Rockstar Does Animakit Studios

We were recently invited by Animakit Studios (http://animakitstudios.com/) to try out their whole-body capture proprietary technology, using silhouettes and colors recognition. (i.e. Rockstar got to put on some colored markers and kick about making a computer animated lion or monkey follow his movements, to see if it could be used for more educational purposes)…

Here’s how it works:

Ocean Park already uses it in their Golden Monkey show (see Cantonese-speaking monkey in Youtube embedded below haha) but the Animakit is now considering more educational uses for their technology: 1) whether little kids find it engaging enough for them to develop as a teaching tool (they have voice recognition, which makes the animated character lip-sync to your words) and 2) it may be a useful techie/ creativity module in classes for older kids (who doesn’t want to read computer animation in school or create the next Toy Story for their school projects?) It brings reading those The History Of Film and Drama classes into the 21st Century!

So now it’s Rockstar’s turn to give it a try:

Computer reads “red” as “right leg”…
And “blue” as “right arm”…

Rockstar “suits up”… We explain this to Rockstar as having to “speak” or communicate in a language the computer can understand – which means he has to put on something in a dark color, and then specific color markers on each arm/ leg so the computer knows whether he is moving his right or left leg or hand…

“Are you getting this?”

Suited Up Rockstar makes sure his iPod is all ready for him (or really me) to take videos… Unfortunately the gloves that control finger movement only have an adult-sized “prototype” so we couldn’t put those on him… And we would later realize the computer also gets confused at the green monster on his borrowed shirt, making the monkey and lion’s mimicry of his actions less accurate, so we would then turn the shirt inside out…

This lesson in “communicating” to the computer is a useful one, because Rockstar has also recently asked me questions about dolphins’ (and bats’) use of echolocation, and then we brought him for the baby’s detailed ultrasound recently (future blog post)… It’s a good illustration of how animals do not “see” in exactly the same way humans do, and now how computers and other machines mimic these different ways of “seeing” or communicating… I could even smell a future conversation about humans learning from animals to invent things that are ever more useful to them, like say, night vision goggles taking a cue from animals that hunt (and therefore can see) in the dark…

However it takes a full half hour to adjust the animation to Rockstar’s proportions because hitherto only adults had been used… 

(Later I would give Rockstar credit for patiently keeping arms and legs akimbo while the Animakit guys re-adjust the proportions… Obviously this is something only we would face because he’s the first little kid, after which they would already have roughly adjusted the animations to kiddie sizes if they decide to go the kiddie-demo-on-computer-animiation-technology route…)

Oops not quite :P

Rockstar yawned quite a few times and would occasionally drop his arms too early (having napped on a sofa at Kosmos after lunch and going up to the studio still a little bleary-eyed…) but I only managed to get a pic of him fake-snoozing on his feet in between having to hold his arms up again…

And then… Action!

And so Rockstar strikes up a conversation, telling the computer how to move the lion (and later monkey)… Note serious face..
He can see what the computer picks up…
Like so… 

Note fairly-intuitive color coded bits on screen that, though not specifically rockstar-intended, make it quite an effective illustration that Rockstar can understand…

Recognize the Golden Monkey? And which child doesn’t love joystick…..

The Animakit crew explain to Rockstar how the joystick controls the animation’s facial expressions…

Rockstar joyously finding out for himself… 

Doesn’t matter how good a demo the rockstar gets, they still must find some reason to try it out themselves haha

Rockstar carbing-up at nearby Starbucks after the approx. 90-minute trial and error “demo lesson”

Rockstar will later remark he thought computers were “smarter” than that (we’d even explained how the white background is necessary so as not to confuse the computer), and I know someday we will marvel at the amazing-ness of the human brain in processing information around us based on all the different senses, and how we learn to appreciate the wonder of nature and God’s creation when we try to replicate it by telling a computer what to do – and then realize every little detail has to be explicitly communicated to a machine, whereas human brains and even animals would naturally pick up and adjust to all the various stimulations…

Verdict: There’s a lion. A monkey. Any manner of animated character that can be used to attract a child’s attention. You could even have some cool anime guy/ gal for tweens/ teens. Rather than simply kicking around, waving arms about and having an animated character do standup comedy (which is still fun) though, what I found real value in was explaining to Rockstar, using the Animakit demo setup, how to communicate in a way this particular computer software would be able to pick up. It’s a powerful lesson a la Dale Carnegie, to be effective you have to communicate in a way the intended party (in this case the computer) can understand. Otherwise you can jump about until the cows come home and you’re just wasting your time.

With all the color-coding, it was quite a simple and effective illustration of something that could otherwise have been complicated to explain to little kids. And well technology shapes the world we live in today – I found this demo a means to familiarize Rockstar with some of technology’s uses, rather than simply parking him in front of a cartoon or even one of the more passive iPad games. 

Like The Cartoon? Here’s What Goes Into Making It Work should be a useful educational tool that marries something engaging that kids like to watch (cartoons!) with a more constructive lesson in technology.

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About Aileen

I blog about living and raising my son in Hong Kong - where toddlers have entrance interviews, parents keep test score spreadsheets, private school debentures can trade for more than half a million USD. Raising Rockstar's the most important thing I'll ever do. We show our true colors by the choices we make in bringing up our children. My blog is a message to my toddler son, about what the world and his parents are like today - for when he becomes a teenager and knows everything.
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  • SSY

    I went to their website but cannot find out how much it cost…  Do you know?

  • SSY

    This is interesting. I might have seen one of these at Universal Studio once but it’s sure gonna be interactive for the kids. Are the tools expensive? Does the company sell them now? I maybe should get one for my 8y old and his tutor can use that to get his attention.

    • http://raisingrockstar.com Aileen

      Hi SSY, I let them know of your queries yesterday so they may contact you separately, what I understand is their still in the early development phase of figuring at what age level to offer it to (though yes Lower Primary is one of the ages they are considering)…

      I think they would offer it to schools or larger tuition centers first though, cos they don’t have one for retail that they can easily customize (ie making it cheaper to offer)… Currently they completely develop n tailormake (I assume like for Ocean Park) at around HKD 200,000…