In today’s ever-evolving digital landscape, crafting a realistic immersive experience for customers can be a game changer for global businesses. Creating convincing digital characters can enhance customer engagement and satisfaction, provide personalized and efficient support, and build trust in a brand.

However, as animation becomes more realistic our expectations of how digital characters perform increase as well. Animations that are not quite right can lead to a feeling of unease or even revulsion, often described as the ‘uncanny valley’.

Lets look at some critical concepts in facial animation and how to avoid pitfalls by using world-leading artificial intelligence solutions – based on 20 years of research – to breathe life into digital characters and establish empathy with clients.

Eyes are the window to authenticity

In many traditions throughout history, eyes are considered a ‘window to the soul’. The phrase has stood the test of time and conveys the depth and emotional expression that can be perceived through one’s eyes.

Therefore, it is no surprise that the eyes play a pivotal role in determining the nature of a digital character. Characters with ‘dead eyes’ can leave audiences unsettled and passionate dialogue can fall flat if emotion does not reach the eyes.

By synchronizing eye movements with the context of a scene one can create impactful animation, effectively conveying emotions and intentions. Whether it be rolling eyes during a heated discussion or a playful wink, subtle movements of the eyes can help us to build truly authentic communications.

In the video below, Creatures United used Rapport technology to bring to life an animated Clouded Leopard. Notice how a combination of subtle eye movements, blinks, and even the pupils changing size, all contribute to the telling of a more compelling story.

Listen to your customers through head movement

Similarly to eye movement, subtle head movements can bring to life a digital character, reducing a stiff robotic look. For instance, a slight tilt of the head combined with a smile can express warmth or friendliness helping to bridge the gap between the digital and physical realms.

Head movement is particularly important when a character is meant to be listening or thinking about their reply, making it critical when a digital character is dealing with customers to make them feel comfortable and heard.

A tilt of the head can indicate curiosity or interest while nodding along can signal agreement or understanding. Overall, subtle head movements can enhance the character’s ability to communicate effectively with users without relying solely on dialogue adding another layer of realism.

Include your customers: language and cultural nuances

To reach global markets, businesses need global solutions. Localizing a product to make sure that your users or customers can understand it is paramount to reaching new markets. However, localizing in multiple languages takes significant time and resources to do effectively.

AI-powered facial animation, trained in various languages, can help to cut the cost of animating additional languages and enable organizations to increase their audience across the globe with fewer hurdles.

Georgia Clarke, head of data and linguistics at Speech Graphics, says that “language and cultural-specific nuances are too often overlooked in animation, which has long focused on a select few widely-spoken languages… animators must be able to adapt to this challenge”.

Speech Graphics

She adds: “The same phonemes – perceptually distinct units of sound – used in one language will not simply translate to another. Each language has its own set of phonemes – and this can differ further between dialects, between people, and even within a person’s own speech.”

Rapport’s technology allows animators to think beyond traditional approaches to animation and consider language, dialect, or even speaker-specific nuances and their corresponding muscle movements. We understand the importance of cultural context and work closely with animators to ensure that digital characters align with cultural expectations, avoiding potential jarring effects.

Our expertise in language and cultural nuances is one of the main reasons Culture Foundry trusted us to help them on their mission to revitalize and preserve indigenous languages in Canada and pass them along to future generations.

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