There are plenty of challenges in the world of 3D animation, and animation giant Disney is often the one to tackle them. When their animation team took on Rapunzel’s 70 feet of animated hair for “Tangled,” they had to practically rewrite their hair simulation software to do it. And for the recently released “Moana,” Disney pulled out all the stops and wrote a completely new way of simulating water.
So when addressing the challenge of animating the mouth for facial expressions and to match with voiceover, it’s unsurprising that Disney is on the forefront. Their latest contribution, a collaboration between Disney Research and ETH Zurich, is a brand new technique for modeling teeth.
Rendering Beyond the Gums
Currently, animators have to model teeth manually — a time-consuming and tedious task. Until this point, little had been done to automate this process. The oral scanners used in dentistry–like the ones for CEREC–that could give animators the information they needed about teeth beyond the gumline were difficult to obtain and use. They needed a way to model teeth based only on what a photograph or video could see.
Researchers started by examining 3D scans of the teeth of over 80 people. From this data, they were able to create an average set of teeth that could be used as a base for modeling. Then, they wrote an algorithm that would use the visible contours of teeth to adjust the model of what exists past the gum line to match.
The beauty of this new technology is that it can work from natural photos of people smiling or grimacing, so motion capture models won’t need to shoot specific images or video for use in modeling their teeth. Instead, tooth models can now be automatically generated based on any standard motion capture session.
The Effect on Real Teeth
Of course, Disney will likely be using this technology for animation in movies, television, and video games. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have application elsewhere. Imagine if your dentist could accurately extrapolate the structures of your teeth before you even come into the office! And of course, this technology could also enable more natural-looking implants and dentures.
But animated characters aren’t the only ones concerned about natural-looking teeth! Unfortunately, computer graphics can’t change the way your smile looks in real life — but a cosmetic dentist like Dr. Rod Strober can!
Cosmetic dentistry can give you the smile you’ve always dreamed of. If you’d like a whiter smile, your dentist can dramatically brighten your teeth in just one hour in-office, or provide a take-home solution that will show results in a few weeks. If a straighter smile is your goal, Invisalign clear braces are a discreet way to achieve the results of braces without the highly visible metal brackets and wires. Or, if you want a speedy solution, you may be a candidate for Six Month Smiles! And of course, there are plenty of other cosmetic dentistry solutions for whatever your specific smile needs.