UPDATED! Stupid Second Life Tricks: How to Make Your Avatar Come Alive from a Single Profile Picture!

Jo Yardley, the irrepressible Second Life 1920s Berlin landlady, really got my attention on Twitter when she posted the following video of her Second Life avatar, looking around and smiling at times, in a very realistic way that no facial animation override could yet match (check it out for yourself):

When I asked Jo how she accomplished this miracle, she referred me to the MyHeritage Deep Nostalgia website, which allows you to input a still photo, and generate a video from it, where the head, face, eyes, and mouth move!

Now, there is a catch: you do need to sign up for a 14-day free trial period on your credit card in order to use this tool. But once you have done that, you can submit as many pictures and photos as you like, play around with it a bit, and get comfortable with the video output (which can be saved to your hard drive as a MP4-format video file).

Here’ a sample starting picture, a profile of my main male avatar, Heath Homewood:

And here’s the resulting video:

Another starting picture:

And the resulting video:

Starting picture:

Resulting video:

Starting picture:

Resulting video:

So, as you can see, you can have a lot of fun with this! Please note that portraits which are facing straight-on into the camera tend to work the best; several I tested where the avatar was looking to one side or the other, or who had their head at a slight tilt, did not turn out as well, and a few turned out be Uncanny Valley material! So, your mileage may vary. But, if you’ve ever wondered how your avatar would look if she or he were alive, this is a cool way to find out.

It would appear that you can submit as many pictures of avatars as you wish (and download as many short videos as you wish) during your free trial period. Once you are done, simply cancel your free trial before your credit card is charged, and then to be doubly sure, delete your account completely (unless you actually want to use MyHeritage website to embark on the study of your family’s genealogy!).

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is your stupid Second Life trick of the day! You can red more about MyHeritage’s new tool in this report from TheNextWeb.

UPDATE March 2nd: The BBC has weighed in on the new MyHeritage AI tool:

Genealogy site MyHeritage has introduced a tool which uses deepfake technology to animate the faces in photographs of dead relatives. Called DeepNostalgia, the firm acknowledged that some people might find the feature “creepy” while others would consider it “magical”.

It said it did not include speech to avoid the creation of “deepfake people”. It comes as the UK government considers legislation on deepfake technology…

“This feature is intended for nostalgic use, that is, to bring beloved ancestors back to life,” it wrote in its FAQs about the new technology.

But it also acknowledged that “some people love the Deep Nostalgia feature and consider it magical, while others find it creepy and dislike it”.

“The results can be controversial, and it’s hard to stay indifferent to this technology.”

Here’s a promotional video for MyHeritage featuring a reanimated Abraham Lincoln, You can judge for yourself how successful this is (I personally don’t find it very convincing, something about the face looks off, somehow):

I think a service such as this would work better with social VR and virtual world avatars, where there is an expectation that what you see is not meant to be “real”.

An Apology

Given the response it has provoked, I have deleted my original blogpost, My List of 25 People in Social VR, Virtual Worlds, and the Metaverse Whom You Should Be Following (Plus a Few Alternates!).

I apologize to anyone who found my description of that list, or the entire blogpost, offensive. I am heartsick and very depressed about what has happened over the past 3-4 days, and I would like to apologize for my role in it. As Kai had said, it was “a learning experience”. Please STOP attacking each other over it.

I admit that I have wandered into the whole race relations issue like a deer into the headlights, and hoping to turn the episode into a discussion on the need for equity, diversity, and inclusion in VR/social VR was a mistake. Please accept my apologies for my ignorance.

I do not expect or rquire anybody to accept my apology, but I do expect all of you in my social media circle(s) to treat each other with kindness, courtesy, empathy, and respect instead of attacking each other, please. I want no more fighting over this!

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

UPDATED: Ryan.exe Has Stopped Working

The RyanSchultz.com blog will be closed for an indefinite period. Given my past history of starts and stops over the past 3-1/2 years, I will probably be back at some point. But between the Winnipeg winter, the pandemic, and multiple other stressors, I have been stretched to the breaking point—and today I finally broke. Badly.

I just need to go away and heal for a while. It is now likely that I will have to take some extended sick time from my paying job with the University of Manitoba Libraries. The only thing that I have planned is to sit down for a chat with Kent Bye for his Voices of VR podcast in early March; other than that, I will be staying off Twitter, Reddit, and Discord, not blogging, and not checking my email. Please note that I have turned off the ability to leave comments on all my blogposts. You may have things you want to say to me, but I’m not really in a place to hear them. I’m sorry. I am in tears as I write this. Things are not going well.

My clinical depression, which I have struggled with for most of my teenage and adult life, is slowly getting worse again, but I am getting treatment and I am taking care of myself as best I can.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

UPDATE Feb. 25th, 10:11 p,m. The following thread of 5 tweets I pinned to the top of my Twitter profile this evening, I will be taking an extended break from Twitter.

1/4 Everybody is asking me what happened yesterday and if I am OK. I don’t know if my explaining what happened yesterday is going to help. No, I am not OK.

2/5 This all started when I drew up my first attempt at a list of 25 people in social VR, virtual worlds, and the metaverse whom I followed, that I thought you might also like to follow.

3/5 Christina Kinne (a.k.a XaosPrincess) gave a summary of what happened next: “Political Correctness backfired in the most cruel way on Ryan. He put up this list of 25 social VR people he follows, but he mentioned only a couple of POC folks in this…”

4/5 Xaos: “Therefore he got attacked from the left and the right, and even though he made big amends (expanding the list, inviting the lady who legitimately criticized him for an interview on inclusion), the attacks got viral & someone even told him to “walk directly into the sea”

5/5 Kaos “As much as I love PC for its original intent to change the social narrative in terms of equal rights & representation for everyone, as paradox it gets imo if someone (who has always been transparent about his issues with depression) is prompted to kill themselves.”

End. As a result, I will no longer be cross-posting my blog posts to my Twitter. I am also taking an extended break from all social media as of this evening (Twitter, Reddit, Discord), and taking a break from blogging.

UPDATED! VRChat Launches Wolf3D’s Ready Player Me Avatar Creation System: Create a Humanoid Avatar from A Selfie in Just Minutes!

Launching officially today, Wednesday, February 24th, 2021, at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time, Wolf3D‘s Ready Player Me avatar maker now supports importing avatars into the popular VRChat platform!

VRChat integration was always among the most requested features from the users of Ready Player Me. The avatar creator allows for generating a 3D avatar based on a single selfie. Users can select from 200 customization options, including outfits, hairstyles, and tattoos. Wolf3D set as a goal to bring the same set of personalization and customization options to their VRChat avatar creator.

Starting today, the VRChat community can create personal 3D avatars based on a selfie and use them in VRChat on both PC and Oculus Quest versions of the game. Ready Player Me avatars are compatible with AV3, allowing players to use the platform’s new expressions system.

For many, creating an avatar in VRChat is both a daunting and very important task. We’re excited to work with Wolf3D to help make avatar creation easier and more accessible for everyone in the VRChat universe!

—Graham Gaylor, Co-Founder & CEO of VRChat

Like full-body Ready Player Me avatars, all users need to do is upload a selfie. The company’s machine learning algorithm (based on 20,000 high-resolution facial scans) will generate a 3D model based on the photo. It’s possible to skip this step and go directly to the avatar maker if the user doesn’t want to share their photo.

Here’s a brief video on how to create an avatar using Ready Player Me:

To get started, simply head over to https://readyplayer.me/vrchat. Have fun! For more details, please see the official press release from Wolf3D.

UPDATE March 1st, 2021: Timmu Tõke, the CEO of WOlf3D, reported in an email:

In the first 24 hours, the VRChat community has created over 20,000 Ready Player Me avatars, peaking at 30 avatars per second and almost melting our servers (for real). We were featured on Road to VRUploadVRVRFocus, and many more.

Congratulations to Timmu and his team on their successful launch!