With 'Siren,' Unreal Engine blurs the line between CGI and reality

She's a digital personality created using a new real-time motion-capture technology.

Epic Games has been obsessed with real-time motion capture for years, but the company is now trying to take its experiments with the technology one step further. Enter "Siren," a digital personality that it created alongside a few prominent firms in the gaming industry: Vicon, Cubic Motion, 3Lateral and Tencent (which just became a major investor in Ubisoft). The crazy thing about Siren is that she comes to life using live mocap tech, powered by software from Vicon, that can make her body and finger movements be captured and live-streamed into an Unreal Engine project.

Back in 2016, Epic Games teased the live motion-capture technology first used for Hellblade, which was stunning and showed the potential of the tech. With this new iteration, though, the company says it hopes to take "live-captured digital humans to the next level." Siren is a high-fidelity digital character based on the likeness of an actress, Bingjie Jiang from China -- and Epic Games says she's only the start. This has larger implications not just for games, but for other industries, like film, marketing and advertising. Imagine if actors didn't have to come in to do their work, it just had to be someone who looked remotely like them.


Epic Games says that, at GDC 2018, it wanted to test the potential of Cubic Motion's facial performance capture system and show how it enables real-time face animation to mirror human emotion. The company said that, "Recreating the subtle intricacies of movement can be the difference between a realistic digital recreation and a trip into the uncanny valley." The uncanny valley is when CGI doesn't look realistic at all, and that doesn't require any pre- or post-production editing. That's why real-time (essentially) cloning of analog subjects is so important.

It's creepy, sure, but the future often is.

Click here to catch up on the latest news from GDC 2018!