Digital Domain’s Douglas

Digital Domain’s Douglas makes its debut.

The Digital Humans Group in at VFX studio Digital Domain has revealed ‘Douglas’, the real-time, realistic, completely autonomous digital human.

There are already virtual assistants, chatbots and other forms of AI-based communication already on the market interacting with people. But Douglas is very different. “As companies decide to expand past voice-only interactions, there’s going to be a real need for photorealistic humans that behave in the ways we expect them to,” says Darren Hendler, director of Digital Humans Group at Digital Domain. “That’s where Douglas comes in.”

Douglas is the latest technology built off the likeness of Senior Director of Software R&D, Dr. Doug Roble, which has already led to several advancements in both real-time digital humans and AI facial capture. By comparing Douglas to the real-life Roble, Digital Domain has been able to advance the realism of their design as they prepare the technology for wider use. Douglas was created by teams with a history of creating visuals for some of the most spectacular movies to date. Douglas is chameleon-like in its ability to switch faces and voices, even being active in conversations with a large number of individuals at the same time. Douglas can hold natural conversations, even replicate anyone’s voice after ‘listening’ to only 30 minutes of audio. Interesting…

To create Douglas, Doug Roble submitted to over a hundred hours of performance capture, including a live book reading that logged his voice and expressions. A neural rendering tool was also trained by taking photos of Roble in a variety of lighting conditions. From this data, the tool can now deliver levels of realism that would have been impossible to achieve before with traditional techniques, including replicating the mannerisms of another person with only few expressions.

Note the real Dr. Douglas Roble is also present in the Zoom at the far left.

“Douglas has introduced a level of realism unseen before in the autonomous human world, even before it comes to market,” says Daniel Seah, CEO of Digital Domain. “As Digital Domain continues to expand our R&D into facial capture and autonomous behaviour, we’ll be able to extend these innovations out to consumers and tech partners who are looking to enhance virtual human capabilities beyond simple voice recognition applications.”

Douglas uses numerous types of machine learning and Digital Domain R&D to reproduce the most common mannerisms people expect to see in a lifelike digital human. By focusing on language processing, expressions, vision tracking and more, Douglas can do everything from leading conversations to remembering people. And because Douglas’ response rate is currently the same as Alexa and Siri, these conversations have a natural flow, removing the long pauses that slow other autonomous digital humans down.

While perfect for any project that requires facial realism, Douglas will be especially helpful to companies who need an avatar to answer questions or help customers with repetitive tasks. The current version can already connect to any chatbot or assistant system, bringing a friendly face and an emotionally intelligent response to real-time interactions. Once finished, this technology can be easily deployed online.

Inhouse Digital Domain presentation from May 2019 during the creation of Douglas.

Digital Domain has brought artistry and technology to films including TitanicThe Curious Case of Benjamin Button and blockbusters Ready Player OneAvengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. Inhouse artists have won more than 100 major awards, including Academy Awards, Clios, BAFTA awards and Cannes Lions.

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Digital Domain


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