Child with autism uses live animation system to communicate with speech pathologist and has fun doing it. Invirtua, a new Nevada-based company bringing live 3D animation and interactive virtual reality to the healthcare industry, is making it possible.
Live animation gives therapists, speech pathologists, parents and clients the ability to control computer-generated “digital puppets.” People can control these characters and use them to help one another communicate better and improve motivational and social skills. The characters appear on video screens where they can interact in real time, talking with an audience of one or hundreds. The individual can make the characters tell stories, teach lessons, demonstrate facial expressions, play with body language or simply have fun.
People with autism can even be the puppeteers, learning quickly how to control the animations, since the lip sync is completely automatic. Young people of any age or ability (with supervision) have fun and enjoy the experience of communicating via cartoon characters, or even life-like, realistic characters. It adds an engaging dimension to role-playing that can be productive in many ways and since children love cartoons, they love the live, animated cartoons created for Invirtua by the artists at CHOPS & Assoc. Live Animation.
Gary Jesch, also known as “CHOPS” and founder of Invirtua, is a performance animation artist and character creator. He brings people and virtual characters together by combining several artistic disciplines, including acting, computer graphics and video production design. His frequent corporate appearances at trade shows and company meetings offer something few people have ever experienced – interacting with a cartoon character that can see them, hear them and talk back to them.
“My interest in helping those on the autism spectrum started in around 1997, when I was following the work of Dr. Rosalind Picard at MIT’s Media Lab,” Jesch said. “Picard showed me that we take things like facial expressions and body language for granted, when it comes to expressing ourselves. Now we can help therapists work with those with autism.”
Enid Webb of Webb Center for Communication and Learning said she likes several things about the live animation concept. “The avatars are non- threatening and more predictable than actual people so the student is more engaged and available for learning new concepts or difficult concepts. The novelty of the program keeps their attention, as well. One will see much more progress if an appropriate reinforcement system is in place and the Invirtua avatars are fun and reinforcing. Getting to control the avatars is very reinforcing,” she observed.
Earlier this year, he started Invirtua and organized an advisory board comprised of professionals in autism therapy, for the purpose of developing systems to be used to increase communications, based on his original live animation technology. He plans to exhibit his prototype of the current CHOPS Live Animation system to compile feedback from attendees at the Autism Society Annual Conference. His goal is to complete development of specific software and hardware that will contribute to better communication and other skills for people with autism.
Invirtua has plans to become a resource for therapists, speech pathologists, behavioral analysts, parents and caregivers who are interested in affinity therapy studies and also plans to provide materials related to autism, such as videos and online workshops.
Invirtua’s mission is helping those living with autism improve their conversational, social and motivational skills, using interactive cartoon characters with CHOPS Live Animation computer technology. Founding Advisory Board members include neuroscientist and Genomind CSO Dr. Jay Lombard, ABPathfinder CEO Jeff Blackwood, author and consultant Dr. Stephen Shore, speaker/consultant and autism advocate Dr. Ian C. Hale, neurodiversity advocate Michael Leventhal, attorney Ken Caldwell, community leader/teacher Karen Beasley and speech-language pathologist Enid Webb.
About CHOPS & Assoc. Live Animation
Gary Jesch is a pioneer in performance animation, establishing CHOPS & Assoc. Live Animation in 1996. As the “man behind the curtain,” he brings his virtual presenters to life, using real-time animation, motion capture and unusual video displays. Jesch creates custom characters in addition to performing at tradeshows, corporate special events and award ceremonies around the world.
Press contacts; Gary Jesch 775-831-7451 or email, [email protected]
Photographs available on request.
The Invirtua website, http://www.invirtua.co