A new Apple patent (number 200110292051) shows Apple’s continued interest in avatar creation. An an avatar is the graphical representation of the user or the user’s alter ego or character.

The patent involves a three-dimensional (“3D”) avatar can be automatically created that resembles the physical appearance of an individual captured in one or more input images or video frames. The avatar can be further customized by the individual in an editing environment and used in various applications, including but not limited to gaming, social networking and video conferencing. The inventors are Alex Tremain Nelson, Cedric Bray, Thomas Goossens, Merwe Rudolph Van Der, Richard E. Crandall and Bertrand Serlet.

Here’s Apple’s background on the invention: “Avatars are increasingly used in online social networking, gaming, and other communications, typically as a surrogate for an actual photograph of the user. Avatars offer a measure of privacy, while allowing the user to have control over their online identity. Although users sometimes choose an avatar that is unrelated to their physical appearance, it is often desirable to have the avatar resemble the actual user.

There are several conventional tools for avatar creation and editing. These conventional tools generally allow the user to select from a palette of predefined avatar parts, and in some cases to manually modify the position, shape, or color of these parts. Using these conventional tools to create an avatar that looks like the user can be a time-consuming process that requires some degree of artistic skill.”

— Dennis Sellers