VH (Virtual Human) is a project which I coordinated as Art Director at Talespin from 2018 up until 2020 and it is still ongoing. Its intent is to provide users an educational experience in which they learn specific soft skills through simulated conversation in Virtual Reality.
Basically you put on a VR headset, such as the Oculus Quest and then you will find yourself in an office with our VH sitting across from you. You engage in conversation with a specific goal in mind, which you are prompted prior to the simulation. You actually have to speak aloud and form your own sentences. The system registers your words and determines your intent to which the VH will respond accordingly, progressing through the conversation successfully or not.
The project has been a huge challenge in many facets and I could speak for a long time on the systems and methods we have designed and employed to achieve our results. From my perspective as an Art Director it has been a very different focus from what I have worked on before. The specifics and boundaries have made it a huge challenge and learning experience.
The Virtual Humans have to look very convincing and run well (65+ fps) on the Oculus Quest which is essentially a mobile platform. In addition the characters need to animate convincingly in a non-linear dynamic narrative realistically. We have had to come up with very out of the box solutions to make it all possible.
To the left are some of our VH’s in various poses and clothing configurations. These gorgeous renders were made by Tim Wierma.
My role in the project as Art Director grew into being involved with everything while not being very hands-on myself. With these images for example I helped out by providing a briefing and advice with lighting and posing. Teamwork makes it all possible but I can’t take credit for many of the images on this page by myself even if I was the one with ultimate responsibility.
For the characters themselves, the heads started as 3d scans which we purchased online. We did refine them a lot and adopted the geometry and textures to our own topography, rigging solution and qualitative requirements. Aside from the heads, we developed our own content from scratch for everything else. All with being interchangeable and optimization in mind.
For this project I was unable to be as hands-on with character development as I would usually like to be. The project required such high-level specialization and coordination that I found myself more in a managerial role. I did not mind this as I got to learn so much about Next-Gen character development just by being involved in designing the overall pipeline and letting experts getting down into the nitty-gritty.
- Management, briefing and review
- Taking the lead in research and development
- Pipeline and workflow design
- Collaborative iteration of all assets for aesthetics, consistency and performance optimization
- Design and briefing of proprietary solutions
- Sourcing of assets and systems
- Showcasing process for clients and higher management
- Building and lighting environments
We created a number of environments for the simulations to take place. Here I was able to be a little bit more hands on. I briefed and reviewed and put the final hand on lighting, atmospherics, material consistency and overall refinement. In some cases I started with a blockout for another artist to continue with and a few of these environments.
We also created a few environments other than offices and these were fun to do. In the gallery below is shown a Lobby environment, which was done by me entirely. I also did a lot of work on the garage environment, specifically decoration, lighting, atmospherics and construction materials. Finally there is also a Lounge environment which I did not touch at all but this was made a two junior artists whom I coached and mentored in the process. They did not have much experience in building an environment from scratch and we are all very proud of the results. As such I still felt inclined to include it as it is a demonstration of my mentoring capabilities.