Tech Talk: New Platform Promises Lifelike Avatars

Image: Vadim Georgiev / Shutterstock.com

 

Epic Games, the video game company behind Fortnite, recently announced the creation of a new technology that will permit users to create and customize realistic-looking human avatars. To be released sometime this year—the official release date had not yet been announced at press time—MetaHuman Creator is a cloud-streamed app that is accessible via an internet browser, and can be used by designers to craft realistic avatars in under an hour, complete with lifelike body movements, facial expressions and details. “Metahuman” is also the term being used to refer to these avatars.

The company says that animators and digital designers will be able to use its MetaHuman Creator, which is powered by Unreal Engine—a real-time 3D creation platform used to design photo-realistic imagery and immersive virtual experiences—in tandem with other motion capture and animation software to create accurate interactions and movements in scenes designed for movies, TV shows, video games and more. The platform also cuts down the lengthy process of creating realistic human avatars from scratch, something that Vladimir Mastilovic, Epic Games’ vice president of digital technology, says is one of the most difficult and time-consuming parts of 3D creation. Users can choose from 18 preset body types and 30 hairstyles, in addition to clothing and more, and they can directly manipulate their avatar’s facial features, skin, complexion and teeth. The final product isn’t perfect—these can still be distinguished from images of humans—but they are said to appear realistic in the settings for which they are designed.

The growing sophistication in artificial intelligence (AI) in regards to rendering human faces has been improving and attracting a great deal of attention in the tech world. Every time a user visits the website This Person Does Not Exist, for example, they are shown a new, realistic image of a computer-generated individual. On another website, Which Face Is Real?, visitors are presented with two side-by-side images, and are asked to select the image they think is real; some are easier to detect than others. The advancements in the rendering of realistic-looking humans represent the progress being made in the area of 3D content creation and technologies. By cutting down on the time it takes to make avatars from a few months to just a few minutes, creators can focus on advancing other project areas, while improving the overall quality of the content they are producing—and continuing to take end users’ experiences to the next level.   

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Danielle Renda is associate editor of PPB.

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