3D printing can make an action figure copy of your body and face, but the hair usually ends up looking like a Lego minifig wig. The mad scientists at Disney Research just solved that, with an algorithm so powerful it can trace your hair's shape and colour with ultra-realism.
The research team at Disney Research Zurich and the University of Zaragoza took inspiration from the classical sculptors, who created lifelike representations of hair using solid forms rather than trying to capture the shape and size of individual hairs:
Beginning with several colour images captured of the subject's head, the system first computes a coarse geometry for the surface of the hair. Colour information from the images is then added, matching the colours to the rough geometry to the extent possible. In the next step, colour stylisation, the level of detail is reduced enough to enable the representation to be miniaturised and reproduced, while preserving the hairstyle's defining features. Finally, geometric details are added in a way that is consistent with the colour stylisation.
The result is a delightfully realistic 3D-printed figurine. The technique can be used for hairstyles, facial hair, and even recreating fuzzy objects like stuffed animals, as shown in the Disney Research video below.
If you speak the language of algorithms, the team's full research paper is available here. Disney Research will present this technique at SIGGRAPH 2014, the computer graphics conference in Vancouver that starts tomorrow. Pretty soon, you could have a 3D printed mini-twin for every hairstyle you've ever tried. [Disney Research]