games

Transform into a Metaverse-enabled avatar

If Mark Zuckerberg is right, the Metaverse will be the 3D successor to today’s 2D social media platforms. But to get there in style, we need to polish up our virtual images.

YOOM wants to be your next generation avatar maker.

In the online gaming world, avatars are a digital representation of a player. They can look like the actual person or be digitally enhanced. Do you want to breathe fire like a dragon or wear Viking horns? Sure, why not.

In the not-too-distant past, creating a realistic avatar that could move naturally through digital space required a dedicated studio equipped with cameras, bespoke software, and enough computers to handle the processing needs.

YOOM creates the same illusion using a few off-the-shelf cameras, artificial intelligence, and computer vision software.

“If I want to be in World of Warcraft or Roblox [a popular gaming platform with 1.7 billion users], I can use my phone to create my own avatar. I can extend it to look like an elf or make me look like a puffer,” Gilad Talmon, CEO of YOOM, tells ISRAEL21c.

The avatar gets the 3D treatment courtesy of motion capture algorithms, the same technology used to bring Golem into the game Lord of the Rings or Caesar in the planet of monkeys Movies look realistic. The effect works best when the player is wearing virtual reality (VR) goggles — or at least an augmented reality (AR) headset.

It’s not just for games.

“If you want to watch a Travis Scott rap performance in Fortnite, you can go as yourself and spend time with your friends,” Talmon explains.

Exactly how to be there? Not quite, but as the metaverse grows in complexity, will we eventually be unable to tell the difference?

The algorithm does all the work

Pros can use YOOM to create avatars for players to choose from. This is not an easy task. Consider Keanu Reeves in the video game The Matrix awakens.

“They had to do a motion capture of his face and his whole body, and they needed a 3D artist to clean up the capture and the motion,” Talmon explains.

“It’s a long and costly process to reach high-end levels. With our technology, only the video is filmed and you get super high fidelity. The algorithm does all the work and then applies it to all the pipelines you have.”

Founded in 2016 as Tetavi, the company has been renamed YOOM to better describe what it does: “volumetric capture” or capturing images in three dimensions. When these images are played back one after the other, they create the impression of movement. (By comparison, a video is a sequence of 2D images.)

Transform into a Metaverse-enabled avatar
YOOM CEO Gilad Talmon. Photo courtesy of YOOM

“It’s a very fluid motion, not like the motion you typically see in games,” says Talmon. “The facial expressions look real.”

Talmon joined YOOM from aerospace company Elbit, where he worked on projects that “brought the connected helmet from the world of fighter pilots to civilian uses like search and rescue.”

3 petabytes of data

An avatar created by YOOM can be “gamified” by developers to perform additional tasks that the player cannot perform in real life. How about jumping over tall buildings with one jump?

This requires a lot of data, which YOOM has in abundance.

“We scanned thousands of people,” says Talmon. “Different ages, different regions, different body shapes and hairstyles. We have a repository of three petabytes of data.”

Artificial intelligence fills most of the gaps. “If you see creases on the front of my shirt, you can assume they continue down the back. If there’s a player number on the front of a jersey, you can be pretty sure it’s on the back as well. But if I have a tattoo on my back, you’ll never guess.”

The professional version of YOOM software is “accurate to sub-millimeters,” Talmon claims.

The Home version, due out this year, is less demanding. But the stakes aren’t that high either. “If you missed a bit of hair or a bit of ponytail, you don’t care. All you have to do to get yourself into a game is take a picture. The algorithm does the rest.”

music videos, sports

There are many possible use cases for YOOM.

For example, musicians Besomorph and Riell have created videos using YOOM technology.

Most music videos today use a green screen to put the artist in a non-existent background. “Setting up can take hours,” says Talmon.

YOOM allows developers to create the musician’s motion-realistic avatar and then place it in a 3D environment where it can work almost independently.

Do you want to sing a duet with Beyonce where you are both in the video? YOOM can do that. (Beyonce would have to be a YOOM customer, of course.)

“It creates a new level of interaction between artists and their fan bases,” says Talmon.

In 2020, at the height of the Covid pandemic, then-Israeli President Reuven Rivlin used YOOM technology (when it was still called Tetavi) to record an Independence Day greeting and invited citizens to take a selfie with a virtual version of themselves to do it yourself.

The Los Angeles Kings used YOOM software to become the first NHL team to enter the Metaverse.

YOOM brought its portable production studio to the Kings practice facility in California and filmed players practicing in full gear while eight cameras captured their movements.

The same process was used to film the Kings lion mascot, Bailey, beating a drum and dancing around. The final product was shown on the arena’s video screens.

Great plans

YOOM has raised a total of $50 million and has 80 employees in New York, Tokyo, Los Angeles and Tel Aviv. The company has a licensing and royalty model similar to that of game publishers like Unity, Roblox, and Epic Games.

“We’re essentially trying to change the way people communicate,” Talmon tells ISRAEL21c.

“I view human communication as the transmission of messages from one person to another. The majority of human communication today takes place via flat screens. We’re trying to bring that into the 3D world, where it’s more natural than the conversation happening together in the same room.”

We’re only at the tip of the iceberg, Talmon points out. “We still have no idea where this will lead. We’re going to focus on gaming first because that already exists. In the long run it will really change the way people communicate.”

With the metaverse still five to 10 years away, Talmon adds, “This immersive virtual environment is here today. If we think about where the world is going, it has the potential to bring a huge net good to society.”

Click here to learn more about YOOM.

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