Scientists create program to calculate body shape

Oct 27, 2008
Brown computer scientists have developed a program that creates an accurate computerized image of a person’s body even when the subject is clothed. The technology could be useful in in fashion, film, forensics, sports medicine and video gaming. Credit: Alexandru Balan, Brown University

Imagine you are a police detective trying to identify a suspect wearing a trench coat, baggy pants and a baseball cap pulled low. Or imagine you are a fashion industry executive who wants to market virtual clothing that customers of all shapes and sizes can try online before they purchase. Perhaps you want to create the next generation of "Guitar Hero" in which the user, not some character, is pumping out the licks. The main obstacle to these and other pursuits is creating a realistic, 3-D body shape — especially when the figure is clothed or obscured.

"If you see a person wearing clothing, can the computer figure out what they look like underneath?" asked Michael Black, professor of the computer science at Brown.

Black and graduate student Alexandru Balan believe they have figured out how that can be done. The researchers have created a computer program that can accurately map the human body's shape from digital images or video. This is an advance from current body scanning technology, which requires people to stand still without clothing in order to produce a 3-D model of the body.

With the new 3-D body-shape model, the scientists can determine a person's gender and calculate an individual's waist size, chest size, height, weight and other features.

Black and Balan debuted their findings this month at the European Conference on Computer Vision in Marseilles, France. Their paper is one of fewer than 5 percent of submitted manuscripts chosen for oral presentation at the prestigious international gathering.

A simulation of the new technology can be seen here (or click on this link: www.cs.brown.edu/~alb/scapeClothing/).

The potential applications are broad. Besides forensics and fashion, Black and Balan's research could benefit the film industry. Currently, actors must wear tight-fitting suits covered with reflective markers to have their motion captured. The new approach could capture both the actors' shape and motion, while doing away with the markers and suits.

In sports medicine, doctors would be able to use accurate, computerized models of athletes' bodies to better identify susceptibility to injury. In the gaming world, it could mean the next generation of interactive technology. Instead of acting through a character, a camera could track the user, create a 3-D representation of that person's body and insert the user into the video game.

Brown University has filed two provisional patents covering the research and its potential commercial applications.

The key insight for Black and Balan was when they learned they could divine clues about a person's shape even with clothing. They created a computerized body model from 2,400 detailed laser range scans of men and women in minimal clothing. They found that by combining information from a person in multiple poses, the computer was able to infer the gender of the person and the 3-D body shape. They further refined the model by incorporating the computer's detection of skin in the images.

"As I move, my clothes become loose or tight on different parts of my body," Black said. "Each pose gives different constraints on the underlying body shape, so while a person's body pose may change, his or her true shape remains the same. By analyzing the body in different poses, we can better guess that person's true shape."

The researchers stress the technique is not invasive; it does not use X-rays, nor does it actually see through clothing. The software makes an intelligent guess about the person's exact body shape.

Source: Brown University

Explore further: Computerized emotion detector

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

History books spark latest Texas classroom battle

14 minutes ago

As Texas mulls new history textbooks for its 5-plus million public school students, some academics are decrying lessons they say exaggerate the influence of Christian values on America's Founding Fathers.

Flatow, 'Science Friday' settle claims over grant

30 minutes ago

Federal prosecutors say radio host Ira Flatow and his "Science Friday" show that airs on many National Public Radio stations have settled civil claims that they misused money from a nearly $1 million federal ...

Tokyo Game Show: On the hunt for the next Minecraft

33 minutes ago

The staggering $2.5 billion that Microsoft has just shelled out for Minecraft and its quirky graphics will be foremost in developers' minds at the Tokyo Game Show this week, where simple yet immersive games ...

A Closer Look: Your (online) life after death

1 hour ago

Sure, you have a lot to do today—laundry, bills, dinner—but it's never too early to start planning for your digital afterlife, the fate of your numerous online accounts once you shed this mortal coil.

Recommended for you

Computerized emotion detector

13 hours ago

Face recognition software measures various parameters in a mug shot, such as the distance between the person's eyes, the height from lip to top of their nose and various other metrics and then compares it with photos of people ...

Cutting the cloud computing carbon cost

Sep 12, 2014

Cloud computing involves displacing data storage and processing from the user's computer on to remote servers. It can provide users with more storage space and computing power that they can then access from anywhere in the ...

Teaching computers the nuances of human conversation

Sep 12, 2014

Computer scientists have successfully developed programs to recognize spoken language, as in automated phone systems that respond to voice prompts and voice-activated assistants like Apple's Siri.

Mapping the connections between diverse sets of data

Sep 12, 2014

What is a map? Most often, it's a visual tool used to demonstrate the relationship between multiple places in geographic space. They're useful because you can look at one and very quickly pick up on the general ...

User comments : 0