Coolest thing I've seen at GDC: software to animate anything

Coolest thing I’ve seen at GDC: software to animate anything

Coolest thing I’ve seen at GDC: software to animate anything

Star Trek’s holodeck is one of the most intriguing sci-fi technologies: you give a computer some verbal commands, and rumbling, you’re on the streets of 1940s San Francisco, or wherever you want to go. We may never have holograms you can touch, but the part where computers can generate any 3D scene you need is now being worked on by a small studio in London.

At the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco on Wednesday, Gordon Midwood, CEO of Anything World, asked me what I wanted to see. I said I wanted to see a donkey, and a few seconds later, a donkey was walking around the screen in front of us. Sure, it’s kind of like a horse walking, and yes, all it does is run around the fields, but those are just details. The software delivered on its basic promise: I asked for a donkey, and a donkey showed up.

In the next demonstration, Midwood removed his hands from the keyboard. “Let’s make an underwater world and add 100 sharks and a dolphin,” he said into the microphone. Seconds later, I saw a dolphin at the wrong party: 100 swimming sharks.

Developers who want to use any world as a game development or prototyping tool will integrate it into engines like Unity, but as Midwood has shown, it can also generate scenes, objects, and creatures on the fly. It’s the coolest thing I’ve seen at the GDC showroom, and others have noticed its potential. Roblox is exploring a deal with the company, and Ubisoft is already using the software for prototyping, as well as a collaborative project called Rabbids Playground.

how does this work

With so much blockchain stuff plaguing GDC, it’s comforting to see an old tech buzzword: any world uses machine learning algorithms, developed in part in a research project at the University of London that continues more than a year. In short, they built automated methods for teaching systems how to analyze 3D models from sources like Sketchfab, and sort, segment, arrange, and animate (or not animate) them in ways that make sense to humans. ). Now it can be extracted from over 500,000 models.

Of course, sometimes any world can go wrong: The software once thought a table was a quadruped, and another time it thought the top of a pineapple was a spider’s leg, which was “horrible,” Midwood said.

It’s still early days (at least compared to Star Trek: The Next Generation, which took place in the 2360s), but even at this rather crude stage, seeing how the 3D models it provides with the 3D models it knows about the movement of animals —I feel strangely proud of my trotting donkey, as if it were my duty to give it life by asking for it.

For non-developers, Midwood believes any world has the potential to be a super easy-to-use game creation tool, or just something fun and useful. For example, you can use it to dynamically create a green screen scene while streaming, or actually treat it as a holodeck computer, put on a VR headset and request a relaxing scene.

Meta (the company formerly known as Facebook) showed something similar last month, but without the animated creatures. In response, Anything World released a mock demo. Explaining what people want at the level of natural language is probably one of the ultimate goals of all software, so it’s no surprise that there is competition in the field of “making things appear in 3D by requiring them”. However, any World’s technology now looks more powerful than Meta’s. It’s also a fairly small company, with six machine learning experts and nine others working on the tool’s technology.

In the future, Anything World plans to release a version with higher fidelity models and animations — it’s coming to an Unreal Engine version soon, and plans to utilize Epic’s Quixel model — as well as its own consumer app. Now it works with Unity.

Any world is a long way from the Star Trek computer’s understanding of the physical world — I suspect it knows nothing about 1940s San Francisco — but just because donkeys might walk like horses now doesn’t mean they will tomorrow. Midwood won’t promise me holodecks just yet, but he believes the system’s ability to tag and animate 3D models will only get more elaborate and sophisticated.

Shark-infested waters made for me. (Image credit: Any World)

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Bart Thompson
Bart is's List Writer . He is from Houston, Texas, and is currently pursuing a bachelor's degree in creative writing, majoring in non-fiction writing. He likes to play The Elder Scrolls Online and learn everything about The Elder Scrolls series.