The Sims 4 could use AI to automatically turn photographs into characters

A character from the Sims 4 holding a camera
(Image credit: EA)

A patent filed by EA back in April 2020 (and subsequently approved in October 2021) reveals AI technology that could be used in The Sims 4 game to turn pictures of people into in-game characters with just two clicks.

As reported by Sims Community, the patent itself discusses the AI technology, explaining that it will allow players to upload photographs of themselves or characters, which can then be converted into an accurate Sim. 

While the first Sims game allowed you to place an image of a face onto a character model in Sims Creator, the results often left something to be desired. This AI tech could prove to be a more effective way of actually creating your likeness within the game, though there are no examples available right now to show off its capabilities.

The tech was developed by a team of developers and lead by Igor Borovikov, who previously worked on The Sims 4 as well as older titles like The Sims 3 and The Sims Medieval.

It would also seem that alongside facial features, the tech will be able to generate the full body of your characters from images, with lines within the patent stating "the method comprises: receiving an input image of a reference subject; processing the input image to generate a normalized image; identifying a set of features present in the normalized image, wherein each feature in the set of features corresponds to a portion of a head or body of the reference subject".

Unsurprisingly, EA owns the patent outright so we'll have to wait and see if they're happy to share the tech with other games that include character creation. It also isn't clear if this will be implemented in The Sims 4, which is expected to have fresh content churned out for a few years yet, or if development is far enough away for this to make its first appearance in The Sims 5.

Opinion: Taking the fun out of the game

Someone using the Sims Creator to put a photo of their face onto a Sim

(Image credit: henrysradiator / EA)

AI character generation does sound petty neat, but I have my doubts on how much the feature will actually get used when it's implemented. After all, if you find character generation to be a bore then you're not likely to be the target audience for The Sims franchise.

The Sims has a rich modding community built off the back of how people like to customize their characters and environments, so an automatic 'character creator' could be fun for one or two uses, but I see this being shelved by most of the dedicated player base. It's unclear if the tech will be able to utilize mods too, which would restrict its appeal to gamers who only use the vanilla game content.

I will absolutely use it to see how an AI thinks a Sim version of myself would look in-game, and there are a lot of dedicated fans of actors and musicians who will be keen to scan members of BTS or Timothée Chalamet into the game as neighbors and housemates. And then mess with them using the entire suite of The Sims 4 cheats.

But a huge appeal of playing simulation games is the work that goes into them. Making things 'easier' doesn't feel like it fits, but I'm prepared to eat my words on that. If it works well, then I might kill a few hours using the feature to turn my neighborhoods into a celebrity-filled utopia, but I'll certainly go back to creating my own, overly modded characters after that gets tiresome.

Jess Weatherbed

Jess is a former TechRadar Computing writer, where she covered all aspects of Mac and PC hardware, including PC gaming and peripherals. She has been interviewed as an industry expert for the BBC, and while her educational background was in prosthetics and model-making, her true love is in tech and she has built numerous desktop computers over the last 10 years for gaming and content creation. Jess is now a journalist at The Verge.