Epic Games has announced a new, browser-based software tool powered by its Unreal Engine called the MetaHuman Creator that can craft highly realistic human faces and help power more realistic body movements and facial animations. Epic provided a sneak peek at the platform today in a pair of YouTube videos showing off examples of creations built using the MetaHuman Creator, and “metahuman” appears to be the term the company is using to describe this brand of virtual, non-real individual.
Epic says the MetaHuman Creator can be used in conjunction with modern motion capture and animation techniques for creating lifelike movements and human interactions scenes built for video games, film, TV, and other formats. The company says these photorealistic humans can be generated in a matter of minutes and equipped with unique hairstyles and clothing, and then they can be tailored further to meet the needs of a production. And these “metahumans” can be manipulated in real time within the tool itself and just using a web browser, Epic says.
“Up until now one of the most arduous tasks in 3D content creation has been constructing truly convincing digital humans. Even the most experienced artists require significant amounts of time, effort, and equipment, just for one character,” said Vladimir Mastilovic, Epic’s vice president of digital humans technology, in a statement. “After decades of research and development, and thanks to bringing companies like 3Lateral, Cubic Motion, and Quixel into the Epic family, that barrier is being erased through Unreal Engine, and we’re thrilled to introduce MetaHuman Creator.”
The humans created with Epic’s new tool don’t approach the photorealism of, say, the digitally rendered photographs of fake people produced by generative adversarial networks, which is the AI technique underpinning projects like “This Person Does Not Exist.”
But as a kind of supercharged video game character creation tool, MetaHuman Creator does seem capable of making some shockingly realistic-looking people that could easily pass for a real-life motion captured actor. Though perhaps we’d need to wait to see what the tool is truly capable of in the hands of third-party creators before making a verdict on whether it escapes the uncanny valley.
It’s not clear when Epic intends to release MetaHuman Creator outside a broad 2021 release window, but interested developers and artists can sign up for updates on the Unreal Engine website.