Sunday, February 7, 2016

Bending with Bento

This is a very short post today!  Some of you may have heard about "Project Bento."  This is an effort on the part of Linden Lab to add additional "bones" to the avatar skeleton, while (we all hope!) not breaking existing content.

What are bones, and why are they important?

Bones are the controls that are used to animate any 3D model.  The basic SL avatar has just under 30 bones.  Animation software moves the bones, and the avatar mesh deforms in response.  The process of adding bones to a model is called "rigging" by animators.  When you see the term "rigged mesh", it means that the mesh clothing has been linked to the bones of the avatar skeleton so that it will bend and move with you.

There are no bones in the Second Life avatar to animate the hands, or facial expressions.  Right now, these are implemented via a limited menu of facial expression and hand position "morphs."  This means that your hands can make a very limited set of gestures...the open, relaxed hand, a closed fist, a V sign, etc.  Your face can make a rather gassy-looking smile or a horrid gaping laugh, a frown, a kissy face, etc.  We all make exactly the same faces.

Project Bento aims to change that, by adding facial bones to allow realistically animated speech movements and expressions, and adding finger bones to the hands to allow them to be animated as well.  Not only that, but nonhuman avatars won't be left out.  Bones for wings and a tail are also being added.  Conceivably, in the future, a camera like a Kinect may scan us as we sit in front of our computers, and our avatars will mirror our Real Life facial expressions and hand movements!

The latest Drax Files video shows what the wizards of Project Bento have managed so far.  Here's the link:

Project Bento is now in beta test, so I'm hopeful we'll see these new features in a release viewer this year!

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