Unity, maker of the real-time Unity engine, has acquired Ziva Dynamics, character simulation experts offering tools that simplify the creation of realistic biomechanical motion for human characters, creatures, clothing, and more, in real time and no matter the fidelity of the models.
For several years now, Ziva Dynamics has enabled CG artists to take animation realism to a whole new level. In just a few short years, the company’s cutting-edge simulation/deformation, machine learning, and real-time character creation tools have changed the way CG objects—from characters and creatures to clothing—are deformed.
And now, those tools are in the hands of Unity Technologies, maker of the popular Unity real-time development platform, following its recent acquisition of Ziva.
Ziva’s technology combines the latest advancements in computer graphics and computing techniques, along with an extensive understanding of anatomical simulation. Ziva VFX replicates real-world physics and anatomy, simulating soft-tissue materials such as fat, muscles, and skin, for generating characters that move with the highest degree of accuracy. Ziva Real Time (ZivaRT) uses machine learning to produce shape deformations so characters can perform in real-time environments. ZRT Face Trainer, meanwhile, is a cloud-based facial rigging service that is built on an extensive library of 4D data and machine learning algorithms for real-time facial animation without the need for rigging.
According to Unity, Ziva will continue to support the various engines using its technology.
While most companies would have opted to announce the acquisition in a standard press release, Ziva and Unity opted to do it in style while illustrating the power of Ziva’s technology. To this end, Emma, a photorealistic virtual human created by Ziva Dynamics and powered by biomechanical simulation, broke the news in an application running in real time within the Unity engine.
“Unity and Ziva have a shared vision of making realistic, lifelike character creation accessible and scalable for all artists, regardless of skill level,” the virtual spokeswoman stated. As she pointed out, the technology is not just for virtual humans like herself, but for any kind of creature, monster, or animal imaginable, realistic or stylized.
Unity said the acquisition of Ziva Dynamics is part of its efforts to democratize artist tools and make them available to a wider range of people. Indeed, Emma is proof of the sophistication level that’s achievable with Ziva technology. Case in point: Emma’s model was trained with more than 30TB of unique 4D data using ZRT Trainer, which enables her to emote over 72,000 trained shapes and achieve entirely novel face poses—resulting in realistic animations. Soon, Unity contends, this capability will be available to artists of all skill levels.
Unity has been purchasing various companies and collecting their technology. This includes the acquisition of Weta Digital’s tools, technology, and engineering group in late 2021. Unity has said that the Ziva acquisition will enable it to use machine learning to speed up the process of making the tools from the Weta deal available for real-time 3D via the cloud.