3D printing technology helps Disney Research design realistic human eye model – 3DPrint.com


There is an old adage that the eyes are the “windows to the soul” because they are very individualized and play a big role in establishing our unique appearances. Not only are the eyes highly individualized, but they can also change. Have you ever noticed that your eye color can change depending on the lighting, your surroundings and the color you wear? It turns out that the human eye is a much more complicated organ than many designers have been able to capture until now.

It’s no surprise that it was Disney who would “change the face” of modeling the human eye – making an image much more realistic. Last year at SIGGRAPH 2013, Disney unveiled 3D printed eyes for the animated characters, which was hailed as a design breakthrough. Now, just a year later, Disney is starting over with a new process of capturing extremely lifelike human eyes. These eyes are amazing in the way they simulate reality – bringing us much closer to more accurate representations of real characters and people.

Disney Research Zurich and ETH Zurich have pioneered the realistic depiction of the human eye for their productions. In a recent article titled “High Quality Capture of Human Eyes,” presented at SIGGRAPH ASIA 2014, Disney Research announced that with the help of 3D printing technology, they were able to capture many details – like textures, colors and veins. – which can greatly improve the appearance of the characters and give themdisney search more realistic and expressive characteristics. Members of the team working on the eye study – including Derek Bradley, Maurizio Nitti, Thabo Beeler and Markus Gross – have good reason to be proud of their progress.

Some people may like the animated and unrealistic look of their favorite Disney characters, while others prefer more realistic images. This new process certainly offers more appearance options for scanned eyes. It will be especially useful when scanning a duplicate of a real person, for example.

How did the research team “capture” the eyes, exactly? Six volunteers were asked to lie on the floor with headsets, alternating between eleven different poses. The team focused six cameras on the irises of the volunteers, then used colored LEDs and different levels of brightness to produce changes in the corneas. These images were then put together to simulate realistic eye movements. Finally, the team was able to reconstruct the skin using a 3D printing facial scanning system. Watch the video explaining their process:

Disney Research reports that the main research breakthrough is being able to develop realistic models of the iris responding to light. Recognizing that every part of the human eye is different, they plan to develop a similar modeling process for the cornea and sclera as well. The team reports that each part of the eye has different visual properties that will require different capture techniques. They plan to continue working on these separate techniques to eventually achieve a full capture.

3D printing technology is at the forefront of so many advancements in the industry that it is truly mind blowing. Disney Research’s advancements in capturing the human eye are a game-changer as the characters are allowed to become more realistic. If you or your kids are attached to a favorite Disney character now, imagine when they can literally “see themselves” in the characters eyes!

Are you a Disney fan? What do you think of the latest advances in the expressive gaze of the characters? Let us know your thoughts in the Disney Researchers Capture the Human Eye forum thread at 3DPB.com.


Paul N. Strickland

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