Apple, Lionsgate Bring Characters To Life With VR, Real-Time On Facebook Live

In a first, Lionsgate presented a multi-character animated streaming event on Facebook Live to debut the theatrical release of "My Little Pony: The Movie."

This event featured two characters from the movie -- Pinkie Pie voiced by Andrea Libman, and Twilight Sparkle voiced by Tara Strong -- animated in real-time by responding to the voices and human movement of their real-life actors. The movie is scheduled for release October 6.

Jason Steinberg, director of client services at digital marketing agency Avatarlabs, believes this is the first time two animated characters have interacted live with each other.

The key performance indicators were the typical engagement -- views and reach -- but Steinberg said when doing something new like this campaign it's best not to have KPIs.

Innovating using new technology typically has its challenges. "The technology isn't designed to work together and you need to build unique bridges," he said. "As with posting any video online, there's latency and delays."

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For example, one challenge was eliminating the delay between a posted comment and the live video feed. Steinberg said Avatarlabs had to determine from which server Facebook would stream the content. The content was routed through a server in Atlanta, which was affected by the hurricane.

Adobe Character Animator tracks the human face and animates the character as the person talks, said James Safechuck, head of innovation and emerging technology at Avatarlabs.   

AvatarLabs' integration of the Adobe Character Animator and Unity software brought the event to life. 

The Ponies mentioned the Apple presentation featuring the new iPhone, Apple Watch and Apple TV, which took place earlier in the day and responded to fans, calling out the names of those who left comments in real-time.

The actors were live in studio, while fans worldwide tuned in via Facebook and submitted questions and comments. Animation technology and facial recognition captured the actors’ responses and displayed them in real-time on the Facebook platform.   

The technology is easily combined with other media such as search.

Apple integrated a similar technology into a new augmented reality application called Animoji that was unveiled Tuesday, along with the latest versions of the iPhone, Apple Watch and Apple TV.  The technology allows users to create animated emoji messages that reflect their facial expressions and voices. The Animoji program uses the iPhone X’s True Depth camera to track more than 50 facial motions and process them in real time. 

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