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Square Enix, Microsoft, NVIDIA Point Way Through Uncanny Valley at Microsoft BUILD

Square Enix, Microsoft, NVIDIA Point Way Through Uncanny Valley at Microsoft BUILD

Many tech demos end in tears. Square Enix’s moving demo during the keynote at Microsoft’s BUILD 2015 developer conference this week might be the first where that’s exactly the point. In collaboration with NVIDIA and Microsoft, Square Enix – maker of the Final Fantasy series of video games – stunned the BUILD audience with a research project called WITCH CHAPTER 0 [cry]. The project portrays human crying — considered one of the most difficult emotions to recreate digitally — at a level of quality never seen before with a real-time, computer-generated character. It’s a demo that may come to represent a milestone in an industry that has long-struggled to cross the “uncanny valley.”


Coined by pioneering roboticist Masahiro Mori nearly 50 years ago, the term describes the boundary where emotional realism in the digital world begins to blur with reality — and creates a sense of the strange, or even revulsion, in human observers. Overcoming this sensation has been a stretch goal for computer-generated graphics for decades.

It’s a task that’s even tougher when performed in real time. WITCH CHAPTER 0 [cry] project, powered by Microsoft’s new DirectX 12 application programming interface (API) and NVIDIA GeForce graphics, points to a way through the uncanny valley. Bringing more reality and depth to character expressions will better immerse players in stories during game-play, and deepen their connection to characters. GeForce GTX graphics were among the next-generation technologies Square Enix put to use with help from our NVIDIA GameWorks Effects Studio. Square Enix also conducted extensive research on real-time CG technology using DirectX 12. The results will be incorporated into Square Enix’s Luminous Studio engine.

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During the BUILD conference, Microsoft unveiled the research project running on four of our flagship NVIDIA GeForce TITAN X GPUs.

It’s a stunning example of what they can do with the DirectX 12 API, due to arrive with Windows 10, Microsoft’s next-gen operating system. Much of the know-how achieved by this project will surely trickle down to tomorrow’s games. That’s reason enough for tears of joy.

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