In a press release today, Sony Online Entertainment announced that the “groundbreaking technology” known as SOEmote will be available for free to all EverQuest II players.  SOE is set to “put the ‘role’ back in role-playing” with this new feature:

“By bringing the unique personalities of each player to life through their characters, both visually and audibly in real-time, SOEmote provides an unparalleled immersive experience. The feature is compatible with most PCs and webcams.”

“What exactly is this?” you ask? Basically, SOEmote has two distinct functions. The first is Live Driver, a real-time facial analysis, expression tracking and animation technology, designed by Image Metrics. Live Driver uses standard webcams to analyze thousands of expression measurements every second, and then transfers that data to the avatar on-screen, allowing your in-game character’s face to reflect your own at any given moment. So, if you’re having a bad day, and you jump onto EverQuest II to escape, people are going to be able to tell that you’re scowling.

The other aspect of SOEmote is an auditory one. Utilizing audio filters, it alters the voice of the player to either one that is appropriate for the race you are playing, or a voice that the player chooses:

“Voice fonts that allow players to sound like any character that they play as. For example, if a player is playing as a Ratonga and speaks into a microphone to play, their in-game voice will resemble that of their character or a voice of their choice.”

Using this technology, Image Metrics and SOE are looking to make EverQuest II a more immersive experience. Depending on how successful (read: functions as advertised) SOEmote proves to be, this may be something we see other MMOs adopt. After all, these type of games ask that you spend an inordinate amount of time running around, questing, level-grinding, corpse-running, monster hunting  and graveyard camping in order to get the full enjoyment out of them. And, if you’re gonna grief someone, don’t you want them to see the expression on your face as you do it? Better yet, don’t you want to see the look of anger on their face?

P.S: I’m not that guy in the picture. I swear.