Photo Realism, Augmented Reality blend away

Lots of things have crossed my mind here on holiday around the Florida Theme parks.
The first most relevant was at the Monsters Inc laughter show at the Magic Kingdom. This at first glance looks like a standard film show, file into a theatre and get thrilled, wet or blown at in various ways. Instead though it turns out to be a live comedy show, but featuring computer animated characters. The characters appear on stage and talk to the audience. The animation and puppetry is great, and fast thinking comedians working the audience make you forget the animated characters and they become very real.
The characters are still cartoon like, but they are powered by real people, though they are not people who we actually know as they are playing a character. This works so well. We often worry about identity and photo realism but both are basically trumped by good narrative and human like qualities in the interaction. The audience and performer bond becomes the important part. The tech helps make it feel different.
***Update today at Epcot we saw another live digital puppet example with Crush the talking turtle from Finding Nemo. Another very impressive and expressive avatar.
This applied to the playhouse disney show which was rod controlled puppets of Mickey, Handy Manny, Little Einsteins and tigger. Puppets are obviously physical beings but given energy by human movement and expression.
I also just saw this video of the AR magician Marco Tempest doing a projection demonstration.
In this the character he creates is only a stick man, yet with movement and expression and no talking he manages to create a magical show.

The point of all this, and of all the attractions here at disney and universal is to reach people, to tell stories, to spark imagination. Atmosphere can be created with the simplest and easiest of techniques.
I wrote some about the Simpson ride back in 2008 over on eightbar. Pasted below for completeness
Homer MistSuzuki
“The Simpsons ride really takes a whole load of ingredients to fool and entertain the brain. We often say in virtual world circles that nothing beats real life. The Simpsons (for those who have not followed such things) take the TV program into a giant domed screen, but pairs a crazy cgi rendered experience with a whole load of physical tools. The prime one is the hydraulic cockpit. These seem to be able to generate a whole load of unusual movements that fool the brain. That is why of course they are used in flight sims. The Simpsons has an open carriage, which allows for a greater immersion, and for things like dry ice to be thrown into the mix.
You are also experiencing this with other people. Only a few in a car at a time to give the feeling you are a family on with the Simpsons, plus technically its harder to throw lots of people around in one car. They do of course have more than one running on the giant screen but you attention cannot see those.
At the dawn of cinema people were only able to experience films in a purpose built facility, as time has gone on we have added more sensory elements to home installations. Vibrating joypads on consoles etc. By combining what we currently have for 3d immersion and adding some extra layers of the physical world whilst we may not be able to do the justice to the Simpsons ride we should be able to immerse entertain and inform people in an even richer fashion. We may even be able to locally manufacture some of the physical elements needed for an “experience” using 3d printers? It still feels we are chained to these laptop screens and qwerty keyboards…. I guess thats more for tomorrows visionaries panel.
BTW my favourite Homer line from the ride “Doh I hate chain reactions”
A clever mix of tech, good story and of surprising the human brain seems to be the way to reach us as people. Not just one huge photo realistic identity verified online experience.