The secret in making virtual skin seem real is all to do with light. Dr Henrik Jensen of the University of California at San Diego found that light did not just bounce from surfaces such as marble and skin.

Instead light beams penetrate below the surface and scatter at different points.

“I was involved in a project where we wanted to simulate weathering of marble,” recalls Dr Jensen of his time at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1998.

“One night I illuminated the marble material with a laser-pointer and I noticed how the marble started glowing and how the red light from the laser-pointer even caused a glow on the backside of the material.”

This led him to study how light scattered inside materials like marble. The breakthrough came three years later while at Stanford University.

Dr Jensen managed to come up with a mathematical formula that calculates how light is absorbed and dispersed beneath materials like marble or skin.

More here.