Will Next Generation Technology Cross the Uncanny Valley?

Although this generation has gotten pretty close the the uncanny valley—the idea that when humanoids appear almost (but not quite) real, they create a feeling of repulsion in viewers—Epic Games Chief Technical Officer Kim Libreri believes that it will be crossed during the next generation of consoles.

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“Obviously it would be better,” he said. “Right now, when we do the demos, to get them to run at 60 frames per second or at VR frame rates, we end up needing a pretty beefy graphics card to render all the hair. But if you have a character that doesn’t need actual individual splines of hair, you can run that on a modern PlayStation or Xbox. When we start to see a next generation or whatever that is, the uncanny valley is going to be crossed in video games.”

“It’s going to end up being not about your technical expertise to make these things,” he added. “That technique will become ubiquitous over time. It’s got to be about telling an awesome story where people will want to watch that face get involved and do interesting things.”

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Libreri pointed to the Siren demonstration that Epic shared at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) 2018, and suggested that games will be using the same Unreal Engine 4.20 technology within the next year.

“Almost everybody that has a digital human character in their game is taking advantage of Siren,” he said. “All the skin shading work we did that was taken into Siren shipped with 4.20. There’s a bunch of stuff that I probably can’t mention yet. As always, the facial animation and facial modeling experts are making their work better and better. I think you’ll see some pretty exciting stuff over the next 12 months.”

“Although there are some pretty—the nice thing is we ship Unreal Engine with the source code,” he added. “We’re not the only people writing shaders. People have done work themselves with the code. There’s some skin stuff that, as I say, I can’t disclose, but I’ve seen some pretty amazing stuff out there.”

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