incorporated into an MMO (and a popular one, at that). This is likely an interesting feature for players, even if the audio is a bit off-putting. The audio fonts are pitched as a feature for role-players, but is this something they even want? I’m not terribly familiar with EQ2, but voice chat (outside of instances and raids) never really took off in WoW (even then 3rd party software seems dominant). For me, the face-tracking feature is far more interesting. I’m often put-off when my character’s head movements and facial expressions are different from what I expect them to be. SoEmote seems to do a nice job capturing, and replicating, facial movements (be sure to watch the video in full-screen, check out all those points of reference on his mouth, eyes, and eyebrows).
I digress… What has me most excited is the opportunity this feature offers researchers. One can easily think of several studies that test immersion, nonverbal cues, realism, etc. According to Kotaku, SOE will demo SoEmote at E3. Exciting!