Pandamonium at Cool HQ – Live Mocap

We have another technically adventurous Cool Stuff Collective this week. Of all the ones we have done it is the one that made me laugh the most. Plus it is highly related to virtual worlds and avatars.
We got Vicky into a sensor laden motion capture suit. The suit using gyroscopic sensors to get positional information and limb rotation.
Motion capture suit
Vicky Letch gets suited up.
That is then used live to allow an avatar to be controlled (though it can be used to record BVH files for things like Second Life and other games)
In this case we turned Vicky into a very cute Panda.
All the kit and support came from the Brighton based Animazoo. Mark from Animazoo was thrown into the spotlight as the visiting expert too and did a great job.
We changed the flow as this was about Vicky performing in the suit so I took the reigns as interviewer with Mark and also got to talk to Vicky’s virtual panda persona.
Animazoo Mocap controlled panda
Many people faced with a mocap suit and an on screen digital figure just wave their arms around a bit, Vicky threw herself into character and became one with the Panda, which is what made this item even cooler.
As well as body movements a separate hand controller is used for facial expressions and the Vicky the panda became even more real.
The bit that really made me chuckle was the reversal of the silly question at the end. Usually I have to strop off in indignation saying I am a tech geek not a … whatever. As we had a digital panda there it was its turn to rant and turn and leave in a huff. Brilliant puppetry and voice combination meant this worked really well.
Those of us that live and work in virtual worlds have started to get used to expression through a digital avatar. As we know though, it is that proxy for our human actions that seems to scare many people, fearing being misunderstood or lacking in trust of the other avatars as people might be “hiding” something. It is the core of all the fuss about #nymwars too as we express ourselves digitally. (I had a go here using Kinect a while back) whilst trying to explain digital persona is not a binary thing.
In this show it was Vicky, we knew that, but equally she was acting and merging some comedy panda with her own persona. It is something everyone should try, some puppetry or digital interaction with a facade that is not just their face. It tells you a lot about that persona and about yourself.
Anyway the show is on the ITV Player for a few weeks. Two more shows to go and the next one is next Saturday but at the slightly earlier time of 7:50 (so the CITV tweets said anyway)

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