Fortnite maker Epic Games has acquired 3Lateral, a startup that makes tools that makes crafting digital humans easier. This tool finds use in video games, animated entertainment, and enterprise applications.
The Novi Sad, Serbia-based 3Lateral will continue supporting game industry, film, and television partners in pursuit of perfecting the realism of digital humans, who will become an increasingly popular part of the landscape as a kind of friendly face on artificial intelligence technologies. Epic Games did not disclose the purchase price, though it can certainly afford the deal after raising $1.25 billion recently.
3Lateral will also work to improve the state of the art in Unreal Engine’s support for virtual humans and creatures.
In a separate announcement, Epic is also collaborating with Appodeal, a mobile ad monetization firm, to enable mobile game developers to easily monetize games built with Epic’s Unreal Engine.
“Creating digital humans requires a deep understanding of every aspect of our appearance and motion, both of which portray our inner self and tell stories around us. We read all these visual cues with great precision as instinct to analyze an image of another human being is deeply embedded in our DNA,” said Vladimir Mastilovic, founder and director of 3Lateral, in a statement. “Observing, analyzing and reconstructing these mechanisms has always fascinated us at 3Lateral, and we are excited to have joined a like-minded team at Epic Games with such strong desire to solve this near impossible problem.”
Epic and 3Lateral have worked on previous groundbreaking Unreal Engine-based collaborations, including the animated short “A Boy and His Kite”; real-time performance capture and movie-making in “Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice”; and the photorealistic, real-time “Siren” and “Digital Andy Serkis” demonstrations.
“Real-time 3D experiences are reshaping the entire entertainment industry, and digital human technology is at the forefront,” said Tim Sweeney, the founder and CEO of Epic Games, in a statement. “Fortnite shows that 200 million people can experience a 3D world together. Reaching the next level requires capturing, personalizing, and conveying individual human faces and emotions.”
Vladimir Mastilovic will lead Epic’s worldwide digital humans efforts; the 3Lateral team will continue to support all of its partners; and Epic’s new presence in Serbia will serve as a base for recruiting technical and creative talent in the region. 3Lateral was formed in 2008, and it has about 61 employees.
Money, money, money
Meanwhile, Appodeal said its collaboration with Unreal will help mobile game developers in the Unreal Engine ecosystem build, scale and optimize in-game ad monetization strategies. The Appodeal plugin is now available for free on the Unreal Engine 4 (UE4) marketplace.
“We’ve made great efforts to make the mobile ad market transparent and open to UE4 app developers,” says Pavel Golubev, Appodeal CEO and founder, in a statement. “We know that developers would rather spend their time doing what they do best — building games that conquer our minds. With this new upgrade, Appodeal simplifies ad monetization management, freeing up developers’ energy and time, and increasing ad revenue.”
Today, the Unreal Engine user-base is more than 6.3 million strong, and growing at an accelerated rate. The new Appodeal plugin gives those developers access to more than 60 ad demand sources to compete in real-time for each ad impression, allowing UE4 developers to maximize revenue quickly and efficiently. The set of new features includes analytics, A/B testing, user segmentation, and cross-promotion capabilities.