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How it works: Avatar Kinect

The facial recognition technology that powers Microsoft's new chat feature

Briefly rumoured and now officially announced for Spring, Microsoft's newest Kinect feature: Avatar Kinect will provide a virtual environment in which your virtual avatar can conference with friends, perform concerts, chat and generally hang out. If that sounds familiar, Avatar Kinect does have a clever feature which sets it aside from Sony's Home: facial recognition and real-time expressions.

Basically, when you're hanging out with friends in any of the fifteen virtual environments, Kinect will track your facial expressions and speech, relaying them directly to the chat and performing them with your avatar alongside larger body movements.

Hopefully, this should remove the need for clumsy text emoticons and some pre-set actions such as the internationally reviled dance command, but it also shows a hint of what sort of accuracy Kinect could be capable of in terms of game applications.

On top of the chat and conference functions, Kinect Avatar will allow users to record directed shows - be they chat shows, stand up routines or heated debates - edit the footage and share it among friends. Moderation measures will presumably be in place. Check out the video below for a brief explanation of how the facial recognition features of the service will work.

Facial recognition techniques could come to play an important part in games.
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Dan Pearson