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3Lateral uses the power of NetApp technology to breathe life into digital humans



Data Visionaries with 3Lateral use data to:

  • Create digital avatars that are controlled in real-time by actors
  • Transform the gaming industry with lifelike digital characters
  • Extend digital humans technology to industries beyond entertainment

Digital humans technology has the ability to transport us to different worlds. Alternate universes. It's what allows us to go inside the game, to occupy digital characters' shoes, whether in the drivers' seat or on the battlefield. And it's what allows us to experience those same lifelike thrills, those same magical moments—all without leaving the comfort of our own homes.

3Lateral, now a part of Epic Games, is a global leader in the "digital humans" industry. Their revolutionary technology and data-driven approach enables them to create once-unthinkable, incredibly realistic human characters for video games, movies, and beyond.

"Creating a representation of a human being in the virtual world is really understanding ourselves," said Vladimir Mastilovic, 3Lateral founder and now director at Epic Games. "Understanding how we look, how we move, and in the future, hopefully, how we think."

Mastilovic has always been drawn to realistic digital human animation, such as facial expressions to capture universal nonverbal language. But data management limitations were historically a barrier to 3Lateral's vision of applying real-world attributes in the world of computer graphics.

"Collecting data was part of our DNA from day one," said Mastilovic. "The size of my disk drive back then was 1.3 GB, and now we're capturing 70 GB a second."

Developing a robust, believable digital human model requires not only huge amounts of data, but also the hardware to acquire it, the software to analyze it, and a third set of technology to synthesize it—not to mention a solid cloud migration strategy.

"We know that the density of the data will increase [but], compute power and data will probably only spike," said Mastilovic. "We're considering cloud to scale up to cover those spikes. We made this informed decision switching to NetApp, and data fabric is definitely our gateway to the cloud."

Building a data-driven pipeline for success

When 3Lateral introduced their first human body scanner, data growth increased at exponential levels. Their existing storage solution proved insufficient from a size and speed standpoint. After researching the market's best storage vendors, they realized that NetApp had the best solution for storing and processing data.

"We realized that NetApp was much more than a storage provider—it was a data solution provider," said Milan Kitsche, lead systems engineer at 3Lateral. "NetApp allowed us to capture the data in a way that we thought was previously impossible."

3Lateral relies on a data processing pipeline—the equivalent of a pulsing company artery that ties all departments together, moves data from one place to another, and helps ensure job completion.

"Our data fabric has allowed our developers to integrate into our data processing pipeline, and the biggest benefit was that we didn't need to re-architect our software solution," said Nikola Kudus, lead programmer at 3Lateral. "The main goal of the development team is to focus on developing new technology, and the fact that we don't need to even think about where the data is stored and how it's managed helps us a lot in our everyday job."

Scaling a data fabric for the future

In the future, Mastilovic and the team at 3Lateral hope to see digital humans leveraged in industries beyond entertainment, including medical, biometrics, and more. And they'll rely on NetApp to help them scale without needing to change their current data fabric.

"Imagining all kinds of applications of this technology is just overwhelming, whether that's in medical or biometrics or entertainment or research," said Mastilovic. "We're hoping that we are going to develop a framework where people will, each in their own field, be able to use that framework and create something amazing."

Learn how Data Visionaries like 3Lateral are innovating with data fabrics.

3Lateral, acquired by Epic Games in January 2019, couples rebellious artistry with disciplined computer engineering to create realistic digital humans technology for video games, entertainment, and beyond.

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