Develop continues its profiles of emerging and leading technology
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WHAT IS IT: An animation engine add-on that allows creature customisation in the pipeline
PRICE: See web
IKinema is a company that knows how to make developers feel good about where their profession sits in the grand scheme of the universe.
Its animation technology started life at the Surrey Space Centre, where, in its rudimentary form, it was crafted as a tool to control satellites orbiting earth.
That wasn’t enough, however, for the tech’s developer Alexandre Pechev, who wanted to “expand the horizons” of his creation beyond the final frontier. And so he identified games development as a place where what became IKinema would better thrive. Admit it, it feels pretty cool to be in the industry to which man’s journey to the stars plays mere technological stepping stone.
In all seriousness, IKinema offers an intriguing new tool for animators, enabling full-body solving during gameplay that is applicable to all creatures.
“IKinema has three main elements that make it quite unique,” explains IKinema CEO Pechev. “The first one is that it produces very organic and natural body behaviour in run-time. It can animate any creature, from a dragon to a spider, or from a human to a tree, or anything that an artist can design and put a mesh and bone structure inside.”
The tool, designed to be user-friendly, and currently available as middleware in its own right or as a plug in for tools including Maya and Trinigy Engine, also incorporates balance, gravity and force into the solving; something its creators believe makes it quite unique. With more engine integrations and offline versions expected, IKinema hopes to be a prolific tool in the coming months.
“It doesn’t replace the current animation engines, so it is not an animation engine itself,” continues Pechev. “It is a customisation or add-on to those engines. It provides a way – in the pipeline – to fully customise your creature to the scene, taking on the relationship with physics.”
“It is also very fast, and very compact, and is the same tool you can have in your pipeline, and design games from iPhone to web and PS3,” adds the CEO. “It’s the same API, the same way of handling everything. You don’t have to change anything.”
Retargeting is also one of IKinema’s most powerful features, meaning the tool can blend joint data from stored animation or mocap to automatically adapt creature movement in run-time. Such functionality gives this relatively new technology a fighting chance in the increasingly competitive world of animation middleware.
Primed for Kinect and Move, and rapidly moving to embrace new forms of mobile and web gaming, IKinema is fast becoming a name to watch.