People Putty is a tool (and also, a toy!) that allows you to make your very own interactive 3-D character, then use it to play dress up or act as a tour guide for your own web page.
Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, in fact it´s true and, even more, it´s fairly easy to accomplish. Right after you start People Putty (try to read the funny descriptions while loading), you face… no, well, actually a 3D character faces you, a nice girl who quietly stares at you while behaving in a very realistic manner. (actually only the face is represented, though it is possible to get full bodied characters from the company) . This is already quite impressive, but it´s only the tip of the iceberg. The interface to the program is self explanatory, intuitive and very well documented, comprising all the stages which take part in the creation of a character in a single row, from top to bottom: skin, shapes, emotions, accesories and theatre.
Now, let´s say you want to create a mini-you. Within skin you will choose the basic head to start up with, then load a picture of your face (or directly acquire it in case you have a webcam). After this is done, just click on the bridge of your nose in the picture and drag it to limit the contours of your face. Then, refine the boundaries of your eyes, nose and mouth as you see fit. Right after you do this, I recommend that you click on “hoods” in the small menu to the right of the capture, so that the rest of the virtual head is filled with colour, which you can adjust so that it matches that of your face. If the original 3D model had a face with a shape very different to yours, you can tweak it via the shapes screen, and the accesories menu will give you a range of props (including hairstyles) you can use to customize the model.
With these indications you should have a character to start with in about five minutes, and a fairly accurate mini-you in not much more time. However, people putty is not only about creating 3D characters that look like you, but about making them behave like you. In order to do so, the emotions screen provides you with a set of basic emotions that you can combine to bring up complex moods. It´s not that you can exactly recreate every tick of yours, but believe me, I was really impressed when I saw mini-me raising its, I mean, his right eyebrow the same way I do!. You may state that I was biased by my vanity, but I was prevented: I brought my mother to scene, and mini-me passed the test with merit. She stood in awe for a few minutes, comparing the original to the recreation, her only complaints were that I have more hair and I´m not as pale. In fact, that the model has no hair happens because the demo limits the options, so I had little more to choose from besides the hat, and if I´m pale it is because I just took a snap with the webcam under bad lightning conditions).
If all these features were not enough, the last menu gives you the option to make your model talk. Doing so is as easy as recording a sentence, selecting the wave file and clicking play: voila!, the model will automatically synchronize the lips to the words, saying that memorable quote with your own voice. The screen also includes some basic editing options for you to assemble longer speeches, if you want to. There´s another way to make the model talk which doesn´t involve recording: in the options screen you can access a console where you can type text that the character will pronounce (using your system´s embedded voice, or a different one.
Well, so far people putty looks like a very interesting program to play with, but actually its uses don´t end there. The company´s description quoted above emphasizes the word interactive, and interactivity comes in many different ways, as shown by Diana, an ” A.I enabled search engine with human like interaction capabilities”, or by its use for educational purposes. If you want to know to what extent it can be developed, I suggest the Haptek Guide, which you can download for free.
In the end, I think that People Putty delivers what it claims to do and much more, in a way so that it´s easy to use for fun and has great potential to develop if needed.
As for the hat… my mother is knitting one for me right now 😛
Related Article: Let’s make a mini-me!