Constant updating has turned Fortnite from an early access fort-building game to a popular social space to spend time with friends, but despite that constant iteration, expression has always been limited to the emotes that Epic programs into the game. Conveniently, Epic just bought a company called Hyprsense that can put your facial expressions directly onto a video game character using a simple webcam, which seems like a great fit for Fortnite.
For a taste of what that could look like, look no further than this promo for Hyprsense’s own app:
Hyprmeet was released in open beta in September and while the app’s no longer available, it’s easy to imagine how nice even a tiny bit more facial expressiveness could be in Fortnite’s slower-paced, non-violent Party Royale.
Party Royale has been host to several social experiences since it launched, like concerts, trailer premieres and talks about race in America — turning Fortnite into a platform as much as it is a game. Despite the potential, today’s acquisition came with no plans for implementing the new tech in the game, and comments from Epic CTO Kim Libreri actually suggest this purchase may be about creators first. “Bringing on the Hyprsense team enables us to [...] approach the goal of giving all creators full control over expressing their vision down to the smallest nuance,” Libreri says.
Epic has explored inexpensive forms of motion capture for Unreal Engine before, including using an iPhone’s TrueDepth camera to build a depth map of a face, but being able to use a webcam you already own, like Hyprsense’s software allows, could make facial motion capture accessible for even more developers. With Hyprsense employees joining Epic’s active game development and “digital human” teams, we can’t say for certain where this motion capture tech will pop-up first, but what is clear is that expressiveness — whether from player characters or NPCs — seems important to Epic’s increasingly social future.