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Digital humans that sign make more content accessible to the deaf community



Accessibility is a cornerstone of our society but for many people it’s still a challenge.


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In what seems to be a world first New Zealand tech company have announced that they’ve been using Epic’s photorealistic Unreal gaming engine to create unbelievably realistic digital humans that are capable of translating a variety of languages and media types into sign language for the deaf community.


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Furthermore, it turns out that thanks to Unreal’s new MetaHuman Creator that lets developers make believable human characters in “less than an hour” their characters are about to get a huge upgrade.

The new MetaHuman Creator is like a character creator in a game, but with a much wider range of capabilities, and once that character is done being made it comes fully rigged and ready to be animated in Unreal Engine. And the results are so good that some people think it’s a little creepy.


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Epic released two sample characters created in MetaHuman Creator, and both of them are so realistic that it’s hard to tell that they’re not even real people.


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While games are the most likely application of the new tool Kara Technologies had other ideas for Epic’s new toy. Kara is the New Zealand-based company that developed Niki, their first digital human that can translate “a variety of media content such as video, audio, or text into a signed language.”

Niki isn’t just some avatar moving her hands, though. Niki’s facial expressions are fully animated with hundreds of micro-expressions – something that’s a really important factor when it comes to communicating with the deaf community.

It also looks like Niki might have some new competition after Kara released an updated version of its signing avatar using one of the MetaHuman models that Epic released with MetaHuman Creator, and it took less than a week for this incredible animation to be born.


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Kara hopes that MetaHumans may one day lead to an even better signing avatar than Niki that could include a fuller range of human expressions and reduce project turn-around by as much as 80% – but while that’s great the real beneficiaries of the new project will be the deaf community who all of a sudden will have access to tons of new content that companies previously didn’t provide signing services for.

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