Gary Jesch - The Digital Puppeteer
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Gary Jesch wears many hats. A 30-year veteran in computer graphics, writing, commercial photography, advertising and marketing, he also designs computer systems, 3D animations, web sites and video displays. To complement that, he fills the positions of sales professional, marketing director, stage technician, actor/performer, projection specialist, streaming media expert and broadcaster. And he answers the phone, too.

Such concentration of talents in a single person may seem overwhelming - and it probably is. But that's just what it takes to be a successful one-man business with a worldwide clientele. And it certainly helps with mastering the transformation of a very ancient art into a communication form for the future.

Puppetry is thought to have originated about 30,000 years ago, when puppets were used to communicate information and ideas. It seems fitting to re-animate this medium for the information age, using state of the art technology. Gary Jesch has been doing that for almost 18 years, starting in 1993 with his first creation, a "Virtual Mark Twain" character.

True to the tradition of puppetry - communicating ideas and information - Jesch offered Virtual Mark Twain as an educator and spokesman, debuting him at the Virtual Reality Expo in New York on Mark Twain 151st birthday, November 30, 1993.

Twain was followed in 1995 by Chops, the disembodied head that would eventually give its name to the business. The acronym stands for "Cyber Human On Performance System". Somewhat reminiscent of Max Headroom, Chops is an excellent attention getter at corporate meetings as well as tradeshows.

 

Chops has a good memory, greeting show attendees by their first name when they return to the booth the second or third day into a show. He shows a surprising amount of business acumen, is sales savvy and even knows how to mix a good joke into the conversation, every now and then.

My first encounter with Chops happened at an entrepreneur expo in Reno. It still remains an unforgettable moment, even though - or perhaps because - I initially did not know how to react to this bodyless head that floated across the screen, changing size, changing attitude, occasionally bugging out his eyes, while talking and asking questions. He did everything human representatives do at trade booths, only with the difference that his act captured me. The curiosity about the unusual along with fascination about the technology that makes this happen riveted me, where a person would have received only a polite smile and "thank you', before I"d move on to the next booth.

I didn't know at that time that I was talking with and being observed by a human, Chops' operator. Gary Jesch sat behind blinds, watching me on a monitor connected to a close circuit camera, listening to my words in headphones, while answering into a microphone and controlling Chops' movements with a tablet pen in his right hand and a joystick in his left.

It's seems to require great talent in eye-hand-speech coordination to do that. The character's

 

 
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