Epic Games’ new character modeling software aims to revolutionize the video game industry, but there may be a few problems to solve first.
Epic Games just released a preview of a potentially groundbreaking new technology: MetaHuman. This is character modeling software that can generate highly realistic and believable human models in a matter of minutes. Characters can look like people of any shape, size, gender, and ethnicity, and each character comes with their own unique set of hairstyles, clothing, and facial animations. More of an animation and development software tool than a complete video game, MetaHuman It could become not only the future of video game development, but also a significant advancement in computer animation and visual entertainment media.
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Most video games that attempt to realistically replicate real human faces require several months, if not years, of research, as well as requiring a large team of coding experts, artists, and extremely expensive scanning equipment. MetaHuman it is capable of completing years of work in a much shorter period of time, and in no less than a person’s browser. With Epic trying to set a new industry standard, MetaHuman‘Character creation is one of the biggest displays of the Unreal Engine’s graphical capabilities, but it also painfully acts as another example of the infamous “haunting valley.”
The haunting valley is a theoretical measure of how similar an object or image is to a human being and how it can upset people: the more something resembles a human being, the more disgusting a person is, depending on how imperfect the similarities are .
While this isn’t a scientific concept with concrete evidence to back it up, it’s easy to understand why so many horror movies and games are based on mannequins, androids, or just weird-acting humans. However, this uncanny valley is often unintentional on the part of the creator, as players can be disturbed by small and unintended imperfections in an otherwise realistic video game model.
The uncanny valley has arguably been a problem since humans have been able to draw, but the term was coined in the 1970s by roboticist Masahiro Mori. Since then, it has often been identified as a major hurdle in computer animation, something that even a studio as famous as Pixar has had to deal with. As pioneering as it may have been, the study used to be heavily criticized for unrealistically depicted human characters, like Andy and Spike in the original Toy story. Movies like Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, The polar Express Y Beowulf they were failures in part because of this very critique of imperfect human characters.
In the realm of video games, some of the first attempts to make realistic humans were simply to take pictures of costumed actors in front of a green screen and turn those frames into sprites, at the same time. Mortal Kombat. Motion capture was the next step, with Virtua fighter revolutionizing games by capturing real movements. However, these first attempts would not yet come to fruition, as they would mostly appear stiff and blocky, with almost no facial animations.
As technology has advanced, video games have become recognized as another way of telling stories on their own, with games like Metal Gear Solid Y Shenmue breaking new ground with believable character animations and advanced graphics. Since then, games like Half-life 2, The black Y Heavy rain popularized the use of advanced motion capture and facial animation in video games, sometimes being able to replicate the faces of real celebrities.
However, despite the vast amount of time and effort invested in them, these same games are also criticized for falling into the haunting valley for whatever imperfections they possess, however large or small. Character expressions can remain in a dull, blank state for long periods of time, and video game conventions can cause them to move too slow or too fast. However, the worst happens when graphical glitches cause animations and textures to go wrong, sending a harsh and horrible reminder to the player that these characters are nothing more than digital dolls.
With MetaHumanNot only are Epic Games trying to provide a quick and easy way to animate realistic humans in a short period of time, but they also seem to be trying to minimize the haunting valley as much as possible. Yet even now, as close to life as MetaHumanThe characters are, the fact is that they are not yet 100 perfect humans, and therefore the imperfections are even more noticeable and difficult to miss. It may just be a matter of time and proper rigging, as MetaHuman, no matter how bizarre, it is still a breakthrough in technology and game development that should be watched with great anticipation.
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