THE VIRTUAL MADE VISCERAL
When we formed Ziva Dynamics, in April of 2015, we felt confident that there was a market for software that enabled real-time anatomically correct virtual bodies. What we weren’t prepared for was the intense human reaction when confronted — on-screen and in VR — by these same, anatomically correct characters.
Rewinding a bit — for the last two decades I’ve been a character artist and engineer in the visual effects (VFX) and animation sectors, culminating at Weta Digital in New Zealand, where I was honoured to have received a Science and Engineering Academy award for technology used in such films as Avatar, Planet of the Apes and the Hobbit. Throughout the course of my career, I believe that I have developed a deep understanding of the various techniques employed as well as compromises necessitated by industry constraints.
VFX, animation and game companies have not had access to commercially available, physics based, anatomical simulation software. The techniques that are currently employed throughout these industries are expensive to produce, don’t always achieve the desired qualitative results and are not scalable. I foresaw that these limitations would become even more profound when viewed in Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR). This presented me with a vacuum and therefore an opportunity.
Back to 2015, ZIVA— in stealth mode — embarked on some big plans and an ambitious road-map to fulfill this opportunity.
We wanted to make real-time virtual bodies that faithfully adhered to the laws of physics. Bodies composed of realistically simulated fat, bone, muscles and skin, that would do the right thing when placed into novel virtual environments.
This goal necessitated the development of a unique, highly technical piece of software. New techniques and algorithms needed to be invented, and we had to penetrate an insulated market — flush with VFX authoring software, customized interactive runtime engines, as well as huge teams of artists and engineers tackling these challenges in much the same way that I had throughout my career.
The challenge was great, but we were up to the task. We had grown a phenomenal team, loaded with talent and many decades of high-end experience. Yet there were still some very real risks in our path. Most notably, no one had done this before.
So to succeed, we not only had to deliver a product that could produce results that were technically superior, we also had to produce those results faster and cheaper than the companies in those target markets. And then substantiate our claims, by creating our own compelling and accurate anatomical simulations.
WHAT WE’VE ACHIEVED
This brings us to today.
ZIVA is now one year and three months old, yet the experiences of its team span more than 100 combined years. As a result, we are hitting our goals.
ZIVA VFX, our state-of-the-art offline physics-based Finite Element anatomy simulator, is currently being actively used to deliver characters and creatures in multiple tent-pole hollywood productions, many of which will be in theatres later this year.
We’ve completed a very successful beta program that includes 17 of the top performing VFX, animation, gaming and VR companies. The feedback we’ve received from top industry professionals has honed the focus of our iterations and helped us to gestate a mature product. With a formal unveiling of the complete Ziva Dynamics tech stack at SIGGRAPH ’16, we are commercially-proven and battle-tested.
THE VIRTUAL MADE VISCERAL
Yet beyond the artistic and technological improvements, and the resulting satisfaction of our users, there is something else, something that I’d hoped for, but didn’t expect to be as profound; the physical presence one feels when confronted with a virtual being.
Lifelike simulations, not feasible by other means, can now be produced. Humans, animals, creatures… even ghosts, powered by ZIVA, can transcend the artistic and technological limitations that were previously imposed on VFX and game developers.
And there is so much more to come. Our ambition is great, and we have only just begun to transform expectations around what is considered possible.
This has been a very exciting and rewarding one year and three months, but it is obvious to all of us at ZIVA that our most exciting days are still ahead of us. I look forward to continuing down this path, with a growing community of supporters — both real and virtual.
CEO, Ziva Dynamics