Epic's MetaHuman Creator generates realistic virtual people

The cloud-based app makes it easier to create digital humans at scale.

Unreal Engine

With Hollywood clamoring for virtual production tools after the success of Disney’s The Mandalorian, bleeding-edge digital effects are in high demand. At the forefront of the medium lies Unreal, Fortnite maker Epic Games’ proprietary game engine that sits at the intersection of gaming and big-budget Hollywood entertainment.

After working on the digital sets used in the Star Wars spinoff, Unreal is now offering a glimpse at its latest virtual production tech: A realistic digital character creator that takes the grunt work out of crafting virtual humans at scale. The cloud-based app, dubbed ‘MetaHuman Creator,’ is designed to produce lifelike digital beings in less than an hour, compared to the weeks or months the job currently requires.

We’re talking a video game character creator on steroids, complete with an expanding library of preset visual attributes. Currently, the app boasts a diverse range of faces, around 30 hair styles that use Unreal’s strand-based hair, clothing and 18 different body types.

You can check out some of Unreal’s in-house creations in the video above. Judging by the clip, we’re still not quite out of the uncanny valley, but the ability to create close-to convincing CG characters (especially at scale) has the scope to be transformative for many industries.

Once a human is built, it can be animated using performance capture tools, such as Unreal’s Live Link Face iOS app. Animations can also be deployed across multiple projects, which should enable VFX artists to create entire virtual armies expeditiously.

Unreal says it is working to provide support for Apple’s augmented reality platform, ARKit, along with a bunch of other software. It adds that the app will be ready for test-driving as apart of an early access program in the next few months. To showcase its chops, its offering two fully realized human specimens to download and modify for use in Unreal Engine 4.26.1 or other projects.