Epic’s Unreal Engine Teases ‘MetaHuman’: A Revolutionary Tool To Generate CGI People

Boris Boguslavsky / February 18, 2021
Video & image credit: Unreal Engine

Unreal Engine has recently introduced software that could be a game changer in the industries of visual effects, game development, architectural visualization, environmental design, and others.

MetaHuman is an interactive, cloud-based tool to generate CGI people. The people are highly-customizable, come fully rigged for animations, are compatible with most industry-standard software (such as Autodesk Maya).

Why is MetaHuman necessary?

The problem of creating photo-realistic people has been a pervasive issue in just about every industry where CGI people are part of any kind of workflow. Many attempts have been made, and oftentimes, the solutions end up stuck in the uncanny valley.

Unreal Engine’s solution could be one that makes the lives of all those working in these industries considerably easier. No more inserting low-res 2D cutouts of people into architectural visualizations, no more wholesale purchases of 3D models of people (many of whom don’t really fit the scene you’re working with anyway), and no more struggling with different file formats and incompatible software.

What can MetaHuman do?

MetaHuman software screenshot showing a full view of a man standing
A huge variety of people can be generated, customized, rigged, and made ready to animate.
MetaHuman software screenshot showing beard styles
There are a variety of presents to choose from for skin, makeup, teeth, hair, eye color, and many other attributes.

The software is a cloud-streamed app, meaning that the underlying assets are not taking up space on the users’ hard drive, and integrates nicely with Unreal Engine’s existing cloud-streamed asset software.

MetaHuman seems to essentially be the people generator version of existing cloud-based CGI asset browsers/creators like Quixel Bridge (asset library for textures, models, etc.) and Quixel Mixer (a material and shader creator).

MetaHuman software screenshot showing hair styles
Hair can be customized to the users’ liking, with additional sliders that customize the chosen presets.
MetaHuman software screenshot showing eye makeup presets
Even eye shadow makeup has a variety of built-in presets to choose from.

Models generated with MetaHuman can be animated manually, or animated via performance capture tools. Unreal Engine is also working on providing compatibility with a wide variety of existing industry animation softwares, including ARKit, DI4D, Digital DomainDynamixyz, Faceware, JALI, Speech Graphics, and Cubic Motion.

MetaHuman software screenshot showing the ability to edit the geometry of people's faces. In this image, the user is dragging an anchor point on the nose
Facial geometry can be tweaked and manipulated to change the apparent bone structure. MetaHuman offers dozens of control points that users can move around to create truly unique looking people.
MetaHuman software screenshot showing a blend feature that allows the software to generate a 'blended' person that averages features between 2 or more other people
Users have the ability to average out the features of two or more people to create a blended result. One foreseeable way this could be used would be to generate a ‘child’ of two other people.

With this tool, independent artists and developers will be able to incorporate photo-realistic CGI humans into their projects without having to commit the costly resources they would have had to otherwise.

When does MetaHuman release?

MetaHuman Creator will be available for early-access users within a few months.

MetaHuman Creator will be ready for test-driving as part of an Early Access program within the next few months. Sign up to get all the news and updates straight to your inbox. 

Unreal Engine’s blog post introducing MetaHuman