Sansar Product Meetings week #24: more on Avatar 2.0

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The majority of the following notes were taken from my recording of the Sansar Product Meeting held on Thursday, June 13th, which primarily focused on the upcoming Avatar 2.0 release. The official video of the meeting is embedded at the end of this article.

R33 Update

A third R33 Give More, Get More update was deployed on June 11th. This comprises:

  • A new ability to copy and paste components within the “Object Structure” panel – creators can copy and paste audio, light, and script components in the ‘Object Structure’ panel via the right-click context menu. Components may be pasted within an object, or into another object.
  • A fix to prevent crashing when editing scenes that have objects with joints.

Avatar 2.0

Target Release Periods

  • The target date for the initial Avatar 2.0 update is early September 2019.
  • It is hoped that the Avatar 2.0 reference files will be available for release to creators in early August 2019
    • This is to allow creators to gain familiarity with the new skeleton ahead of support being deployed to Sansar, and to start updating those items they make / sell that require adjustment / re-rigging to work with Avatar 2.0.
    • As a part of this, the Lab will be running a Creator Programme, this will:
      • Allow creators to develop assets (avatar, rigged items for avatars, etc., and pass them to linden Lab for testing in an environment the Lab has that support Avatar 2.0, then allow creators to receive feedback on their assets: did they work, were there problems, did things not fit as expected, do adjustments need to be made, etc.
      • Be open to all interested creators, and details on how to participate will be made available when the avatar reference files are released.
      • It is noted that this may not be as effective as creators testing their items directly; however, as there is no public beta testing environment, there is no real alternative.

General Notes

  • This is both a new avatar skeleton and mesh. As noted in my previous meeting notes, this will support:
    • Bone deformation, allowing the avatar’s face to be directly selected and shaped / contoured / scaled as the user wants (default avatars only with the initial release, but will hopefully be extended to support custom avatars in later releases.
      • Facial presets will be a part of this, allowing users to make adjustments to their avatar’s face from a pre-set look.
      • These presets will extend to allowing creators to make and sell their own facial presets.
    • Blend shapes (initially just for the base avatar, but hopefully to be extended to support custom avatars).
    • Support for uploading and using custom skins for the base avatar.
  • A large part of the reasons behind the update are: to support bone deformation; to make the avatar more expressive, and to allow users to give their avatars more in the way of individuals looks.
  • Avatar 2.0 has:
    • A skeleton with 170 bones (compared to the 230 for Avatar 1.0), which should simplify skinning to it.
    • Bone-based facial deformation (rather than blend shapes) to better support both facial deformation and to support attachments that will correctly move in response to changes to the facial bone structure.
    • A more neutral avatar mesh to better support deformation.
    • A set of skeletons, from “complex” to “simple”, to make it easier to develop custom avatars (if you have an avatar design that doesn’t require all 170 bones, use one of the simpler versions).
  • It is acknowledged Avatar 2.0 represents a substantial change (particularly the male avatar).
  • Both the male and female default avatars will be of the same shoulder height (but obviously this can be adjusted through the uniform scaling option).
  • The overall aims for Avatar 2.0 is to provide an avatar system that:
    • Meets requirements as expressed by creators, and which forms a solid foundation for all future avatar enhancements / updates without having to completely overhaul the entire avatar system again.
    • Can be used to develop avatars using the default avatars which can in turn be solid through the Sansar Store.
    • Can be used to create wholly custom avatars.
  • Avatar 2.0 sees a re-working of the procedural speech animations and some IK reworking, both of which should result in improvements in animations and VR-related movements during body tracking.

Avatar 1.0 and Avatar 2.0

  • The Lab will not continue with supporting Avatar 1.0 when the new avatar is deployed.
  • Rigged objects (hair, clothes) designed for Avatar 1.0 will need to be re-rigged for Avatar 2.0.
  • There will be little in the way of bone matching between Avatar 1.0 and Avatar 2.0 (although creators can obviously do re-mapping through their own tools, if they wish, allowing for the potential of texture stretching).
  • As recorded in my previous meeting notes:
    • The Lab has been working on Marvelous Designer scaling and translation. This, together with a clothing translation tool LL are working on, should allow MD clothing to be more easily updated to fit the new avatar skeleton. However, some of this may be limited due to the fact that MD only support uniform scaling.
    • Run-time re-targeting in being introduced to allow animations and emotes using the core bones should work with Avatar 2.0.
      • Very specific custom animations may require the creator to re-target.
    • Similarly, a re-mapping capability for attachments is being looked at, primarily aimed at allowing attachments to be moved between attach points, but which may also ease some of the transition to the new skeleton.
  • Compensation / redelivery: it has been intimated:
    • Those who have purchased custom avatars / rigged items using the current avatar may receive some form of refund / stipend from the Lab in lieu of no longer being able to use those avatars.
    • Some form of update system will be made available to creators to allow them to make updates to items they’ve made specific to the current avatar to work with Avatar 2.0, and notify customers the update is available.

Capabilities Release Order

  • Lab’s first priority is to get Avatar 2.0 working smoothly enough for an initial release, which will support facial deformation.
  • Open things to allow texture (e.g. skin) uploads that can be applied to the base avatar (providing skin uploads for custom avatars is regarded as a harder option to support, due to the need to support custom UV maps).
  • Then extend support to full body bone deformation etc.

Custom Avatar Skeleton Pre-Morphing

This is a “would like to have” from the Lab. The idea is that for custom avatars with unusual both shapes (e.g. a gorilla with longer arms, shorter legs and a tapered torso), the skeleton can be morphed and skinned through Maya (or other tool), thus avoiding the need to additional UV work to avoid stretched textures when users adjust the avatar. The morphed skeleton (and skin) can then be uploaded into Sansar and run-time animation re-targeting can be used to ensure the default animations / emotes work with it.

Ultimately, the Lab would like to get to the point of supporting fully customised animations / locomotion graphs, but this is still a way off, and this is seen as a good initial step to help better support custom avatars.

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