Why did PUBG Developers Krafton Build ANA, their First Virtual Human?

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On June 16, 2022, Krafton, the PUBG game developer, unveiled the very first images of ANA. According to Krafton, ANA is the company’s virtual human that looks real and is powered by hyperrealism and machine learning. With features that are extremely humanly, ANA looks, unlike any other virtual human that currently tends to exist through other technologies. But the important question is, will ANA justify the (so-far) loose definition of the booming Metaverse?  

   So, who is ANA and how was she developed?  

ANA: The First Virtual Human by Krafton 

 Krafton is popular for PUBG and its upcoming Callisto Protocol. In February 2021, the company unveiled its initial plan of ANA via a technical demonstration.  However, today it has announced something different. The company teased its virtual human, ANA, which will apparently help Krafton establish its Web3 ecosystem.  

 ANA was built using Unreal Engine. If you are unfamiliar with the concept, Unreal Engine itself has a tool specifically for realistic digital people. In addition to that, she was created through (as Krafton describes) ‘hyperrealism, rigging and deep learning’.  

 We will be seeing more of ANA. As Krafton promises, its virtual human, as quoted by Krafton’s Head of the Creative Center Josh Seokjin Shin in a press release, it will “release an original music track and expand her scope of activity as an influencer into various areas across entertainment and esports.” 

 When Krafton previously announced its hyperrealistic technology, it also released a PUBG cinematic video demonstrating the current state of its virtual human technology. In the video, a group of PUBG competitors is battling a masked foe. Along with the intermixed uncanny valley moments, there are a few scenes that come razer-close to true realism. One of the characters, a woman who gets shot in the arm, looks like a clear ancestor of ANA.   

Why did PUBG Developers Krafton Build ANA, their First Virtual Human?

How Human-ish does ANA Appear?  

 Speaking of her appearance, ANA displays a hyper-realistic appearance—blurring the lines between a digital character and a real human. The highly-advanced face rigging technology delicately expresses the movement of the pupil, fine facial muscles and wrinkles, and enables the natural joint movement across her entire body. The company also said, “Additionally, deep learning technologies, such as advanced voice synthesis, help create an artificially intelligent voice for ANA so she can act and sing just like a real human.” 

 The issues mainly appear around the teeth, beyond-perfect skin and her plastic-looking fingers that are gently touching her face. However, the inclusion of these imperfections, including the faint pores, wrinkles and tiny baby hairs on the skin, make her look striking.   

Will ANA loosen the definition of Metaverse? 

 As of now, it is unclear whether ANA will fit into the loosely defined version of metaverse or Web3. In the past, Krafton has tried to tie knots with NFTs and Blockchain. However, in the meantime, it seems as if its realistic virtual human will attempt to become a popular celebrity. In the words of Josh Krafton, Krafton “expects her to attract the interest and popularity of Gen Z on a global level.” According to the company, ANA will release an original music track and expand her scope of activity as an influencer in various areas across entertainment and esports.  

 Krafton will be providing further updates on ANA later in 2022 in a ‘unique story arc’. The images of ANA reflect her human-ish look, despite a few issues with her appearance. Besides ANA’s face, skin and body technology, Krafton cites it is implementing deep learning to build an AI voice that will allow her to “act and sing like a real human.”Irrespective of the absence of a full-body image and a motion video of ANA, her debut could strike the right chords in the virtual world.