Ubisoft shows off ZooBuilder, an AI prototype designed to animate animals

Ubisoft showed off its ZooBuilder AI tool, a project the publisher has mentioned before in its early stages. It is essentially software that can be fed video footage of animals, which will be analyzed frame by frame, before building animated skeletons from the visual data. This thing builds lions. Type.

“It all started when we couldn’t find a volunteer to mount the mocap suit on a bear,” tweeted the Ubisoft La Forge account. But the ZooBuilder project has been going on behind the scenes at the publishing giant for many years, first mentioned publicly in 2020 when it was presented at a symposium specializing in animation. The project started at Ubisoft China’s AI & Data Lab, but is now being developed at Ubisoft La Forge, which is a Canadian studio dedicated to building technical prototypes based on the latest academic research.

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As explained in the video, one of the problems animators face with animals is quite obvious: they have different shapes and sizes, with different skeletal structures. I’m not going to pretend I understand how the next part works, but according to what Ubisoft said, ZooBuilder is a bunch of algorithms that are fed basic data about animals and a bunch of raw images, which it uses to learn patterns. , which then creates synthetic or artificial data – so this thing must somehow start producing fairly reasonable animation gear for a given creature.

There’s also a practical element to this: you’re not going to get a realistic leopard in a motion capture studio. But you can show the relentless algorithms endless images of them.

All this means what, exactly? Nothing yet for the player, as ZooBuilder has not been used in Ubisoft’s current productions. Given that the publisher is suddenly highlighting, however, it will obviously have a role in the future and it will primarily be to remove the busy work of the animators.

The idea is not that Ubisoft’s games are suddenly filled with AI-animated fauna, but that its developers can almost effortlessly prototype fully animated 3D animals, after which a human hand can refine what ZooBuilder has produced to end up with the final form. The theory goes that you give the human artist more time on the polish and the small details, while letting the AI ​​do the heavy lifting, and you’ll end up with a higher quality end product: so keep an eye out for Far Cry 8 in 2027, when it’s likely we’ll find out if Ubisoft did it.

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