eyeThere’s an old saying that the eyes are the “windows to the soul” because they are very individuated and play a big part in establishing our unique appearances. Not only are eyes highly individuated, but they can change too. Have you ever noticed that the color of your eyes can actually change based on lighting, your surroundings, and what color you are wearing? The human eye, as it turns out, is much more complicated an organ than many designers have been able to capture until now.

It should be no surprise that it would be Disney that would possibly “change the face” of human eye modelling — rendering a much more realistic image. Just last year, at SIGGRAPH 2013, Disney unveiled 3D printed eyes for animated characters, which was hailed as a design breakthrough. Now, only one year later, Disney is at it again with a new process for capturing extremely realistic human eyes.  These eyes are amazing the way they simulate the real thing — moving us that much closer to more precise portrayals of characters and real people as well.

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Disney Research Zurich and ETH Zurich has broken new ground on realistic portrayal of the human eye for its productions. In a recent paper titled “High Quality Capture of Human Eyes,” presented at SIGGRAPH ASIA 2014, Disney Research announced that, with the help of 3D printing technology, they have managed to capture many of the details — like textures, coloring, and veins — which can greatly enhance characters’ appearances and give themdisneyresearch more realistic and expressive characteristics. Members of the team working on the eye study — including Derek Bradley, Maurizio Nitti, Thabo Beeler, and Markus Gross — have good cause to be proud of their progress.

Some people may like the animated, unrealistic, look of their favorite Disney characters, while others prefer more realistic images. This new process certainly provides more appearance options for digitized eyes. It will be especially useful when digitizing a double of a real person, for example.

How did the research team “capture” the eyes, exactly? Six volunteers were asked to lie on the floor wearing headsets — shifting between eleven different poses. The team focused six cameras on volunteers’ irises and then used colored LEDs and different brightness levels to produce changes in the corneas. These images were then brought together to simulate realistic eye movement. Finally, the team was able to reconstruct skin using a 3D printing facial scanning system. Check out the video explaining their process:

Disney Research reports that the main research breakthrough is to be able to develop realistic models of the iris responding to light.  Acknowledging that each part of the human eye is different, they plan to develop a similar modeling process for the cornea and sclera as well.  The team reports that each part of the eye has different visual properties that will requires different capturing techniques.  They plan to continue to work on these distinct techniques to eventually achieve a full capture.

3D printing technology is at the forefront of so much industry progress that it truly boggles the mind.  Disney Research’s progress capturing the human eye is definitely a game-changer as characters are allowed to become more realistic looking.  If you or your children are attached to a favorite Disney character now, imagine when they can literally “see themselves” in characters’ eyes!

Are you a Disney fan? What do you think about the latest advances in characters’ expressive eyes? Let us know your thoughts in the Disney Researchers Capture the Human Eye forum thread over at 3DPB.com.

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