Wednesday, March 8th, 2017 Posted by Jim Thacker

Artomatix unveils style transfer service for games artists

Irish startup Artomatix has announced a new ‘style transfer’ service for games artists, intended to apply the visual style of a source image to the other textures used in a project.

Potential uses range from automatically up-resing PlayStation 2-era textures for reuse in modern games to converting textures generated via photogrammetry to a form suitable for use in stylised titles.

The service soft launched at GDC last week, with Artomatix aiming to roll it out publicly within six months.

Using machine learning techniques to automate the process of creating textures
Since its foundation, Artomatix has focused on a single problem in game development: that even with the help of specialist software, modern titles require more textures than artists can comfortably create by hand.

Instead, the firm applies AI-driven machine learning techniques to automate key parts of the process, generating usable textures with only minimal user input.

Its early tech demos were impressive enough to land Artomatix Nvidia’s $100,000 Early Stage Challenge prize in 2015, beating Redshift developer Redshift Rendering Technologies.

The firm has since gone on to secure a further €2.1 million in seed funding.

Style transfer in action: the visual style of a Cubist painting being applied to a photo of the Space Shuttle taking off. Artomatix aims to apply the same process commercially to games textures.

From seam removal to style transfer
When it launched publicly last year, Artomatix offered a basic range of tasks – seam removal, texture tiling, and image mutation – to which it has since added options to remove unwanted features from a texture.

The new service is rather more sophisticated, transferring the visual style of a source image – the colour palette and the geometric forms and scale of the details – to a target image.

You can get a feel for what this entails in Artomatix’s paper setting out the basis for its technology: even if you skip the maths, there is a lot of good visual demo material.

Automatically make low-res textures usable in modern games
In practical terms, that means that the system can convert unusable textures – for example, images that are too small or too low-quality – into usable ones, using existing textures as a guide.

“There are all these repositiories of content out there on the web, but most are just a random hodgepodge of things people have created over the years,” Artomatix CTO Eric Risser told CG Channel.

“Our vision is that you go on [a site like] Turbo Squid, get things that are close enough and style transfer them to fit your project.”

Another potential use is converting textures generated through physical scanning or photogrammetry – Artomatix namechecks Quixel’s Megascans library – into a format more suitable for use in indie titles.

“Everyone is moving to scanned assets, but it really only makes sense for photorealistic games,” said Risser. “This approach lets people working on stylised games [benefit from] the convenience of photogrammetry.”

Applications to both indie and AAA titles
Although Artomatix says that it initially intends to target the Unity community, the technology also has obvious benefits to AAA developers, particularly those sitting on otherwise unusable archives of textures created in the PlayStation 2 era, or needing to remaster old titles for release on current-gen consoles.

Another potential use case is creating photorealistic materials for sci-fi titles: while it’s possible to paint PBR textures for non-real-world materials by hand, they rarely match scanned real-world materials exactly. Instead, artists could paint something close to the final result, and have Artomatix’s technology finish the job.

Pricing and availability
Artomatix says that it aims to roll out its new style transfer service to the public within the next six months. Pricing has yet to be confirmed, but is likely to be a pay-as-you-go model.

The firm’s existing services cost from $2-20/image or $9-99/month for unlimited images, depending on what resolution you need the output to be and how many PBR maps you require per texture.

Read Artomatix’s paper on style transfer outlining the mathematical basis of the firm’s technology

Visit Artomatix online