A team of animators has hacked Microsoft's Kinect sensor suite to create a motion-replication system that powers CGI characters. Remember Gollum in Lord of The Rings? Yup—kinda like that. (But way cheaper.)
One thing you aren't likely to hear Sunday night from the Oscar-winning producer after accepting the trophy for Best Picture: "I'd like to thank my neuroscience partners who helped us enhance the film's script, characters, and scenes." It's not that far-fetched, though.
If you watched "Jeopardy!" last night, you saw an IBM supercomputer named Watson cream two human champions — at least until it made a few dumb mistakes late in the round and allowed Brad Rutter to tie things up. But you also saw Watson's "face" — the swirling electronic avatar that Alex Trebek dryly rebuked when it buzzed in with an incorrect answer that Ken Jennings had already made. (Guess we shouldn't fear a robot uprising quite yet.)
IBM hired veteran digital artist Joshua Davis to create Watson's avatar, and made a video describing the designer's process (skip to 1:35):
About 33% of box-office earnings are now generated from 3-D films, and in 2010 six of the top 10 highest-grossing movies were shot using the technology, with the top two, "Toy Story 3" and "Alice in Wonderland," banking more than a billion dollars each. That's where the trouble starts.