Thursday July 18, 2019
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Facebook Develops VR Avatars with Real-time Interactivity

The Facebook team will demonstrate their VR real-time facial animation system at “SIGGRAPH 2019”, which is set to be held in Los Angeles between July 28-August 1

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FILE - A 3D printed Facebook logo is seen in front of a displayed Russian flag in this photo illustration, Aug. 3, 2018. VOA

In a bid to make virtual reality (VR) experience highly believable, researchers from Facebook Reality Labs (FRL) have developed a revolutionary system called “Codec Avatars” that gives VR users ability to interact with others while representing themselves with life-like avatars precisely animated in real-time.

“Our work demonstrates that it is possible to precisely animate photorealistic avatars from cameras closely mounted on a VR headset,” said the study’s lead author Shih-En Wei, a research scientist at Facebook.

The researchers have configured a headset with minimum sensors for facial capture and their system enables two-way, authentic social interaction in VR.

The team said the VR system can animate avatar heads with highly detailed personal likeness by precisely tracking users’ real-time facial expressions using a minimum set of headset-mounted cameras (HMC).

“By comparing these converted images using every pixel–not just sparse facial features–and the renderings of the 3D avatar,” noted Wei.

virtual reality
A visitor of Rome’s Circus Maximus is seen with a virtual reality visor. VOA

“we can precisely map between the images from tracking headset and the status of the 3D avatar through differentiable rendering. After the mapping is established, we train a neural network to predict face parameter from a minimal set of camera images in real time,” Wei added.

Besides animating the avatars in VR, Facebook’s team is also building systems that may enable people to quickly and easily create their avatars from just a few images or videos.

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The Facebook team will demonstrate their VR real-time facial animation system at “SIGGRAPH 2019”, which is set to be held in Los Angeles between July 28-August 1.

The researchers will present an Artificial Intelligence (AI) technique based on Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs) that performs consistent multi-view image style translation to automatically convert HMC infrared images to images that look like a rendered avatar but with the same facial expression of the VR user. (IANS)

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US Lawmakers Call Facebook’s Digital Coin Libra as ‘Delusional’

Under Facebook subsidiary Calibra, the social networking giant has planned to introduce a digital wallet for Libra. The wallet will be available on Messenger, WhatsApp and as a standalone app and is expected to be launched in 2020

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Facebook, Libra, Bitcoin
Bitcoin, which has risen in value for eight consecutive days, received a boost after Facebook has said it would offer its own cryptocurrency, the Libra coin by end of June 2020. Pixabay

The US lawmakers attacked Facebook’s upcoming digital cryptocurrency Libra at a Senate hearing here, calling it “delusional” and “dangerous” and directing the social networking giant to clean up its house first before launching a new business model.

David Marcus, Head of Facebook subsidiary Calibra, was grilled at the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday, reports Tech Crunch.

Democrat Senator Sherrod Brown who began the hearing blasted Facebook, saying it was “delusional” to think people would trust it with their hard-earned money.

“We’d be crazy to give them a chance to let them experiment with people’s bank accounts,” said Brown, adding that “like a toddler who has gotten his hands on a book of matches, Facebook has burned down the house over and over and called every arson a learning experience.

Republican Senator Martha McSally echoed his views: “Instead of cleaning up your house, you are launching a new business model.”

Marcus said Facebook “will only build its own Calibra cryptocurrency wallet into Messenger and WhatsApp”.

Marcus told lawmakers that Libra – controlled by a non-profit called the Libra Association — will comply with all US regulations and unless all concerns are answered, would not be launched.

Earlier on Monday, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he was “uncomfortable” with Libra. US Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell has also raised “serious concern” over Libra.

Facebook, Financial, Lawmakers
FILE – Representations of virtual currency are displayed in front of the Libra logo in this illustration picture. VOA

Marcus, in a prepared testimony, said the Libra Association would be regulated by the Swiss government because that’s where it’s headquartered.

“The Libra Association expects that it will be licensed, regulated, and subject to supervisory oversight. Because the Association is headquartered in Geneva, it will be supervised by the Swiss Financial Markets Supervisory Authority (FINMA),” Marcus wrote.

US President Donald Trump last week tweeted that he is not a fan of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, which are not money, and whose value is highly volatile and based on thin air.

“Unregulated Crypto Assets can facilitate unlawful behaviour, including drug trade and other illegal activity,” Trump said.

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“Similarly, Facebook Libra’s avirtual currency’ will have little standing or dependability. If Facebook and other companies want to become a bank, they must seek a new Banking Charter and become subject to all Banking Regulations, just like other Banks, both National and International.

“We have only one real currency in the USA, and it is stronger than evera It is called the United States Dollar!” he further tweeted.

Facebook has said it is not going to launch its digital coin Libra unless regulators are fully satisfied and all necessary approvals are in place.

Under Facebook subsidiary Calibra, the social networking giant has planned to introduce a digital wallet for Libra. The wallet will be available on Messenger, WhatsApp and as a standalone app and is expected to be launched in 2020. (IANS)