Designing realistic human characters for video games, movies, and other mediums is a tedious and time-consuming process. It can take hours for even the most skilled digital artists. On Wednesday, Epic Games announced a new tool for its Unreal Engine that could change everything.
Dubbed MetaHuman Creator, the cloud-based tool lets you create high-fidelity digital humans in record time. Although we’ll have to wait until it launches to have a final verdict, the project looks incredibly promising.
A lot of applications have been experimenting with making fake humans in the past few years. Whether it’s artificial intelligence (AI) that creates nearly undetectable fake photos of people who don’t exist or a tool like MetaHuman Creator, it now takes less manual effort than ever to create convincing digital characters.
That’s good news for the video game industry. It saves designers time and lets them focus on more important aspects of their games.
Epic says that MetaHuman Creator takes “real-time digital human creation from weeks or months to less than an hour, without compromising on quality.”
In the short teaser video it released, the models appear to be incredibly lifelike. Although they aren’t photorealistic, they could certainly pass for a motion-capture recording of a real person. Considering the fact that this is how many of today’s lifelike characters are designed, that’s a hint at the tool’s potential impact.
Notably, characters created in the MetaHuman tool will be compatible with Unreal’s various motion capture and animation tools. This will allow creators to give them lifelike movement in addition to their looks. It makes the models viable for everything from video games to movies.
It’s worth noting that traditional methods of creating realistic digital humans require expensive hardware and software. The fact that Epic’s MetaHuman Creator tool is cloud-based is arguably one of its best features.
Designers will be able to access it through a web browser, eliminating most of the need for high-performance hardware. A stable internet connection and a decent computer should be enough to use the tool.
Don’t let that fool you, though. MetaHuman Creator is incredibly deep and offers designers a ton of ways to customize their characters.
There is a pre-built library with a variety of humans to work with. Or, you can add an existing face to the app.
Meanwhile, designers will have 30 unique hairstyles to choose from that use Unreal Engine’s strand-based hair rendering.
Ultimately, the new metahuman Creator will be a terrific equalizer for smaller studios and individual developers. It will allow them to create games that rival those coming out of larger studios in terms of graphics.
That being said, it will also be interesting to see what everyday people do with the tool. It isn’t hard to imagine MetaHuman Creator being used for things like character inspiration or general internet shenanigans.
That may not happen for some time, however, since Epic hasn’t yet announced a release date. It is preparing to offer creators an early-access version of the tool within a few months. Aside from a “2021” release, Epic hasn’t given any hints on when to expect the public version.