Lie Experts Advising Pixar
In an intriguing article from Fast Company Pixar is named along with Apple, Google and the CIA as companies who have all expressed interest in, or even already implemented innovative new expression recognition technology. Paul Ekman spearheaded and developed the Facial Action Coding System (FACS), the expression library behind the computerized system. Ekman is the expression and lie detection expert who was the real life inspiration for Fox's recently cancelled show Lie to Me.
The article offers a few suggestions as to what the technology could be used for: airport security, torture free interrogation, adapting computer interaction to user's emotions, and market research on consumers' response to products. It is, however, somewhat vague on what the companies are using it for specifically.
You might imagine it in use at screenings of Pixar films, or focus groups to guage an audience's reactions to sequences in movies. Toward the end of the article they cite Pete Docter as a Pixar director with particular interest in facial expression research. "[Ekman] continues to consult to Pixar Director Pete Docter on animated character expressions through his updated dictionary. (Toy Story was the first cinematic use of FACS)."
As an animator (and expressive person himself) he would have a natural interest in expression. But perhaps he has sought out the expertise of Ekman for assistance on his upcoming untitled "inside the mind" film. If he is actually seeking to personify human emotions, as John Lasseter suggested in an interview last week, expression will be an important story telling tool, and getting it right will be crucial.