ross-platform game engine Unity has acquired Ziva Dynamics to empower artists of all skill levels to realize their virtual human visions. Through the Ziva RT tool, creators will be able to design hyper-realistic video game characters like virtual human Emma, who announced the acquisition news on social media.

We had the pleasure of speaking with James Jacobs, Co-founder and CEO of Ziva Dynamics, about the exciting news and what the acquisition means for Ziva’s future.

“Becoming part of Unity means that Ziva’s technology will be able to do more and be more. Ziva and Unity are both committed to empowering digital artists. The shared nature of this vision means that, alongside Unity, Ziva will be able to reach a much larger audience of 3D content creators,” James tells us.

Ziva’s technology leverages leading practices from machine learning, deep learning and biomechanics. It enables creators to fashion the most lifelike CGI characters, such as Emma, and that can run in real time with changes reflected almost immediately. To streamline character development and save creators both time and money, these powerful machine learning techniques also enable cloud-based creation.

Watching a virtual human interact with us, as Emma did by speaking to us directly in Unity’s social media announcement, is beyond visually satisfying. When encountering virtual humans, we expect their facial features and movements to be as realistic as ours. Ziva’s characters can move, stretch and flex just as we do in real life.

“When a character’s facial expressions hit a certain level of realism, gamers and audiences experience empathy for them. As humans we are wired to react to emotions. The ability for a game to easily spark this kind of connection is really going to change and expand the way digital stories can be told,” James says.

Standards like this require the highest quality development, and it is achievable for students, indies, small studios and extensive VFX facilities who use Ziva Dynamics. The Ziva RT tool currently works only for human faces but will expand to bodies and creatures in the future.

3D woman model with 1/2 anatomical diagram body
Image by Ziva Dynamics

Hollywood productions have already used Ziva’s technology in movies and TV series, such as “Godzilla Vs. Kong” and “Game of Thrones.” Now, it will be integrated seamlessly into Unity, joining other recent tool acquisitions Weta Digital, SpeedTree, SyncSketch, Pixyz and RestAR. Together, these technologies will make it easier, faster and cheaper for all creators to produce outstanding, immersive video game experiences.

“This is a very exciting time to be starting a career in 3D content creation, especially in character and creature work. For the next generation of creators, we will have new features, workflows, and tools that are purpose-built for them, integrating with their preferred platforms, on the hardware they already have, and for the range of character art styles that inspire them,” James says.

A gif of a muscular skeletal structure of a 3D deer
Image by Ziva Dynamics

As we have seen, technology used by the video game industry is often used to create virtual influencers, as these programs are made widely available to the public online and without creative limitations. Video game engines help drive the virtual influencer industry forward by generously releasing new, optimized software for any creator to use. Epic Games, for example, unveiled Unreal Engine’s MetaHuman Creator platform in 2021. This simple, browser-based program is available to anyone looking to create real-time, 3D human characters in an efficient manner.

“The best way to consider the expansiveness of like-like characters is to think of the ways humans already interact with each other. Virtual humans can help people navigate both the real and digital worlds, while maintaining the authenticity and empathy that is critical for audiences to feel comfortable and welcomed. This is such an exciting potential for us,” James says.

With Unity’s acquisition of Ziva, the technology could end up benefiting both entry and senior creators in developing not only video games, but the next top virtual influencer, impacting the market significantly with an optimization of hyper-realistic features while helping other industries enter the virtual market.

The terms of this deal remain undisclosed. Stay tuned to see how Unity puts the full force of Ziva Dynamics’ character technology to work.

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