The battle of Uncanny Valley is where CGI finally triumphed over reality: pixels stood proudly over humans showing off their parametrization maps and tone mapping that accurately depicted the imperfection of human skin and declared victory over reality. The first shot in the war fired when researcher Jorge Jimenez released this work on real-time realistic skin rendering, showing off the difference SSSS (Sexy Separable Subsurface Scattering – okay, I added that first ‘S’) makes.
The video is best viewed in HD, or there’s a demo that gives you a whooshy intro and control over the rendering if you hit the spacebar.
Jorge’s blog post on the subject, portentously called “The Day Has Come”, delves into his fascination and reasoning behind focusing on the epidermis:
I think there is still a lot work to do. Probably the most important one will be rendering realistic facial hair. It will be my dream if my skin research helps to improve the rendering of humans in games; I truly believe that more realistic characters will inevitably lead to deeper storytelling, and more emotionally-driven games.
That excited me. His focus is in games, rather than just making it happen without caring for the tech behind it. He’s attempting to boil down the ridiculous power it takes to make the scene above happen so it’s accessible, not just a proof of concept. That said, I’m wondering how much I’d care or even notice if there was realistic backne generated on a character. I am notoriously rubbish at connecting on anything other than a superficial level in games: I’ve never once not tried to whack Half-Life 2’s Alyx to death.