To take advantage of modern 3D hardware acceleration, many two-dimensional games are actually rendered in 3D using an orthogonal camera and textured quads — flat rectangles with an image on top. Live2D, from Japanese company Cybernoids, takes this process a step further by allowing artists to use 2D images — say from anime — and transform them into 3D recreations.
Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as throwing a 2D image into the system — developed by Japanese tech firm Cybernoids — and waiting patiently for the results. As the video above shows, the user must map the flat images onto a mesh, much like a traditional 3D artist would align texture UVs on a model.
As Cybernoids CEO Tetsuya Nakajo explains, Live2D is designed to help artists transition 2D art to 3D and apply smooth animations, without the need for significant experience in the extra dimension:
“When the face turns sideways, you can show perfectly how the eyelashes and eyes move. You can also use the tools to work more easily and efficiently. This can be done in all kinds of ways, with all kinds of emphasis, depending on what the creator wants to do. This technology is an extension of drawing, so it works best if the creator has a good artistic sense.”
Live2D is currently seeing most use in gaming, though the technology is at its strongest when not a great deal of movement is required. Cybernoids hopes to extend the tech to encompass more advanced motion within the next few years.