New iOS feature automatically fixes video caller eye contact problem to improve intimacy

[The new “FaceTime Attention Correction” feature attempts to solve a long-standing impediment to social presence in video communication. This short summary is from The Verge; for more information and demonstration videos, see coverage in MacRumors and Apple Insider. Some authors explicitly note the benefits for presence:

“[I]t really seems to make a huge difference in terms of providing a sense of ‘presence’ for FaceTime calls, which is one of the core values of the Apple chat feature overall.” (TechCrunch)

“[I]t’s a safe bet this will be a well-received feature by the average FaceTime user out there. A feeling of connectedness with the person you’re calling is pretty much the whole point of using FaceTime, and this AR-based tweak that makes the person seem to fix their gaze constantly on you will only add to that feeling of being present and connected to the other person.” (BGR)

An Ars Technica story presents both pros and cons  (“There’s an argument in favor of making the experience of video chatting feel more natural, but there’s an equal argument against forcing an appearance of intimacy or attention”) while a Mashable writer emphasizes the cons.


[Image: Source: 9to5Mac]

iOS 13 will fix the FaceTime eye contact problem

Fake eye contact for improved intimacy

By Jon Porter
July 3, 2019

iOS 13’s third developer beta includes a new feature that makes it look like you’re staring directly at your front-facing camera during FaceTime calls, even when looking away at the person on your screen. The feature, which was spotted by Mike Rundle on Twitter, only appears to be working on the iPhone XS and XS Max with this version of the beta, and can be toggled on and off from within FaceTime’s settings.

Normally, video calls tend to make it look like both participants are peering off to one side or the other, since they’re looking at the person on their display, rather than directly into the front-facing camera. However, the new “FaceTime Attention Correction” feature appears to use some kind of image manipulation to correct this, and results in realistic-looking fake eye contact between the FaceTime users. Coincidentally, Rundle himself theorized back in 2017 that Apple would one day do this, although not so soon.

On Twitter, Dave Schukin explains that the effect is being achieved using ARKit, which is used to map a user’s face and adjust the positioning of their eyes accordingly. Using the arm from a pair of glasses, Schukin shows how the software is warping the eye area slightly to achieve the effect. The same effect also appears to be present when wearing sunglasses.

It’s not clear which devices the feature will eventually work with, or whether it will support group calls. We’re also curious to know whether it works when there are multiple people in the frame, for those times when you group your entire family round a device to FaceTime a distant relative. The feature should arrive in the public-facing beta next week.


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