Kinect camera and software bring eye-contact to Skype calls

Kinect camera and software bring eye-contact to Skype calls
Swiss researchers are using a Kinect unit to achieve eye contact in Skype calls in a low cost solution. Software detects a call participant’s face and rotates it to create the illusion that the person is looking into the camera. Whilst many eye contact solutions exist in the video conference space, this development delivers more natural video calls at a fraction of the cost.

"We want to make a real video conferencing meetings as similar as possible," explains Claudia Kuster, a PhD student at the Laboratory for Computer Graphics ETH Zurich. 

Most solutions deploy complex mirror systems or several cameras and special software to achieve the eye contact effect

Kuster has developed a software solution with Markus Gross, a professor of computer science at ETH Zurich. 

The Kinect camera detects colour and depth information that allows the software to calculate a depth map and works with a facial recognition program.

If a person’s face is temporarily out of sight, for example if the person turns his head or disappears behind an object such as a cup, the software leaves the image in the original. 

The software can handled changing light conditions or two faces at the same time but researchers have experienced problems with participants wearing glasses.

Kuster and her colleagues plan to develop software for mobile devices with conventional webcams. Finally, the researchers want to develop a Skype plugin that users can easily install to continue to Skype with eye contact.

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