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OPLIN 4cast #359: Interactive animated storytelling

Posted in 4cast

Windy Day hatOwners of the Moto X smartphone from Motorola Mobility got an unexpected treat last week. A red hat appeared on their screen, and if they touched it, an animated story was launched. But as the user moved their screen around, the story changed. Their phone became a window into an animated world where the story was unfolding, and the events they saw depended on how they moved their phone. If they looked away from the phone, the action paused and waited for them to look at the screen again. As you might suspect, this clever little app is just the first look at some new technology that may become very common in the near future.

  • Google channels Pixar to change storytelling as we know it (Wired/Steven Levy)  “Motorola is concocting what it hopes will be much more than an odd and expensive interactive cartoon. The company has set out to build a new platform that uses contemporary technology — powerful computation, smart sensors, vivid mobile displays — to reinvent the age-old practice of narrative itself.”
  • Motorola debuts ‘Windy Day’ on the Moto X: A beautiful, interactive short story from a Pixar director (The Next Web/Nick Summers)  “It’s a wildly unorthodox piece of fiction. Motorola says it’s not a film or a game, and on initial inspection we think they’re probably right. This is interactive entertainment, blending augmented reality with a moving graphic novel.”
  • Spotlight Stories: Windy Day was just the start of Motorola’s interactive storytelling (Geek/Russell Holly)  “The technology component to all of this is perhaps the most impressive. The animation is completely rendered in real time, and smart enough to pause the active bits when you are looking away without making it feel like you’ve done something wrong. The music keeps playing, and the animations all continue as though you never left when you get back.”
  • Moto X owners get a ‘motion-controlled’ interactive story by a former Pixar artist (Digital Trends/Andy Boxall)  “The app is the first to use the mobile version of a Pixar animation technology called OpenSubdiv, developed by experts at custom design firm DigitalFish and Motorola, which fully exploits the talents of the quad-core Adreno 320 GPU inside the Moto X. In an interview, one of the lead developers from Motorola’s Advanced Technology and Projects division, said of Windy Day, ‘We’re investigating how a mobile device can permit stories to be told in a more immersive, interactive way. This is not a flat experience.’”

OpenSubdiv fact:
OpenSubdiv is an open source version of software that Pixar began developing in 1996 and made freely available to everybody last year, hoping that it will become an industry standard. For those who want all the technical details, fxguide has posted a long article on their website.