Next Level

MetaHuman Animator, the next-gen version of Epic Games' MetaHuman avatar tool, is here — and we gotta say, it looks pretty remarkable.

Epic's MetaHuman tool, which was first unveiled back in 2021, was already impressively good at generating hyperrealistic avatars of people. But actually animating those characters was still a difficult, time-consuming process.

But not anymore, it seems. With this new tool, as The Verge reports, creators can easily employ motion capture tech to quickly animate the facial expressions of incredibly high-quality avatars — even if all creators have to go on is smartphone video. Yes, seriously.

Per the Verge, Epic flaunted the new Unreal Engine-powered tech at this year's Game Developers Conference. There, the company showcased the impressive speed and fidelity of the program in a clip taken from the development of the game Senua's Saga: Hellblade II, in which Ninja Theory performance capture artist Melina Juergens, who plays the game's titular character, is transformed from her real-life self into her animated in-game character.

Acquisitions, Baby

Of course, you can use equipment more sophisticated than a smartphone. But still, for quality and ease like this, the fact that you can use a phone if you need to is pretty astonishing — not to mention great for low-budget indie game creators, who might not have access to the same tools that big-budget studios do.

According to Ars Technica, Epic VP of Digital Humans Technology Vladimir Mastilovic took to the stage for a post-demo panel later on Wednesday, explaining to conference-goers that the MetaHuman Animator is, unsurprisingly, a machine-learning tool powered by a "large, varied, highly curated database" of face-capture data.

Much of that data, as Ars Technica points out, was likely gathered through Epic's acquisitions of motion capture and facial animation firms 3Lateral, Cubic Motion, and Hyprsense. You know what they say: if ya can't beat 'em, buy 'em!

"The MetaHuman framework has been decades in the making. Companies like 3Lateral and Cubic Motion have been pushing the limits of digital human creation for years," reads a blurb on the MetaHuman website. "Now, as part of Epic Games, they've been able to push the technology even further—and make it happen in real-time."

"Most importantly," it continues, "they've made it accessible to everyone."

If you have your eye on the animation tool, it's reportedly set to launch this summer.

READ MORE: Epic's hyperrealistic MetaHumans can soon be animated using an iPhone [The Verge]

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