Friday, August 31, 2007
Recently, I dropped by the CyberExtruder on Avatar Island, in order to try and upgrade my skin. In order to obtain your own custom head, your avatar must take a trip through the CyberExtruder 500. This is a rather nifty bit of showmanship, taking your av through various processes to supposedly mold and model the new mask around your old avatar head. Really quite slick. They put on a good show.
I say "supposedly" because the whole operation (which takes a minute or two) is merely eye candy. I took a ride through the noise, particle, and shiny-bedecked contraption, as you can see above. The end result was that I was presented with a unique key number and a URL for the CyberExtruder website. From there, I was asked to upload a "passport photo" style photograph. They had many tips on the website, but basically you're encouraged to conceal any hints of life or personality. Don't smile, don't wear glasses, keep your hair out of your eyes... Basically try as hard as possible to look like that driver's license photo taken after a four hour wait at the DMV. Once said death mask is uploaded, the CE site processes it and presents you with a preview of the image as a 3D model.
Alas, it seems that a photo-sourced SL skin of myself is not in the cards for me. The website does give you a chance to reject the uploaded photo and try again. My problem was that I would have needed a new head.
While I was reasonably happy with the eyes and nose (considerable appearance slider tweaking would have still been required to get the shape right, an expected and not unreasonable task), the mouth and beard were deal breakers. I don't quite know what my problem was with the mouth. Upon closer inspection of my mugshot, it's clear that my whole face is ever-so-slightly crooked. And, evidently, the process magnified this imperfection. Not so good for one's self esteem, really.
I would have tried again, perhaps getting someone else to take the picture and coach me in getting my facial features held symmetrical in the photo, but my RL beard was a more serious problem. By its very nature, the single-photo-sourced CyberExtruder process cannot deal with full beards. Details are cropped off at the sides of the face, as they aren't directly visible in the head-on mugshot. Instead, the beard simply fades off into a smooth, generic skin tone match. This process seems to work fine for normal, clean-shaven faces (or those with front-heavy facial hair), but I expect that a live artist, multiple camera views, and probably quite a few US bucks would be required to faithfully model my head.
Ah, well, I think I can deal with my current skin for a while longer.