Live Spark got a nice mention by Greg Schwem both on Huffington Post and in The Chicago Tribune.
Original articles are here (Huffington Post) and here (Chicago Tribune). More information on Greg here.
We have to add--the actors behind the voices of our AniMates (who interact in real-time) most certainly need dressing rooms and their share of the "bird seed".
Whenever I have my
children's full attention, meaning they are only performing two
simultaneous tasks on their cell phones, I attempt to offer fatherly
advice on subjects ranging from drugs to fashion choices to not spending
money like a Kardashian. So far they seem to be listening, although I
know the day is coming when one bursts through the front door and
excitedly screams, "Dad, don't you think this tattoo will be perfect for
my job interview?"
Recently my eldest and I were discussing her
chosen college major, physical therapy, a vocation that I wholeheartedly
support for it meets the criteria I laid out during one of my advisory
sessions: Do not choose a career that can be replaced by a computer.
Physical therapist has only a 2.1 percent chance of becoming automated
in the next decade or two, if one is to believe "The Future of
Employment: How Susceptible are Jobs to Computerization," a 2013 study
authored at the University of Oxford. Budding fashion models take note:
The study predicts a 98 percent likelihood that robots, not humans,
will be sashaying down Parisian runways in 2033.
Now, I fear, I may be searching for a new line of work, having just lost
an employment opportunity to a parrot. And a computerized one at that.
always assumed my longtime profession - stand-up comedian - would
forever be immune to virtualization. "Comedian" doesn't even appear in
the Oxford survey. And besides, I tell my children, "Nobody is going to
sit in an audience and laugh at a machine." Of course, that was before
presidential candidate and automaton Ted Cruz garnered some yuks at the
last GOP debate, but I digress. "Sure, robots can build cars, cook gourmet meals and fill orders for cholesterol medication at the local pharmacy. But tell jokes? Nonsense," I said smugly.
so fast, as I discovered upon contacting a client who had hired me
several years ago to perform live, human generated comedy at an annual
meeting for a large, independent optometry network. At the event's
conclusion, accolades of "great job," "funny stuff," "stay in touch and
"we DEFINITELY want you back" poured in.
Last week I contacted
the client, eager for him to make good on his promise. The original
contract was on my computer screen; all it needed was a new date and
maybe a slightly higher performance fee. Even comedians are not immune
from the ravages of inflation.
"Actually, Greg, we've been using a parrot the last few years," the client replied.
kind of parrot?" I asked, as if losing a gig to a scarlet macaw as
opposed to a green-cheeked conure would provide me with some comfort.
"It's an animated character," the client said. "I'll email you a link to the company that created it."
but ..." I stammered.
I remembered another piece of advice I
consistently give my children: Always stand up for your beliefs and your
skills. This would prove difficult, knowing my competition didn't
require a plane ticket, a king-sized bed at the local Marriott, meal per
diem and a taxi ride to and from the airport. Out of curiosity, I
clicked the link. The parrot was the brainchild of Live Spark, a
Minnesota-based event production company and creator of "AniMates,"
computer generated characters that can humorously interact with
audiences in real time. Live Spark President Dan Yaman was happy to talk
with me, once I assured him I wasn't calling to name him - and his
parrot - defendants in a wrongful termination lawsuit.
"We have a
talking horse, talking eagle, talking building; basically whatever you
can slap a face on, we can animate it," Yaman said. Heavy hitter
companies including Intel, MetLife, Target, Pfizer and Xerox have used
Yaman's creations at live events.
"(AniMates) can talk about
things on the audience's mind. They can even challenge the CEO," Yaman
said. But, he reminded me, AniMates are controlled entirely by creative
human beings who sit backstage, generating the funny lines and
controlling the character's movements.
"Let's talk next week," Yaman said to me. "Maybe we can work together."
with that, Yaman reaffirmed yet another piece of grandfatherly-sounding
advice I've bestowed on my kids: When one door closes, another opens.
Even if the object behind that door is a brightly-colored bird that doesn't need a dressing room.
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