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How Hasbro animated Mr. Monopoly’s Facebook Live broadcast in real time

Facebook Live is proving to be a powerful tool for for sharing moments in real-time — but what happens when the user is actually a cartoon? Hasbro recently used a trio of different technologies to allow an animated Mr. Monopoly (the game’s top hat wearing, mustachioed mascot) to share a live announcement, interact with commenters, and answer questions in real time.

Last week’s live video, which announced the Monopoly Ultimate Banking Game that replaces paper money with bank cards, used not one but several different technologies to create the animation in real-time. The video included facial expressions as well as full body movements and personalized interaction with viewers.

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“In the Monopoly Facebook Live broadcast, Mr. Monopoly was brought to life with the help of a combination of physical motion capture, facial motion capture, and real-time rendering,” Rebecca Hollander, the Monopoly brand’s director of marketing, told Digital Trends in an email. “What you see and hear from Mr. Monopoly in the video is completely live and the character also spoke directly to fans, answering questions and acknowledging their comments during the broadcast.”

Mr. Monopoly’s whole body movements were created using a wearable motion capture device from X-Sens. The system captured the real character’s movements using a series of sensors, including arm and leg bands and a cap. As the actual person moved around inside Hasbro’s Cake Mix Studios, the animated Mr. Monopoly moved around the cartoon stage.

A wearable created the larger motions, but what about the facial expressions? Faceware Live 2.0 was used to analyze a video of the announcer to translate onto the animated character. The system quickly calibrates the person’s facial features, identifying where everything from the lips to the eyebrows are. Then, the system continues to follow those facial markers, translating them to the animated character. Unlike the wearable, the facial expressions are monitored with video and a computer system.

While X-Sens and Faceware was used to capture the motion, the Unreal game engine helped put it all together, mixing the motion of Mr. Monopoly with the animated Scottie the dog in the “video crew.”

“A challenge with using animation with a live broadcast is that there are many layers of technology that have to work together to deliver a quality final product,” Hollander said. “There are also many moving parts that come together to make it work, for example, creating an engaging script and understanding how facial and body movements translate into an animated character on screen. It was also important for Mr. Monopoly to answer questions and engage in real time to give an authentic experience to our fans.”

Hollander said the 80-year-old brand is continually looking for ways to stay fresh and relevant — and Facebook’s live feature was a good way to do just that while engaging with fans in real time.

Along with the release of the new game with bank cards, the live announcement also included a new sweepstakes where participants can win up to $20,580 (the amount of cash inside a traditional Monopoly game).