ToyTalk announces "The Winston Show"
I'm eager to check out the first effort from ToyTalk, a startup that uses natural language understanding to create storytelling conversation "shows" for kids on tablets & phones.
The interview below between ToyTalk CEO Oren Jacob and Techcrunch's Greg Kumparak is a fascinating introduction to the principles behind the product.
A ton of high-end tech is working behind the scenes here to make a transparent entertainment experience for grade school kids. AI, natural language understanding and an authoring system for his team to script conversation trees and for animating the characters. The server-side work is fascinating here, offloading the AI processing, the animation and word are streamed down to the device.
The telemetry issues that ToyTalk are dealing with here is super interesting and right on the bleeding edge of kids and big data. Talking to kids in natural language will generate lots of potential insight into how kids interact with characters, but extracting that insight is a bit of a legal minefield. Anyone who makes games-as-a-service for kids struggles with this challenge, and it is great to hear Oren's take, as a parent, on the safeguards they have implemented to ensure informed consent and kids' safety.
Waaay back when I was an intern at Pixar on Toy Story, I distinctly remember Oren Jacob walking me through the Menv (aka Marionette) software he & his team worked up for the Pixar animators - all procedurally modeled NURBS characters, giving an amazing fluidity and power to the artistic instincts of the crew. That experience inspired me to constantly seek to combine technology and creativity in service of talent. I try to do that in every game development team I work with.
With 13 years in the game industry and time served in theme parks, internet and film before that, Martin Caplan has done some pretty fun and weird stuff. Currently he's consulting as an Executive Producer with Transmedia SF (Connected transmedia experiences) and Neomyx (Mobile / Location games). In the past, Martin has been Executive Producer at Robot 11, creating amazing mobile connected toys. Before that, he was a Producer at BioWare / EA leading teams to create amazing next generation experiences in mobile games with AAA brands. He was Senior Producer and New Business Director at Other Ocean, pitching and running projects in the mobile/social space. At Sixense, he served as Senior Producer leading an internal dev team to create innovative gameplay for the Razer Hydra motion control hardware in a Valve game mod for Portal 2. He was previously a Producer at Sega of America for 5+ years with 18 shipped titles. He has worked in the serious games industry as a game and interface design consultant for U.S. intelligence agencies, earning Secret clearance. Finally, he founded and sold Paragon Games, a tabletop RPG game company, developing and publishing RPG books and boardgames.
Marty can be reached at d33vle at gmail dot com