Here's some good news for Manga comic book lovers that have always wished to see themselves in one. Japan's Shirai Labs has figured out an almost instant way to insert them in - All the aspiring star has to do, is pose!
Developed by a team of researchers led by Akihiko Shirai at the Kanagawa Institute of Technology, the Manga Generator which was first unveiled at France's annual Laval Virtual Conference in March, not only incorporates the action into a comic panel, but also, adds backgrounds, props, speech bubbles and even emotions. The best part is the personalized multi-panel comic strip can be created and printed within minutes.
The user starts by selecting one of the many pre-written stories and then deciding which character he/she wants to represent. The Manga frame, story layout and various comic effects will immediately be projected on to a television screen, so that the aspiring comic book hero/heroine can get a idea of what the panel will look like.
Then a Kinect Sensor will start tracking the user's movement which they will see projected onto the screen as though it is happening within the comic strip, thanks to a 'real-time' shader that instantly sketches the star in. However, none get captured until the user likes a pose and holds it for a few seconds, indicating that it is the one he/she wants in the strip.
A specialized software will then gauge the user's emotions based on little giveaway signs like how the elbows, hips and shoulders are bent, and add them in. For example if a person is jumping, the software may chalk it up to euphoria and create a 'yahoo' speech bubble and even add a sunburst pattern. If they are pointing, it may conclude that the cartoon hero is puzzled and add a question mark and other effects that accentuate that emotion. After completing one panel, the user can repeat the same thing over and over, until the entire comic strip is ready. And while the outline of the story may be the same for several users, each Manga comic book turns out to be unique, due to the different emotions displayed.
Unfortunately however, while the Manga Generator may look perfect to the untrained eye, Shirai and his team are still not satisfied with the quality of the images and are working to improve the shader software. Once it's ready they hope to license the technology for use in interactive e-books, stories and also to companies that wish to use it as an advertising tool in public environments like malls - Customers would be allowed to create their comic which would be published on paper that has their advertisement on the back. SInce very few people will toss their personal comic book strip into recycling, it may prove to be a win-win for all. The only thing that is not too clear is if the Manga comic strip can be published in other languages as well.
For those that are not familiar with Manga, it is a Japanese comic strip that dates all the way back to the nineteenth century. Popular amongst all ages, it includes works in all kinds of genres ranging from action, adventure, romance, sports, games, mystery, fantasy to even historical drama and business. Over the years, their popularity has spread all over the world. It is estimated that Manga comics generate over $5.5 billion USD in Japan and about another billion overseas.