Celebrities and brand owners have a new, more animated way of cutting through the social clutter with the launch today of Headcast—a new broadcasting and animation platform for smartphones developed by Chris Chapman, a former designer and builder of puppets who once ran the animatronics team at the satirical TV show Spitting Image.
The new platform allows the user to record, produce, and distribute within seconds a short personal message presented by an animated, virtual avatar of themselves which lip-syncs with their voice recording and can also mimic hand movements and facial expressions.
Headcast, which launches for iOS now and will launch on Android in July, is all about speed and ease of use, explains Chapman, chief executive of HeadcastLab, the company behind the technology.
"By taking three or four images of the user, we create an animated character in a pre-agreed style. Then we put it into an environment where it sits like an actor on a stage waiting to perform," he says.
"To start a performance, the user simply opens the character on their screen, speaks into it and it is automatically lip-synced and animated. There are options to adds expressions or gestures, which you simply do by tapping the screen. Then you send it out to your followers—it’s as simple as that."
Limited to a maximum of 60 seconds, HeadcastLab describes these messages as "visual tweets." Once sent, they can be played and replayed by recipients who can also interact with them—for example, by answering votes or inserting their own images and sequences.
"The idea struck me two years ago when I was wondering if a smartphone could process 3-D animation. I found it could, then started building from there," Chapman explains.
"It comes from a firm belief in the power of animation to communicate messages that cut through the steady stream of texts we all receive to buy one get one free and the value to brands of being able to send short, personalized visual smartphone messages."
HeadcastLab’s first Headcast-powered app is Fry —a free app for British actor and technology enthusiast Stephen Fry, who has produced seven different preloaded Headcasts and will create live content using Headcast from today.
The company, which will soon announce a second client—an as-yet unnamed famous sports personality—is now in discussion with a number of other personalities, brands, and media organizations.
"We’ve always anticipated the easiest route to market will be with famous personalities first, then brand owners second, once the idea is out there and the potential clear," Chapman adds. "But the more people we speak to, the more the potential uses for this technology continue to grow."
Talking books read by animated characters on your mobile phone, anyone? Watch this space.