Alexx Henry is a photographer who has created an array of dozens of cameras in order to create extremely high-resolution captures and avatars for people. He’s based out of LA and has a number of different clients from the movie and entertainment industry. But his vision is to be able to democratize this process for independent game and virtual reality experience developers with his xxArray project.
Alexx talks about how this is really a two-step process of first the capture using his xxArray photogrammetry rig, but then there’s the process of creating optimized avatars for either the film industry or a much more lower-poly and optimized version for virtual reality. From a photographer’s perspective, you always want to capture the highest quality and then you can downsample it from there if you’re just producing a low-resolution version for the web. Just the same, he advocates that it’s better to have an extremely high-resolution (like 22 Gigapixels of texture data) onhand in case you need that additional resolution later.
He talks about some of his visions for putting yourself into a virtual reality game or experience, but also some of the implications of identity and self-esteem to be able to have a more objectified experience of your body. He talks about some of the changes that one of his friends had with his self-image in being able to experience his high-resolution xxArray avatar within virtual reality.
One of the big debates that we have within this interview is the tradeoffs of going with photorealistic and hyperreal avatars with VR. It sounds like it’d be amazing, but there are many tradeoffs with the uncanny valley and it has the potential to send you off into a pit if you don’t have an equal amount of fidelity on the social behaviors and cues, interpersonal interactions, eye gaze, and overall believable movements and behaviors. If there is anything that’s off, then it can look creepy or uncanny. Richard Skarbez is probably the most comprehensive interview I’ve done on the uncanny valley where he advocates that the uncanny valley is n-dimensional.
Alexx is a clear advocate for high-fidelity avatars and that believes that there’s a lot of FUD and BS around our concepts and understanding of the Uncanny Valley. It shouldn’t be seen as a unapproachable boogie man, and he showed me the following example during the interview for how believable you can create an avatar within a virtual environment.
Jimmy's Avatar Gets Angry from alexxhenry on Vimeo.
At the end of the day, I’m glad that there’s people like Alexx who are bravely challenging the status quo and providing a technology stack for people to get a super high resolution capture scan and avatar of themselves. I think that there is a lot of really interesting possibilities for what could be done with self-image and identity, especially as a lot of technological hurdles about the uncanny valley are slowly figured out and solutions provided.
Become a Patron! Support The Voices of VR Podcast Patreon
Theme music: “Fatality” by Tigoolio