Gary Jesch - The Digital Puppeteer
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mouth shape is controlled by software that lip-syncs its face with the current sound. But everything else has to be hand-controlled in real time. I am therefore surprised when Gary tells me in his Carson City home office, that it takes only two or three days of training to get a new operator proficient (kids master it within an hour). And, of course, he trains those operators himself, adding the hat of "teacher" to his broad collection.

Over the last 17 years, Chops has installed these systems for domestic and international corporations ranging from manufacturers of potato chips to producers of cars, as well as in theme parks from Florida to Manila, Philippines. The installation closest to Carson City is in the McDermont Field House in Lindsay, California. It features the custom designed character "Squeeze", an athletic orange that greets and guides visitors.

Custom designed characters are a large part of Chops' business. Many of the about four dozen major corporations on Gary Jesch's client list - Hewlett Packard, Proctor & Gamble, Exxon Mobile, Dreamworks and Disney Event Group among them - needed custom designed or modified characters for their projects. For a home-video distribution launch in Orlando's University City, Jesch reproduced Shreck's "Magic Mirror" Character in just three days. Other projects require only mild modifications to an existing character. Attaching the client's logo to a baseball cap, for example.

It's all about entertainment and marketing. Custom created characters, as well as the more than 50 stock characters Gary Jesch has designed over the years, create an atmosphere of awe and wonder, thus attracting attention and promoting a business, service or product.


Jesch is not ready to rest on his achievements so far and attempts to explore his system's capabilities further. "The next step", he explains, "is to develop this to where the interaction happens by artificial intelligence, instead of a human operator". This technology will be able to detect and interpret facial expressions and body language, in addition to understanding and responding to human speech.

He sees applications beyond entertainment and marketing for a system like that. Interactive animation could substitute for humans in places that are dangerous. "I can't claim to be the only one to ever have this idea", Jesch admits, " but I have it".

Another one of Gary Jesch's visions has already become reality. Through his latest venture, web conference provider Console Call, Chops and his cyber siblings appear in live webinars, online meetings and webcasts. They make the event stand out among similar ones and improve participant's attention.

No matter how far Gary Jesch will take this technology in the future, he already has earned himself an extremely rare distinction. By becoming a digital puppeteer, he turned into a true pioneer in a trade that's been around for 30,000 years.

Website: Chops & Associates

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