Here’s a kid-centric product from Meta that isn’t likely to incur the wrath of regulators.
Through its division Meta AI, the company formerly known as Facebook has developed Animated Drawings, a “first-of-its-kind” tool that automatically animates children’s drawings of human-like figures. Provided the drawing is clear enough, the software can identify the figure, isolate it from the wider drawing, rig it, and make it dance about. Try it here.
The achievement here is to have trained the AI to understand the level of abstraction with which children draw. We may recognize a blob pierced with giant misshapen limbs as a kid’s idea of a person, but such drawings initially flummoxed the software. Children depict people in a huge variety of ways, and Meta had to get their tool to recognize as many of these as possible. The team detail the development process in a blog post.
I tried Animated Drawings with a doodle of my own — I draw like a child anyway — and it worked: the tool correctly identified the character and its joints (although I had the option to tweak the rigging manually). Twenty seconds after I’d uploaded it, my doodle was hopping and moonwalking with abandon.
This breakthrough has implications for automated animation of other things — after all, abstraction is not restricted to children, as many great animated films demonstrate. The Meta AI team certainly sees more possibilities ahead: “By teaching AI to work effectively with this quintessential human form of creativity, we hope this project will move us closer to building AI that can understand the world from a human point of view.”
Animation is becoming increasingly important to Meta, which is positioning itself as a flagbearer for the metaverse. If it takes off as the company hopes, the metaverse — a realm populated by digital avatars — will involve a whole lot of real-time animation.