Autodesk Buys Wonder Dynamics, AI VFX App Wonder Studio

Autodesk is going all-in on artificial intelligence with the acquisition of AI startup Wonder Dynamics, maker of the Wonder Studio VFX tool. Autodesk — whose products include Maya, 3ds Max and Flame — worked with Wonder on a Maya plug-in last year and appears to have been impressed. Wonder Studio was purpose-built to be compatible with 3D tools like Maya, largely automating the process of putting 3D characters within live-action scenes. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, and Autodesk did not detail plans for integrating Wonder Dynamics, but it’s likely the company’s AI expertise will make itself felt across the portfolio. Continue reading Autodesk Buys Wonder Dynamics, AI VFX App Wonder Studio

Roblox Adds Facial-Tracking Vid Chat, Expands to PlayStation

Roblox is adding an expressive, avatar-based video chat called Roblox Connect to its virtual world in an effort to keep its young user base engaged as it grows up while also potentially expanding its audience. “We’re essentially packaging a Hollywood-style motion capture studio into something that runs on a mobile phone or laptop — without the need for equipment or motion-tracking dots,” Roblox explains, pointing out that the device’s on-board camera is all that’s needed to capture facial motion and convey it in real time. Also, Roblox is is coming to PS4 and PS5 next month, while the company will allow game creators to sell 3D virtual goods. Continue reading Roblox Adds Facial-Tracking Vid Chat, Expands to PlayStation

Sony Offers Affordable Phone-Based MoCap System in U.S.

Sony Electronics is launching its Mocopi mobile motion capture system in the United States. Using a dedicated smartphone app for iOS and Android, the wireless system enables full-body motion tracking, captured by six small, lightweight sensors. Sony has been marketing Mocopi in Japan where virtual streamers (also called “VTubers”) have been using the system to drive avatars and fictional animated characters. Mocopi allows users to go mobile with virtual reality, loosening time and location constraints. Sony is now taking preorders for the $499 Mocopi system, which ships July 14. Continue reading Sony Offers Affordable Phone-Based MoCap System in U.S.

Use of AI to Build Video Games is Popular, But Controversial

Generative AI is expected to play a big role in video game production, increasing development speed, reducing costs, and helping to come up with new ways for players to interact with characters. Major firms including Epic Games, Unity, Ubisoft and Roblox have all announced generative AI integrations for their development kits. Nonplayable characters — foils that act and speak independently — are soon to be wholly AI-powered rather than preprogrammed options. Publicly available AI tools are already commonly used by players creating user-generated game content. However, use of AI to create commercial games is not without controversy. Continue reading Use of AI to Build Video Games is Popular, But Controversial

Wonder Dynamics Leverages AI for Web-Based CGI Platform

Digital filmmaking tools have become increasingly accessible, and now Wonder Dynamics wants to make photorealistic CG characters available for any budget. The software firm says its product enables users to drag and drop computer-generated characters into live-action scenes as if they were custom generated. The company’s web-based editor, Wonder Studio, is billed as a full-blown tool, not a toy, and aims to help ease artists’ workload. The three-year-old startup has raised $12.5 million to date. Co-founders Nikola Todorovic, a writer-director, and actor Tye Sheridan, who starred in Steven Spielberg’s “Ready Player One,” say it’s the tool they’ve craved. Continue reading Wonder Dynamics Leverages AI for Web-Based CGI Platform

Amazon Opens Stage 15: New LA Virtual Production Facility

Amazon Studios has officially opened its 34,000-square-foot virtual production stage in Culver City, California. On hand for the Monday ribbon-cutting ceremony was director Reginald Hudlin, whose Eddie Murphy-starrer “Candy Cane Lane” will be the first feature to shoot there. Once the set for films including “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “RoboCop,” Stage 15 has undergone a transformation from its original 1940 configuration, now housing a wall of more than 3,000 LED panels as well as 100 motion capture cameras in what is LA’s largest virtual production stage. Continue reading Amazon Opens Stage 15: New LA Virtual Production Facility

Sony Targets the Metaverse with Consumer Motion Capture

The industry is buzzing about a new Sony product called Mocopi that offers motion capture priced for consumers. The Meta Quest-compatible Mocopi utilizes six tracking bands to be worn on the head, back, hands and feet. Priced at 49,500 yen (or about $358), Sony announced Mocopi on its Japanese YouTube channel, with a U.S. release expected toward the end of January 2023. Touted as a way to operate avatars in the metaverse or make videos, Mocopi will have an SDK that can import motion data into 3D animations. Continue reading Sony Targets the Metaverse with Consumer Motion Capture

Meta’s ‘Horizon Worlds’ Is Struggling to Attract New VR Users

There’s trouble in virtual paradise, according to The Wall Street Journal, which says internal Meta Platforms documents show that its initial goal of 500,000 monthly active “Horizon Worlds” users by the end of 2022 has been revised to 280,000, which is over 80,000 more than it currently has. Meanwhile, Forbes says the debut of avatar “legs” demoed by Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg at last week’s Meta Connect was actually “staged” using motion capture. However, a Meta spokesman explains that the company’s metaverse efforts were always expected to be a multiyear project, with ongoing improvements based on user feedback. Continue reading Meta’s ‘Horizon Worlds’ Is Struggling to Attract New VR Users

Japan’s Virtual YouTube Celebrities Test the Waters in China

Japan’s most popular YouTube star is Kizuna AI, a virtual teenager with thigh-high socks and a pink hair ribbon, brought to life by an off-screen actress. Millions of fans follow Kizuna, the brainchild of Activ8, a Tokyo-based company. According to Activ8 founder Takeshi Osaka, what sets such so-called virtual YouTubers (or VTubers) apart is that “you can believe they actually exist.” To create Kizuna, Activ8 uses motion capture gear to create skits, music videos and game streams for its over four million subscribers. Continue reading Japan’s Virtual YouTube Celebrities Test the Waters in China

Verizon Media Tackles Production Tech with Global Studios

Verizon Media (formerly Oath) now has production studios located in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Hong Kong, London, New York, Paris, Singapore, Sunnyvale and Taiwan. In addition, it built a 5G Los Angeles studio with plans to help pioneer new formats and production tech enabled by advanced 5G wireless connectivity. The worldwide facilities are being used by Verizon Media brands such as AOL, HuffPost, TechCrunch and Yahoo. The L.A. space — led by Verizon Media’s immersive media arm RYOT — is outfitted with full motion capture and volumetric capture stages. Continue reading Verizon Media Tackles Production Tech with Global Studios

Game Execs on Real-Time Engines for Film & TV Production

Over 150 million people are playing video games in the U.S., according to the Entertainment Software Association, and by mid-2018, games brought in more revenue than movies and music combined. So it’s no surprise that there is an increasing amount of cross-pollination between games and movies. At NAB 2019, 30 Ninjas partner Lewis Smithingham moderated a conversation among a group of game executives on the evolution of game engines and how they are becoming a more common tool for today’s film and television production. Continue reading Game Execs on Real-Time Engines for Film & TV Production

Rokoko Offers Up Motion-Capture Library in Unity Asset Store

Rokoko made its library of professionally produced digital motion capture assets available for purchase in the Unity Asset Store. Its SmartSuit Pro captures an actor’s movements, turning them into data that can be used to animate characters in games and movies. Unity Technologies, which makes the Unity game engine, offers pre-made assets to game developers who are looking to avoid the hefty price of professional motion capture. Assets in The Motion Library are available for as little as $1 and a $10 monthly subscription. Continue reading Rokoko Offers Up Motion-Capture Library in Unity Asset Store

Kaaya Haptic HoloSuit for VR Apps to Ship This November

Kaaya Tech reached its $50,000 Kickstarter funding goal for the HoloSuit, a wearable haptic controller for virtual reality. The company will start shipping the suit, available in several versions, in November. The top-end version, HoloSuit Pro, offers 36 sensors, nine haptic feedback devices and six firing buttons, spread across two finger-tracking gloves, a pair of pants with feet extensions and a jacket with a head extension. The lower end model offers 26 sensors, and comes with a jacket or jersey with haptics and buttons. Continue reading Kaaya Haptic HoloSuit for VR Apps to Ship This November

NAB 2018: Artificial Intelligence Tools for Animation and VFX

Tools powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning can also be used in animation and visual effects. Nvidia senior solutions architect Rick Grandy noted that the benefit of such tools is that artists don’t have to replicate their own work. That includes deep learning used for realistic character motion created in real-time via game engines and AI, as well as a phase-functioned neural network for character control, whereby the network can be trained by motion capture or animation. Continue reading NAB 2018: Artificial Intelligence Tools for Animation and VFX

Microsoft Opens Studios to Produce Mixed Reality Holograms

Microsoft is pitching its new mixed reality studios in San Francisco and London to developers and producers interested in creating holograms from real life objects. “Microsoft has been using its own studio at its Redmond headquarters to capture Buzz Aldrin, Reggie Watts, Max Frost, and Cirque Du Soleil performances and bring them into virtual reality and augmented reality holograms,” reports The Verge. The new studios will enable content creators to produce holograms for “regular 2D screens, a HoloLens device, or even Microsoft’s new Windows Mixed Reality headsets.” The company “is also expanding its Mixed Reality Academy program to San Francisco,” with workshops for “developing apps and experiences for VR and HoloLens headsets.” Continue reading Microsoft Opens Studios to Produce Mixed Reality Holograms