We describe a neurobehavioural modeling and visual computing framework for the integration of realistic interactive computer graphics with neural systems modelling, allowing real-time autonomous facial animation and interactive visualization of the underlying neural network models. The system has been designed to integrate and interconnect a wide range of computational neuroscience models to construct embodied interactive psychobiological models of behaviour. An example application of the framework combines models of the facial motor system, physiologically based emotional systems, and basic neural systems involved in early interactive behaviour and learning and embodies them in a virtual infant rendered with realistic computer graphics. The model reacts in real time to visual and auditory input and its own evolving internal processes as a dynamic system. The live state of the model which generates the resulting facial behaviour can be visualized through graphs and schematics or by exploring the activity mapped to the underlying neuroanatomy.
Academy Award winner Dr. Mark Sagar is the director of the Laboratory for Animate Technologies at the Auckland Bioengineering Institute, where his interest is in bringing digital characters to life using artificial nervous systems to empower the next generation of human computer interaction. His laboratory is pioneering neurobehavioral animation that combines biologically based models of faces and neural systems to create live, naturally intelligent, and highly expressive interactive systems. Mark previously worked as the Special Projects Supervisor at Weta Digital and Sony Pictures Imageworks and developed technology for the characters in blockbusters such as Avatar, King Kong, and Spiderman 2. His pioneering work in computer-generated faces was recognized with two consecutive Scientific and Engineering Oscars in 2010 and 2011. Dr. Sagar holds a Ph.D. in Bioengineering and is a recipient of the University of Auckland’s 2012 Distinguished Alumni Award.