Aardman Interactive partners with University of Bath to create a VR experience about head injuries

The University of Bath’s motion capture centre, CAMERA, has collaborated with Aardman Interactive to create a VR documentary about head injuries.

Based upon a true story, the free VR experience, called Is Anna OK?, lets the player step into the shoes of both Anna and her twin sister Lauren and explore how their lives are changed after the former suffers a significant a head injury after being hit by a car. The story can be navigated from multiple points of view, "exploring Anna’s fragmented memories and piecing together the story of what happened and follow Anna’s journey of rehabilitation".

"One actor played the parts of both identical twins for the documentary. We performed a 3D scan of the actor’s face and built an animated model from this," said Professor Darren Cosker, Director of CAMERA. "We then used a mixture of different research methods to analyse the fine movements of the actor’s face, such as her smile and eyebrow movements. Each movement of the actor’s face was assigned values which were then transferred to the model of the character’s face. This method is much easier for the animators to edit and tweak movements rather than building a new animated face from scratch.

"This work is a result of several years of research, so it’s great to be able to put our research into use on a commercial project for the first time."

"When telling the narrative of real individuals that have been affected in such a dramatic way it was really important to us that the characters felt authentic," added Lorna Probert, head of interactive production at Aardman. "Working with CAMERA to motion capture our actress to this level of facial detail helped us convey the emotions of the performance so the audience could feel properly immersed in their story."

The documentary has been nominated for several awards, including the 2018 Raindance Film Festival and the 2018 Sheffield Doc Fest. 

Is Anna OK? is available now, for free, on Oculus Rift.

About Vikki Blake

It took 15 years of civil service monotony for Vikki to crack and switch to writing about games. She has since become an experienced reporter and critic working with a number of specialist and mainstream outlets in both the UK and beyond, including Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, IGN, MTV, and Variety.

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