Last night I attended a Sansar meetup and a few things caught my attention. Obviously you can do social in Sansar, you don’t need a VR headset to get involved in a conversation, indeed with the text chat app you don’t need a headset of any sort, although the conversation was largely in voice and a voice headset definitely helps.
Some of the avatars moved, their arms would move when they spoke and I know at least one such avatar was wearing a VR headset but what took me more by surprise was the mouth movements and facial expressions of some of the avatars. At first I thought this was a feature of a VR headset but then one of the avatars mentioned that she was looking forward to getting a VR headset, but didn’t yet have one.
Now the facial expressions and mouth movement of this avatar had most caught my attention because at one time I’d convinced myself I could lip read her words.
A tweet later from Stanford VR explained to me what was likely to have been happening, Speech Graphics voice driven facial animations are apparently at work in Sansar, and if that’s true, they work bloody well.
At this point I think it’s a good idea to go to the blurb on the about page of the Speech Graphics website to explain a bit about what they do :
Speech Graphics delivers pioneering facial animation technology to the entertainment industry, working with clients such as Warner Brothers and Def Jam Recordings. Based on over 20 years of R&D in speech technology and procedural facial dynamics, our software produces high-quality facial animation from audio alone, with no need for motion capture.
The Edinburgh based company have had their work included in top rated games and won awards for their work, and it’s not hard to see why.
Obviously impressive technology alone doesn’t make a location social, it helps mind you, but you need people to make something social, so it’s a long road ahead for a venture like Sansar to not only attract people, but to keep them there.
As for the meetup, it was actually a social discussion that went into all sorts of directions, punch cards, Commodore 64, why people are having difficulty seeing the second series of Mr Robot and of course, a bit of discussion about Sansar. These discussions can be held inside and outside of virtual worlds of course, they are not location specific.
People are at the heart of the social experience of course, other people in the main, unless of course I’m already in a virtual world and the rest of you are AI bots who are just humouring me …. I hope that’s not the case because I’m not getting anywhere near enough achievements!
Anyway, Speech Graphics looks like it brings an added dimension to a virtual world experience, if that’s what I witnessed last night then it is impressive.