Few review products elicit audible gasps from the CNET.com.au writers, but CrazyTalk Messenger holds the achievement of being the only software app to provoke laughter, horror and gasps of disbelief, all within about 10 seconds.
The program uses photo-based facial animation technology to turn a still image into a moving character that talks and emotes (sometimes violently). The process is fast and easy to get your head around, and the results are hugely entertaining. (See the video at the top right of this page for a demonstration.)
To create your own human plaything, you start by importing a photo (JPG, BMP or TGA format), and mapping reference points for the eyes and mouth. Most images containing a face of some sort will work, but pics where the head is facing straight-on will give the best -- and most disturbing -- results.
Once the eye and mouth anchor points are established, brace yourself for a confronting experience. As soon as you click the button marked "Process", your virtual face will come to life and begin moving of its own accord -- blinking, raising an eyebrow, even delivering a knowing smirk. After recovering from the initial shock of this, you can start going for more detailed, realistic movement by fine tuning the "wire frames" that form the foundation of the facial freakiness.
Adjusting the wire frames
If you've ever longed for sapphire-coloured eyes, or wondered how you would look with a mouth full of shark teeth, you'll get a real kick out of tinkering with the advanced facial settings. The range of customisation options is truly impressive, and features 24 types of eyes, 24 sets of teeth, and the ability to adjust the size, placement and colour balance of each. The results veer pretty far away from realistic, and occasionally enter the realm of nightmares, but the experimentation process is inherently enjoyable.