Researcher Spotlight: Ari Shapiro

Published: January 22, 2013
Category: News

Ari Shapiro leads the development of ICT’s SmartBody application, an animation system for 3-D games that synchronizes speech, gesturing and facial and body motion, particularly for interactive virtual humans.
Shapiro’s advances open opportunities for more complex and less costly games and simulations by providing automated processes for character creation, and were recognized with a best paper award at the recent International Conference on Motion in Games. Characters can be downloaded or acquired from a digital marketplace, then instantly infused with various skills and behaviors, avoiding a costly art pipeline. The number and variety of skills will be continue to be built over time, enabling greater complexity and variation.
In combination with Cerebella, a companion system that intelligently generates a character’s non-verbal behavior developed by ICT’s Stacy Marsella, an entire 3-D character performance can be automatically generated from only the audio signal. Future applications could include the creation of videos, tv shows, cartoons using only an audio track.
Using SmartBody end users can now embody their 3-D characters with realistic behaviors without the time and expense of involving specialists. The art budget is one of the most expensive aspects of making games and movies and SmartBody can significantly reduce the costs.  People in the research community are already using the application and it has caught the attention of the game industry.
For several years, Shapiro worked on character animation tools and algorithms in the research and development departments of visual effects and video games companies such as Industrial Light and Magic, LucasArts and Rhythm and Hues Studios. He has worked on many feature-length films, and holds film credits in The Incredible Hulk and Alvin and the Chipmunks 2. In addition, he holds video games credits in the Star Wars: The Force Unleashed series.
He has published many academic articles in the field of computer graphics in animation for virtual characters, and is a five-time SIGGRAPH speaker. Shapiro completed his Ph.D. in computer science at UCLA in 2007 in the field of computer graphics with a dissertation on character animation using motion capture, physics and machine learning. He also holds an M.S. in computer science from UCLA, and a B.A. in computer science from the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Watch a video demonstration of SmartBody and Cerebella below. Note that nothing in the 3D character’s performance was hand generated – it’s all automated.