In brief: A new software tool developed by Epic Games and based on its Unreal Engine promises to make it easier to create realistic 3D human models for games and movies using a web browser and the power of the cloud. It approaches "uncanny valley" levels of realism, but the biggest selling point is that it should be faster than traditional character modeling and animation processes that are standard in the entertainment industry.
When it's not busy fighting Apple in court for App Store terms and operating a walled garden, or giving away 750 million free copies of games through the Epic Store, the company led by Tim Sweeney develops some of the best 3D creation tools in the industry.
Most of our readers no doubt have heard of the Unreal Engine, which powers numerous games across PC, consoles, and smartphones. Recently, Epic revealed a new software tool based on it that can be used to create highly realistic human faces as well as body animations that look more natural.
The tool is called the MetaHuman Creator and runs inside a web browser leveraging a cloud technology called Unreal Engine Pixel Streaming. The name is a mouthful, but Epic says the tool can help speed up the process of creating digital assets for a wide variety of scenarios in video and game production.
An obvious example is that of game artists, who need to create increasingly complex and diverse character models that can take weeks or even months of arduous work. The new tool allows you to take a predefined model and sculpt it, fine-tune various facial features, add clothes, skin textures, and more. The idea is to streamline the process so that even relatively low-budget projects can integrate high quality assets in a relatively short amount of time.
With MetaHuman Creator, Epic is also leveraging acquisitions like Quixel, Cubic Motion, and 3Lateral, which are companies that specialize in photorealistic textures, computer vision, facial animation, and 3D model concept and rendering based on real life scans. This means that using the new tool allows for easy drag-and-drop of the resulting work in Unreal Engine in addition to access to a vast library of 3D models and textures.
Epic is showcasing the capabilities of its new digital human creation tool with two fully finished sample characters that you can play with using Unreal Engine 4.26.1 and later. As for the MetaHuman Creator, the company is planning to release it as part of an Early Access program in the coming months. You can sign up for it here.