Tag Archives: makehuman

Kinect and Unity – semi-realistic characters

The previous post dealt with the generation and acquisition of more realistic human characters suitable for importing into the Unity games engine and controllable by performers via the Kinect plugin. This post features four video demonstrations of the results.

1. Live character projection mapping
Unity asset, demonstrating a character attempting to follow the poses and walking movements of the performer, with variable degrees of success.

 

2. Live MakeHuman character projection mapping
The character is exported from MakeHuman as a Collada (.dae) asset suitable for importing into Unity. The character exhibits a greater degree of realism and may at times be perceived as being somewhat uncanny. The behaviour of the character is limited due to its inability to move horizontally with the performer.

 

3. Live DAZ character projection mapping
The imported semi-realistic human character is a free asset included with the DAZ software, the eyes are incorrectly rendered but this accidentally produces a somewhat eerie effect. The character can be seen to follow the movements of the performer with reasonable coherence, glitches appear when the performer moves too close to the back wall and the Kinect then becomes incapable of tracking the performer correctly.

 

4. Live two character projection mapping
This video is perhaps one of the more interesting in that watching two characters appears to be more interesting and engaging than watching one. We tend to read into the video as if the characters are interacting with each other and having a dialogue. One might imagine they are a couple arguing over something, when in fact the two performers were simply testing the interaction of the system, moving back and forth and independently moving their arms without attempting to convey any meaningful interaction or dialogue.

Realism and the Uncanny

One of the criticisms of the original MikuMorphia was that because it looked like a cartoon, it was far from the uncanny. The  Uncanny Valley of Computer Graphics appears to be located somewhere between human and inhuman realism – where a 3D render makes the viewer feel uncomfortable because it is almost convincing as a mimetic version of a human, but something feels or appears not quite right. In order to explore this in-between region I therefore had to look towards acquiring or producing more realistic models of humans.

 

Unity and 3d human-like models

The chosen 3d graphics engine is Unity, and fortunately it is able to import a variety of standard 3d models in a number of formats. Rather than attempting to create a model of a human from scratch I investigated the downloading of free models from a variety of sources including Turbosquid and TF3DM. Many of these models exhibited a reasonable amount of realism, however for the model to work with the Kinect they also need to possess a compatible armature so that the limbs move in response to the actor.

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  Character illustrating internal armature

Rigging a 3d model with an armature such that the outer skin moves in a realistic manner is a non trivial task, requiring skills and the use of complex 3d modelling tools such as Maya, 3d StudioMax or Blender. I had high hopes for the automated rigging and provided by the online software Mixamo, however the rigging generated proved incompatible with the Kinect requirements.

The astounding Open Source software package MakeHuman enables the generation of an infinite range of human like figures, with sliders to adjust weight, age, sex, skin colouring and enable the subtle alteration of limb lengths and facial features.

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This package offers a refreshing alternative to the endless fantasy and game like characters prevalent in human character models on the internet. The generated armature is almost compatible with the kinect requirements such that a figure can mimic the movement of the actor, but due to a lack of one vital element (the root node), the actor has to remain in one position as the virtual character is unable to follow the movement of the actor if they move left or right. I will be investigating the feasibility of adding this additional root node via one of the aforementioned 3d modelling tools.

DAZ3d studio, a free character modelling package does successfully generate characters that possess the correct armature, although the software is free, the characters, clothing and accessories such as hair are all chargeable. However rather than attempting to model characters from scratch this software  with its vast library provides a painless and efficient method of generating semi-realistic human-like characters.

 

Critical Note

I was somewhat surprised by the amount of what can only be termed soft porn available in the form of female 3d models in provocative poses, naked or wearing skimpy clothing; suggesting a strange predominately male user base using the software to create animations and fantasies of a form that objectify women in an adolescent and very non PC manner.

1391327598_fxkht48jrplbvqmA google image search of DAZ3d results in a disturbing overview of the genre.
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