From Unite 2013 in Vancouver: American 3D character animation pioneer Mixamo has announced the launch of Face Plus, a technology that brings facial animations to 3D characters with just a simple webcam and the Unity editor. Independent developers can now enrich their games with emotional experiences without the high cost and complexity of existing facial animation solutions. With Face Plus, developers are now able to capture their own facial expressions via standard webcams and transfer them in real time onto a 3D character. A Unity plugin, Face Plus leverages the upcoming Unity 4.3 blendshape technology.
“With Unity 4.3 we are expanding our Mecanim animation system to support not only state-of-the-art 3D character animation, but also real-time motion capture directly in the editor,” says David Helgason, Unity Technologies CEO. “Face Plus provides more creative freedom to our community and empowers them to craft emotional storylines for their games.”
For the first time, the entire facial 3D animation workflow can be executed within a single tool, in real time.
“Mixamo’s mission is to democratize 3D character art. We are already providing the first and only automatic rigging service in the world, the Auto-Rigger, as well as unprecedented access to high-quality 3D animations and character models,” added Stefano Corazza, Mixamo’s CEO and cofounder. “Today we’re thrilled to extend our offering with high-fidelity facial 3D animation, the holy grail of emotional engagement for game developers and film makers.”
The high level of fidelity delivered with Face Plus was demonstrated today at Unite 2013. During the keynote, Unity CTO Joachim Ante demonstrated Unity’s new blendshape animation capabilities and live facial animation capture using Unplugged, an interactive animated short that uses Face Plus technology to bring emotion to its characters. Taking viewers through the journey of a boy striving to break free from a hopeless life, Unplugged showcases what can be achieved with Unity, a simple standard webcam, Face Plus and a creative concept.
“Unplugged will hopefully inspire our developers to be even more ambitious with their games,” added David Helgason. “The game industry is evolving fast, and players are looking for richer stories with deeper emotional engagement. Facial animation’s prohibitive costs and proprietary equipment requirements represent one of the biggest limits for game developers hoping to address this. The combination of Unity 4.3 and FacePlus removes some of these roadblocks.”
Face Plus was developed with the technical support of AMD, a strategic investor in Mixamo. AMD helped Mixamo achieve high fidelity with their Face Plus plugin using heterogeneous computing through OpenCL. AMD is also a sponsor of the showcase project Unplugged.
“We are big believers of Mixamo’s vision for making development of 3D character art easy, which is why we chose to invest in Mixamo through AMD Ventures,” said Manju Hegde, corporate vice president, Heterogeneous Solutions at AMD. “AMD always develops its technology with developers in mind, and continues to support important partners in future innovations. We are enthusiastic about Face Plus, which will inspire Unity game developers.”
Face Plus is available today, and is included within Mixamo All Access, a yearly pass for unlimited access to Mixamo’s entire collection of 3D characters, tens of thousands of high-quality 3D animations, and the Auto-Rigger. All Access pass holders also benefit from the Unlimited+ Animation Store plugin, which enables them to browse and use all of Mixamo’s animations directly from the Unity interface.