Creating Dynamic Digital Humans
Since 2017, Sheridan’s Screen Industries Research and Training (SIRT) Centre has been at the forefront of research and innovation for this burgeoning technique that expands creative possibilities by using traditional methods of computer animation with modern display technologies like Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR).
Two recent milestones have demonstrated SIRT’s excellence in this domain – SIRT Principal Investigator Stephan Kozak’s work on DDH with a team of Sheridan students and external industry partners has led to the successful creation of a patented workflow, and contributions to the development of the world’s first digital human to be given citizenship.
Dynamic Digital Human (DDH) technologyDDH technology is both a methodology (an overarching strategy) and software solution that creates realistic digital human faces with detailed characteristics that is compatible with all devices and platforms, allowing for seamless integration and use. The process to create a DDH involves combining a human face and recorded video textures with a 3D computer graphic animated polygonal mesh to define the shape and create an animated double of the human face. This methodology integrates popular software solutions for the development of real-time media content including Unity, Autodesk’s Maya and Adobe Creative Suite.
DDH technology is increasingly being used in industries including film and television, including characters such as the villain Thanos from Marvel’s Avengers and a digitally de-aged Will Smith in Gemini Man. Opportunities for the application of the technology are abundant – teaching and training or companions for seniors are two other areas in which DDH use is being explored.
“As Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology continues to evolve, digital humans will become more enhanced and realistic. Advancements in this technology are mind-blowing and can have a profound impact on our world and in how we go about our daily lives." ”– Stephan Kozak
SIRT and DDHSIRT’s involvement with DDH began when entertainment partner Cream Productions approached the Centre looking to simplify the process for creating digital likenesses of real people with enhanced facial, movement and speech articulation.
Funding provided by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and the National Research Council of Canada’s Industrial Research Assistance Program allowed Kozak to work with Cream, his colleagues at SIRT, and over 20 Sheridan students on the development of a standardized, efficient workflow to create more realistic digital characters with VR and AR platform integration.
The result of SIRT’s industry collaboration was showcased during the Be Curious virtual reality campaign with Cream that featured a human avatar of Lord of the Rings actor Dominic Monaghan. Sheridan students’ contributions included specific features like creating plugins for the DDH workflow, automating aspects of the process, documenting of the research findings, and conducting testing on the final methodology. For their successful contributions to the DDH research with Cream, Faculty of Applied Science and Technology students Garrett Hofland and Nathan Lapp were recognized with a 2021 Sheridan Scholarship, Research and Creative Activities (SRCA) Student Award for Team Collaboration.
A patent, world’s first and more
In September 2022, Cream and Kozak received inventorship status and an internationally recognized patent for their DDH workflow – an important milestone for SIRT as it continues to grow DDH innovation and the ultimate adoption of digital humans into people’s daily lives. With this patent, Cream has licensed the DDH methodology and expertise to gaming system content creators, including those working on Playstation, and to Meta for creating training and entertainment applications using VR. Supported by SIRT, Cream has also created a new interactive department within their company to support further development and management of the DDH workflow within interactive media. In spring 2022, SIRT and Cream received funding from Ontario Centres of Innovation to continue their DDH research and development efforts.
Kozak’s work with Reimagine AI (an artificial intelligence creative studio) on DDH has also been recognized for SIRT’s contributions to creating the world’s first digital human citizen in history – ‘Marija’ by Malta. Marija is an interactive AI-powered virtual being available to tourists who want to learn more about Malta’s rich history and everything happening on the Maltese Islands.
To better support caregivers who care for people living with Alzheimer’s and other memory loss conditions, Reimagine AI is also working closely with SIRT to build enhanced and human-like digital characters for its mobile app, which will provide meaningful companionship for patients.
Visit Sheridan's Screen Industries Research and Training (SIRT) Centre to learn about its other innovative work.
Pictured at top of page and above right: Sheridan SIRT-created Dynamic Digital Humans. Pictured above right is a Dynamic Digital Human created in the likeness of Lord of the Rings actor Dominic Monaghan.
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