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VentureBeat has written on multiple occasions about Move AI, the four-year-old, UK-based company that makes a smartphone app capable of generating 3D motion capture models from standard 2D video.
Now, the company that threatens to upend the longstanding traditional, expensive, and time-consuming method of 3D motion capture used for sports, film, TV, video games, and music videos — putting ping pong ball-like “markers” over a subject’s face or body and capturing them with specialized cameras — has gotten more funding to make its tech even better.
Today, Move AI announced it has raised $10 million in a seed round from Play Ventures, Warner Music Group, RKKVC, Level2 Ventures, and Animoca Brands.
The support from Warner Music Group signals interest from leading established brands in entertainment, and shows an obvious appetite for using Move AI’s markerless motion capture tech to create music videos and new music performance experiences (holograms, anyone?).
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“Our goal at Move AI is to democratise 3D animation,” says Move AI’s co-founder and CEO Tino Millar. “We are excited to use this funding round to double down on our efforts to reduce the cost of 3D animation and make it more accessible to creators.”
Singe-device motion capture coming up
At present, Move AI’s free iOS app requires the user to place at least two smartphone cameras (and a maximum of six) around the subject. An experimental mode also supports Android devices and other digital cameras.
However, earlier in the summer, the company revealed exclusively to VentureBeat that it planned to offer a single-camera app in September 2023, and along with the funding announcement today, provided an update on that solution.
A new app, called “Move One,” is now accepting applications to its invitation-only beta testing mode, and Move AI is highlighting single-camera motion captures from initial users via social posts on its website.
In its news release on the funding round, Move AI said that Move One’s “public launch will be later this year.”
Implications for entertainment
The implications of Move AI’s ascent for the entertainment industry are vast, especially coming on the heels of the end of the 2023 writers’ strike, ongoing Hollywood actors’ strike, and recent strike authorization for video game performers (if a contract cannot be agreed upon).
As VentureBeat explored in our deep dive report on 3D scanning and AI usage in Hollywood, 3D scanning and AI technologies have largely been two separate branches in Hollywood until recently. Auteur directors such as James Cameron and David Fincher pioneered the use of 3D actor scanning in their films The Abyss and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, respectively, but the technology has since spread to multiple vendors around the world.
However, those vendors have largely simply provided the hardware systems and basic software for capturing 3D models. They have not moved much into AI solutions yet, though one company, Digital Domain, provided VentureBeat with a document explaining that it was exploring generative AI as a way of creating fully “digital human” characters that could emote and perform without human actors serving as the basis for their behaviors (Digital Domain said this was likely to be used in non-entertainment industries, such as hospitality and customer service).
Yet Move AI is one of the leading consumer and “pro”-sumer facing companies seeking to bridge the gap, using its own proprietary AI models to take 2D video and convert it into 3D motion, a non-trivial task. Most other 2D-to-3D scanning apps and technologies, such as Neural Radiance Fields (NeRFs) and 3D Gaussian Splatting are usually limited to static scenes.
Indeed, Move AI had to develop an extensive “understanding human motion in physics and statistics” in order to code its underlying algorithms, according to a previous comment from Millar to VentureBeat.
With Move AI, the cost of creating effects-driven films, video games, music videos, sports analysis, and other forms of art and entertainment is poised to drop dramatically, and to CEO Millar’s point, could open up creative potential for many amateurs and aspiring creators.
“We believe we can make it 100 to 1,000 times cheaper to do than with motion capture suits, while maintaining the quality, and making it much more accessible to people,” Millar previously told us.
Yet it could also be used by studios to undercut their talent by 3D scanning their work for a limited time and re-using it in perpetuity — something the actors’ union is currently standing firmly against — as well as to create unauthorized captures of individuals.
Either way, with more funding, it appears Move AI is going to make 3D motion capture even more accessible, likely putting it in the hands of many more people than ever before.
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