Apple acquires UK-based 3D animation company, IKinema

In Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality News

October 4, 2019 – It has been confirmed by several sources that Apple has bought UK-based 3D animation company, IKinema, for an undisclosed amount.

IKinema sells products that are aimed at improving the quality of animation and reducing the cost of producing animation for VR, Games, Virtual Production, Engineering & Design, and Live TV. It uses patented IP to dynamically calculate animation sequences. The resulting animations are more realistic and cheaper to produce and maintain, according to IKinema.

Prior to the acquisition, the company was in partnership with Autodesk, Sony, Microsoft, Intel and Nvidia, and provided products for licensing as well as consultancy services for building custom solutions for studios. IKinema was also a licensed middleware provider for Microsoft and Sony game platforms. Whether or not these partnerships and license agreements will remain post-acquisition is yet to be determined. However, it seems likely that moving forward, Apple will retain the company’s IP for its own utilization.

In terms of specialization, IKinema focuses on tools for run-time animation and off-line post production animation, including:

Virtual Reality
VR games use IKinema RunTime, and Virtual Production sets are built with IKinema LiveAction. Core IKinema SDK is used in training and simulation environments.

Game Development
The company provides tools for the generation of procedural animation in games to increase believability, and reduce production costs and load on animation trees. The technology works on human and fantasy creatures. IKinema for games can reduce up to 5 times the need for pre-stored animation by generating poses in real-time during game-play. Run-time retargeting engines allow animation to be passed between characters as well as customizing it to the game.

Virtual Production
IKinema provides a run-time SDK for retargeting and mocap solving with the ability to produce realistic animation during performance capture. This allows video creators to see the blended result immediately rather than wait for it to be processed. In addition to retargeting and marker solving, the company provides tools for auto floor contact freezing and penetration during on-set performance capture for an improved mocap pipeline, as well as an SDK for pipeline integration, and consultancy services for building user-specific custom pipelines.

IKinema for Maya and MotionBuilder Animators
The company offers its ‘IKinema Action’ tools for mocap work, retargeting, mocap marker solving on the face, hands and body, rigging and animation. The toolset is a mature product and has been used by many studios and universities to enhance Maya’s animation pipeline, according to IKinema. Action also supports real-time streaming and recording from mocap systems, including Vicon, OptiTrack and Xsens.

Training and Simulation
An IKinema SDK is used in virtual simulation environments to enable real-time solving from mocap rigid body data. The tool provides the ability to blend animation and props, and retarget key-framed animation during performance capture and immersive training.

IKinema for small and indie developers
IKinema provides solutions for small developers.

Another of the company’s software tools is its platform called ‘IKinema WebAnimate’. WebAnimate can be used for animation tasks such as: retargeting of FBX and BVH data to avatars, porting animation from one avatar to another, automatically cleaning noisy motion capture data, modification and customisation of motion capture data to fit new avatars, joining one or more animation clips to create new assets, key-frame and animation of human and fantasy creatures, transfer of 3D animation to 2D avatars; previsualisation of BVH and FBX data.

Needless to say, the tools that IKinema offers clearly have multiple uses for augmented and virtual reality applications – particularly real-time motion capture and animation generation – functionality that could be well placed to enhance Apple’s own Animoji and Memoji features.

IKinema was established in 2006 as a spin-out from the Surrey Space Centre in the UK and has actively traded since 2009. IKinema states that it “owns patent protected intellectual property for fast, realistic and organic computation of animation.” Prominent clients include: Disney, Framestore, DreamWorks Animation, The Foundry, Microsoft, Zenimax, Square Enix, Lucasarts, technicolor, Vicon, and PlatinumGames Inc.

At the time of publication, the IKinema website had been mostly taken down, with only a contact email address listed, as well as documentation for software platforms such as Unreal Engine and Maya.

Video credit: IKinema/YouTube

About the author

Sam Sprigg

Sam is the Founder and Managing Editor of Auganix. With a background in research and report writing, he has been covering XR industry news for the past seven years.