Facial animation is a relatively recent development in gaming, introduced only when games technology became capable of showing such detail in characters’ faces, but already animation company Image Metrics aims to completely overhaul facial animation in games and bridge the gap between player and character by drawing facial animation from the player using web cameras or hardware like the Kinect sensor. The company demonstrated their technology at Edinburgh Interactive this Friday live on stage, showing a character’s face being animated based on the facial expression of the user.

A huge number of games permit players to customise their character, but this facial animation tech intends to put players absolutely into their characters’ shoes. That’s not the only advanced technology they’re hoping to pioneer, though; the company have also developed a piece of middleware that creates an in-game representation of the players face from a single photograph and maps it onto their character model. With Image Metrics’ technology, you could use a single webcam to immerse yourself completely in a game by inserting a realistic avatar based on your own appearance, which would be animated in real-time based on your movements and facial expression in real-life.

“There’s a plan to make a product announcement in the near future about this technology,” said Director of Research at Image Metrics, Dr Mike Rogers. “We’re very interested in hearing what people need to make this technology work in their environment.”

You can watch a video of the tech in action here, as demonstrated by Dr Mike Rogers at Edinburgh Interactive 2011.