It looks too good to be true. Epic Games has finally transcended the uncanny valley with MetaHuman Creator, a new cloud-streamed app that lets anyone create hyper-realistic digital humans. Video games may never be the same after the software becomes widely available, as it enables in-game characters to be almost indistinguishable from a real person.
Announced February 10 with two astounding trailers and a blog post, MetaHuman Creator is "designed to take real-time digital human creation from weeks or months to less than an hour, without compromising on quality." And the results literally speak for themselves.
"Creating truly convincing digital humans is hard," Epic's blog post explains. Animating hair strands, skin textures, body gestures, and facial movements all in a digital environment with realistic physics requires an astounding amount of detail and processing power. Even an impressive next-gen game like Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales slips up when running on the PlayStation 5.
But this? This is something else. Check out the following detailed trailer.
This sneak peek shows some of the design tools being actively used to create all sorts of MetaHumans.
These ultra-realistic character models look particularly astonishing in close-up shots. We see a variety of MetaHumans with a variety of skin tones, textures, and colors. Whether they have dark or light eyes, curly or straight hair, they all look almost as real as videos of actual humans might. It feels like a big leap forward in terms of digital character creation.
There's still something slightly uncanny at play with the way that a MetaHuman's eyeballs will dart around inside their skulls, and how their teeth look behind sliding lips. But the animations and degree of detail are truly breathtaking.
The entire middle portion of the video showcases a timelapse of the character creation process happening. An older man with thinning hair and a modest goatee is shown with several different hairstyles before he is de-aged and then transformed into a completely different person by a series of rapid tweaks to the face.
"It works by drawing from an ever-growing library of variants of human appearance and motion, and enabling you to create convincing new characters through intuitive workflows that let you sculpt and craft the result you want," the announcement blog post reads. "As you make adjustments, MetaHuman Creator blends between actual examples in the library in a plausible, data-constrained way. You can choose a starting point by selecting a number of preset faces to contribute to your human from the diverse range in the database."
Currently, the library offers 30 hairstyles, 18 differently proportioned body types, and a set of example clothing to choose from. Once created, a MetaHuman is ready for animation and motion capture within Unreal Engine, complete with multiple layers of realistic detail. Any animations created using Unreal Engine can later be applied to any other MetaHuman, which makes for a really sustainable approach to digital models.
These two characters are already available to use in Unreal Engine 4.26.1 or later.
As part of the MetaHuman Creator announcement, Epic Games also shared that two fully finished "sample humans" are available to modify and use within Unreal Engine 4.26.1 or later projects. These two characters featured prominently in the reveal video and are at the focus of a second video (embedded above).
MetaHuman Creator will be released as part of an Early Access program "within the next few months," so its launch window may overlap somewhat with the upcoming Unreal Engine 5. Between both of these programs, the future of video games is shaping up to be truly beautiful.