- Haptek - The full suite of tools is the range of 7,000-10,000 USD.
- Charamel - A german avatar company, with very realsitic characters but also very expensive tools. A very interesting product of this company, is the Charavirld that allows actual actors to controls Virtual characters in real-time. They ask 10,000 Euros for their main development platform along with the player. However, for research purposes they offer a 6 month demo license for only 300 Euros.
- QEDSOFT - A french company with a very interesting real-time 3D engine. Although I am not sure, their tools must be again very expensive.
Real-time but without a real-time web player.
- DA Group - The creators of Ananova. The company offers a range of real-time content creation tools but there is no player for real-time delivery.
- Codebaby - A canadian company offering 3D characters through flash.
- Cantoche - A french company with cartoon-like avatars again relying onto flash for content delivery.
- VCom - An amazing technology for 3D character creations again using flash for content delivery.
- IMS Interactive - The company uses shockwave 3D for content delivery.
Real-time but without any kind of web player.
- Ogre3D - An open Source real-time 3D engine but without any kind of web player for content delivery.
- Visage - A Swidish company with an interesting technology but without a web player for content delivery.
- Virtuoz - Another French company.
- SimGraphics - A California company using a Wizard-Of-Oz aporoach for brining 3D characters to life.
Non real-time engines (Psedo 3D).
- Guile 3D - Recently the company created Denise a 3D photorealistic character with amazing visuals. There is no information for any kind of Web player for content delivery.
- Media Semantics - A very interesting and cheap technology using XML for character control and flash for content delivery.
- Gizmoz - A photorealistic technology using flash for content delivery.
- Kari Girl - A virtual girlfriend.
Face animation only.
- CrazyTalk - A face-only creating tool using mainly flash for content delivery.
- Life Mode Interactive - Another face-only company using flash for web-content delivery.
- FaceFX - A face-only tool mainly used for game development.
Several attempts have been made to standarize avatar creation. Currently there are two major trends, one in Japan and the other in the Western World.
- BML - Behaviour Markup Language.
- MPML3D - Multimodal Presentation Markup Language 3D.
From the above, it is clear that the avatar market is growing rapidly, forming two major trends in avatar creation and delivery. From the one hand, Second-Life is becoming a major platform for both users, and commercial/research-orineted activities. The platform, although lacking several of the features of the old real-time engines (e.g,, Haptek) is gaining popularity day by day, mainly becuase it is free. It is my belief, that soon, Second life will expand to the traditional media market and eventually take over where the old players currently excel (e.g., advertisment, tv,etc). From the other, research projects that require a more multimodal and natural communication (e.g., vision, emotion recognition, etc), will either conitnue to rely on the old players of the market for their work or to the new upcoming open-source 3D engines (OGRE3D).
Whatever happens one thing is for sure. In 5-10 years VH with full AI capabilities (in limited domains) will be all around us. Second-life proved that there are other methods, than overpirced products for an avatar company to survive, and to take the market forward. The other companies will either have adapt or eventually die.
Article by Giannis aka wgb14