Last month on the popular Japanese TV show SMAP x SMAP, members of the boy band SMAP (yes, I realize they’re now far from boys) put on an impressive display of facial morphing without the use of CGI. Combining the two technologies of projection mapping and facial tracking, digital technician Nobumichi Asai, along with a team of developers, created what can be best described as digital makeup: a layer of skin that’s projected onto the face and follows it as it morphs into a tiger, a robot or pretty much anything.
Asai first displayed this technology in mid-2014 in a project titled OMOTE (meaning front), a word that has roots in traditional Japanese noh theater where it indicates the mask that performers wear to hide their true face. Asai has now coined this new technology as “face hacking” and, as we previously noted, is blending the boundaries between visual effects and live action.
The technology still isn’t perfect — you obviously can’t move too fast without the projection falling off your face — but Asai has made a lot of progress in the 4 months since he first unveiled his project.