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What's Powering These Giant Morphing Faces At The Sochi Olympics?

A dynamic 3-D installation will use visitors’ faces—but no other body parts—as a welcome sculpture at the upcoming winter games.

What's Powering These Giant Morphing Faces At The Sochi Olympics?

Remember those pin-art toys that formed to your hand as a kid? Well in a few weeks, Sochi Olympics visitors will be able to do the same thing but on a massive scale.

Hailed as "The Mount Rushmore of the Digital Age," a 2,000 square-meter pavilion and structure called MegaFaces will take the shape of visitor's faces at the entrance of Olympic Park. Three-D photo booths located at various sites around Olympic Park will allow visitors to get their face scanned. The concept is to let "anyone"—no word yet on if the gays are included—become "the face of the Sochi Olympics."

Taking images from several angles of the face, the booth will send one completed image through an engine and cable system, then through the screen’s actuators. The system will take about one minute to process the model from the different scanned images. Made of more than 10,000 actuators and narrow tubes, the screen will morph into a 3-D face portrait for 20 seconds each.

According to Dezeen, each actuator will have an RGB-LED light at its tip to determine the position of each pixel. The stretchable fabric membrane allows a smooth surface when changing forms. "In the area of a three-dimensional modeling of organic forms, a trigonal structure is more suitable, because it makes three-dimensional forms appear natural and flowing even with only a small amount of pixels," chief engineer Valentin Spiess told Dezeen.

A digital scheduler will display each user's time slot of when their face will appear on the giant screen and participants will be emailed a short video of the special moment. MegaFaces designer Asif Khan says the booth’s face scanning software will have an algorithm to assure scanned faces are just that—no other body part. (Apologies to your inner adolescent.) Human moderators will make sure you don't find a way to fool it.

No stranger to digital art installations at the Olympics, Khan made the Coca-Cola Beatbox, an interactive installation that remixed recordings of athlete's heartbeats, shoes squeaking, and arrows hitting a target remixed by the gestures and movements of the visitors, at the 2012 London games.