We worked with Mike Seymour (University of Sydney MOTUS Lab) on a special project to share the latest research into interactive realtime photoreal faces in new forms of Human Computer Interfaces (CHI).
Mike assembled a global consortium of leading companies to produce and study a digital human avatar with his likeness. This landmark research tackles the behaviorial and technical challenges around CG representation of human faces often referred to as "the uncanny valley". The consortium, which includes Epic Games, The Wikihuman Project, 3Lateral, Cubic Motion, Tencent, Disney Research Zurich and Loom.AI has produced what was, as at SIGGRAPH 2017, the most comprehensive scan of a human head and what may still be the most convincing digital avatar. You be the judge.
Digital Mike is puppeteered in realtime using facial tracking so the team can stage and study non-scripted human conversations. Real Mike's profile as a journalist who has covered the VFX industry for over 20 years (fxguide, WIRED) means that many CG pioneers and feature film VFX supervisors know him personally. This provides a unique opportunity to put digital Mike under intense scrutiny and study the broader commercial and cultural ramifications of avatar-based communication.
Meet Mike was launched at the SIGGRAPH 2017 VR Village as an immersive interactive experience. Over 5 days at SIGGRAPH the team taped what was essentially nine hours of a live talk show. Mike interviewed 19 guests onstage with the CG result equivalent to film VFX quality of five years ago. The difference being that this show ran in realtime at 60 frames per second on the big screens and 90 frames per second for VR spectators.
The Mod team has been proud to play a role in this mammoth effort to explore and share the bleeding edge of digital humans research. From creative and technical troubleshooting in the University of Sydney's Motus Lab through to staging the show at the Los Angeles Convention Centre, this has been an exciting, challenging and satisfying project.
Michela wrote up her first encounter with digital Mike and we are pleased to be able to continue working with Mike Seymour on this research.
Watch "Behind the Scenes at #MeetMike" for backstage interviews with the team.
As of UE4.20 many of the innovations developed for this project have been released as part of the Unreal Engine. The Mike avatar (minus rig) is available as the "Digital Human" example in the Epic Games Marketplace and is featured in the UE4 Digital Humans documentation.