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Announcing Kinematica: Animation meets machine learning

June 20, 2018 in Technology | 2 min. read

For years, I’ve been working on a challenging question: what if you could create your game without worrying about building complex animation graphs? What if all that time setting up nested state machines, manually creating those transitions points, and matching poses could be spent instead on the art itself?

We set out to create a radically different animation system -- one that provides motion synthesis that wouldn’t need to rely on any of these superimposed structures like graphs or blend trees. This technology could remove manual labor and free up animators to focus on what they love: creating beautiful artwork.

At the Unite Berlin 2018 keynote this week, we announced Kinematica -- a brand-new experimental package coming to Unity later this year, developed by Unity Labs.

Unlike traditional systems, Kinematica retains everything in a single library, and it decides -- automatically and in real-time -- how to combine tiny fragments from that library into a sequence that matches the controller input, the environmental context, and any gameplay requests.

Animation quality was a key pillar when designing this system, so we never alter the original animations or quality of the input data that you as an animator provide. And remember, you still get to decide (based on your own game design) what the animations of your characters are. You even have the power to tweak how the animations interact with the environment.

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It’s crucial for systems like this to be able to scale. So, to push and ‘stress test’ the technology, we decided to try it with mocap data -- usually the largest and most unstructured animation data you could use. We rented out a mocap studio, hired a stuntman specializing in parkour, and let him run around the gym for a few hours. This resulted in 70,000 poses and over 45 minutes of animation data -- and Kinematica successfully created smooth, dynamic animations using this data.

The benefits of this system include a higher-quality, polished look; versatility because numerous variations can be determined from the same data set; and of course, not having to manually map out any animation graphs -- meaning you can iterate faster and focus on your art.

Stay tuned this summer for more updates on when you can give Kinematica a try yourself!

See more from Unity Labs.

June 20, 2018 in Technology | 2 min. read