Interactive Theme Park Characters Grow Up

Written by Dusty Sage. Posted in News

Tagged: , , ,

Published on May 18, 2017 at 6:15 pm with No Comments

I get all sorts of Theme Park Industry stuff all the time. Some of it we use in articles, or link to on social media, this particular email caught my attention because it’s a system based on an attraction which we’ve all seen a rudimentary version of in the Disney parks. It appears that interactive digital characters (like Turtle Talk with Crush) are about to become holograms you can actually carry on a conversation with. Here’s the bulk of a message sent to me by a friend (I had to redact just a bit so no one would get in trouble over this). I have some additional comments to add at the bottom, along with a video of the previous version of this technology.  – Dusty

.

I’ve been working the last few weeks at a pretty big Hollywood soundstage, seen a ton of activity with a new “interactive character” system. It’s called Geppeto and there’s been a daily parade of studio execs, ad agency people (one of them is the company that handles Apple and Nike), VR and AR developers, game developers, they’re all testing “Gepetto version 4.0″ which is supposed to release in a couple of months.

.

It started out as a theme park show but it looks like it’s going to be used for all kinds of other applications, almost everywhere. The whole thing runs off a single touchscreen, very slick. They’ve got it hooked up to a hologram and people are having live conversations with the character. Since it’s human sized and looks real, you forget you’re talking to an animation.

And here’s the really freaky part. They are looking into A.I. software controlling the system, like IBM’s Watson, so you don’t even need a human operator. The machine would do everything, including learning new behaviors. It’s like Westworld but with holograms, not robots. But they’re working on that too, apparently.

.

One of the studio guys, he works at a major animation distributor, was going ape$#!& over this stuff. I can’t tell you what he said they want to use it for, but if it happens, your mind will be blown. They did say this could revolutionize making animated shorts, or even features, you could make a film in weeks instead of years.

.

I even got a chance to play with the control system a bit and it is so fun. Speak, press a few buttons, and the character just goes.  And except for the hologram gear, the whole thing weighs less than 25 pounds.

.

Here’s what excites me about this. The early versions of this technology allowed theme park guests to interact with animated characters LIVE. That’s cool. You could chat with Crush and Stitch at Disney, Universal has an animated Donkey (from Shrek) in one of its parks, I’ve even seen an animated character similar to this at the San Diego Zoo. But all of those characters were on flat screens. The new version of this technology is so advanced that they could actually use it to animate for TV, live, on the fly, while the voice over artist speaks. Further, they have a way to make the character appear dimensional without the use of 3D glasses (as is currently used on some of these attractions).  Here’s my favorite version of the previous tech which won a Themed Entertainment Association Award for best new attraction last year:

.

Save

Save

Save

About Dusty Sage

Dusty is the founder and CEO of MiceChat.com. When he's not visiting theme parks and writing, editing or speaking about Disney and theme parks worldwide, Dusty stays busy as the Executive Director of both the Walt Disney Birthplace AND the Dick Van Dyke Foundation. He also runs O-Zell Soda (the company originally operated by Walt Disney's father and at which Walt once worked). If you've got news or photos to share with the MiceChat community, or would like to book Dusty for an upcoming event, please contact [email protected]

Browse Archived Articles by

Share2
Tweet
+1
Pin
Stumble