05 Apr 2020 World leisure: news, training & property
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Attractions Management
2019 issue 2

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Leisure Management - Animalive - Lights, camera, action!

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Animalive - Lights, camera, action!

Animalive is a premier manufacturer of interactive animation products. Its founder, Ali Kord, explains how its recent joint venture will take the company’s award-winning products to the next level

Animalive’s real-time interactive animations bring laughter and wonder to film studios, theme parks, FECs, museums and shopping malls across the globe
Animalive has introduced its Tabatinga brand, which offers a low-cost set of Animalive IPs to its customers
Animalive offers character animation solutions for real-time live interaction
Animachat enables an animated mascot to have real-time interaction and 2-way chat with visitors
Performances can be delivered from anywhere in the world

With clients including the likes of Europa-Park, Ferrari World and Merlin Entertainments, Animalive is placed as an industry leader in its field.

Based in Lewes, UK, the company’s systems are manufactured in Taipei, with its Field Application Technicians stationed to service systems in locations worldwide.

Animalive’s technologies are used for a wide range of experiences, including theatrical shows, themed attractions, party rooms and interactive information points. The company offers a bespoke package to its clients, from consultation and customisation through to equipment installation, training and ongoing customer support.

“We advise all partners that require next-level animation to elevate their offering and really connect with their audiences,” says Ali Kord, who founded Animalive in 2007.

“We’re experts at bringing characters to life,” says Kord. “Our aim is to provide supporting digital media around this technology to make our live interactions even more meaningful and endearing for visitors. To do this, we use the latest motion capture technology for enhanced user experience”

Animalive’s experience in creating live 3D characters is unrivalled, says Kord. The company has now added AnimaChat to its offering, which allows clients to stream its services remotely across the web, spreading the cost of a single motion capture system to multiple venues.

“AnimaChat allows our clients to scale their reach and operate various sites remotely using a single broadcaster/server station,” he explains. “One operator can stream multiple characters into multiple venues.

For the first time, your operator can be live, interacting with an audience in Melbourne at midday, and ten minutes later, the same operator can be live entertaining in Hong Kong, then Taipei.”

AiQ-Synertial (AiQS)
A newly-created joint venture AiQ-Synertial Ltd (AiQS) will utilise Animalive’s IPs, including codes, copyrights and trademarks, owned by various individuals or holdings. To form the company, AiQS purchased 87.5 per cent of Animalive, in exchange for an undisclosed number of shares in AiQS, with Kord taking up the position of COO.

Additionally, Animalive’s Jake Slack was appointed to head up AnimaChat and AnimaAR technologies for AiQS, with the board approving a 24-month business plan for the venture.

“We’ve put Animalive online, added better motion capture systems for the face and fingers and improved sound quality,” says Kord.

“Thanks to this partn ership, we can now also offer supporting 3D content spread around an FEC, including AR entertainment or edutainment touchscreens in the form of quizzes, map quests, jokes and dance skits.

“Animalive has reduced the cost of transforming an FEC from a local benign brand, into a scalable, affordable attraction that will keep things fresh, with no content older than three months.”

The acquisition means that with AiQS funding, Animalive can now produce what it calls “the best no-lag voice and lip-synching technology, combined with the best-animated VOIP and squeaky clean AR app”, as well as offering a team of people to create new content and live animation systems for its franchisees.

Using their phone or rental tablets provided by the FEC or attraction, users can trigger content to either play a video on the screen or an animation in AR.

With the real-time animation server – AnimaChat – the Animalive characters can appear on any screen in the FEC, like a celebrity ‘popping in’. Animachat can also be hired on a pay-as-you-go basis for FEC and attraction owners who operate a smaller facility not needing its own dedicated Animachat performance system.

Creating magic
One of Animalive’s offering is the digitisation of an FEC’s mascot or IP, which involves taking a two-dimensional model and rendering it as a 3D character. That character is then programmed to interact on a touchscreen, AR and with live operators.

For smaller FECs, which have no particular mascots but want to tap into 3D digital media entertainment possibilities, Animalive has introduced its Tabatinga brand, which offers an entertaining set of Animalive IPs that can be tapped into, even pay-as-you-go live animation.

While FECs are Animalive’s bread and butter, it has worked with its technology in other settings.

“Parks and malls can use our technology to set up live information kiosks or children’s sitting areas – we come with previous experience in these type of projects,” Kord says. The wow factor you get from this technology doesn’t cease to amaze audiences. In turn, it inspires us to keep it coming. We’re the pioneers of real-time motion capture technology and have configured it to cater to various applications for the last 25 years.”

While its characters and IP can be used for fun, Animalive can also add in an element of education, which is exactly what it has done for Merlin’s Sea Life brand.

Ideal for locations such as museums, science centres, aquariums and zoos, the Animalive Edutainment systems deliver key messages in a fun and exciting way. According to Kord, this kind of guest experience results in a higher level of retained information and improved visitor satisfaction.

For Sea Life, Animalive created Kiah the Turtle, who is the host of an interactive quiz using questions supplied by the operator’s animal husbandry experts. In this example, children compete in two teams, answering questions on the sea creatures they encountered as they’ve explored the aquarium. Using the same system, Kiah can also greet visitors to the aquarium, provide promotional information and educate visitors on environmental issues.

Initially installed in Brighton, the system proved so popular that Merlin and Sea Life decided to expand the system to multiple Sea Life Centres across the UK.

Changing landscape
As the attractions industry develops with new and exciting technologies appearing almost daily, Kord believes a key trend will see the internet reduce the cost of live entertainment for FECs, something Animalive wants to be a leader in.

“We want to stay at the front of the pack as animation and 3D content service providers,” he says.

“We want to create content that will help smaller FECs stay relevant, while allowing children visiting these attractions to let off some steam as well.

Using its motion capture technology, Animalive has worked with car factories, hospitals, running tracks, opera houses and even stadiums. But the most rewarding place to work, says Kord, is in an FEC: “The best place it has ever been used must be at FECs, where the kids want to talk to someone funny and fuzzy, who’s a living, breathing cartoon. They’re the greatest audience to entertain and we’re very good at what we do.”

The Animalive core team:
Top left: Ali Kord: founder and innovator, Jake Slack: head of tech and engineering, Brain Parker: founder of Tabatinga FECs and the AnimaChat testing grounds. Bottom left: Tim Healey: Marketing manager, Alex Diplock: director 3D production
  • Merlin Entertainments
  • Sea Life
  • Chessington World of Adventures
  • Warwick Castle
  • Atlantis Resorts
  • Ferrari World
  • Butlin’s
  • Rainbow’s End
  • Bavaria Filmstadt

Originally published in Attractions Management 2019 issue 2

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