AMD has announced a partnership with Mixamo to create a real-time motion capture and 3D facial animation plug-in for popular cross-platform game engine Unity, capable of running on even modest hardware.
Facial capture and the subsequent use of that data to bring realism to in-game characters is a common feature of modern games, with Rockstar's classic L.A. Noire a perfect example. In the game, the player is asked to read facial cues to tell whether a character is lying or speaking the truth. Using advanced facial animation technology - so advanced, in fact, the game couldn't cope with more than three faces on-screen at the same time - the effect was amusing, if not a little uncanny-valley creepy for some.
Capturing the intricacies of an actor's face and translating that data into animation typically requires expensive hardware and powerful processors, however, keeping the technology out of reach of smaller developers - something AMD is looking to solve.
Partnering with specialist Mixamo, the company has announced the launch of the Face Plus plug-in for the Unity game engine. Using nothing more than a standard webcam, the system promises to capture facial animation in real-time and apply it to Unity-powered characters - and all on a modest desktop PC.
The system works by offloading the heavy lifting of processing the images captured by the webcam onto the graphics processing unit (GPU) rather than the central processing unit (CPU.) Its highly-parallel nature, coupled with the fact that a GPU is designed specifically for this kind of work, means that the performance is boosted some thirteen-fold over traditional CPU-based systems.
According to AMD's testing, that means even indie devs on low-cost hardware can get in on the act: running the system on an AMD A10-4600M accelerated processing unit (APU), the team behind the software were able to capture 42 frames per second in real-time. Naturally, for smoother animation this figure can be boosted by using a more powerful computer with any OpenCL 1.1 or higher compatible graphics card being compatible.
'AMD is impressed with the results Mixamo has achieved in optimising its technology and is excited not only about the capabilities it brings to Unity developers today, but also the potential it could bring to new consumer applications,
' claimed Manju Hegde, corporate vice president in charge of AMD's Heterogeneous Solutions Division of the release.
'Mixamo is excited about enabling Unity's growing base of over two million developers to create even more engaging stories for its games and movies,
' added the company's co-founder and chief executive Stefano Corazza. 'Our main mission is to democratise 3D character art, and Face Plus takes us one step further by revolutionising how game and film developers create character art and emotional engagement.
More details on the software, which is only available as part of Mixamo's 'All Access Pass' at $1,499 per user per year, are available on the official website
- or you can see it in action in the video below.