Lip Sync
I started looking at the possibility of using an exaggerated version of my own image as an avatar. These twenty photographs are based on the Preston Blair phonemes used in animating cartoon speech. For the trial movie below I exaggerated the mouth shapes further. I experimented with a lip sync programme called Magpie Pro, recently used by Tim Burton for his movie ‘The Corpse Bride’. As with other professional solutions that I have toyed with, this would be too steep a learning curve to be practical for this project. I ended up making use of the online avatar creator Vhost, which is quick and simple but dependent on a monthly subscription. Ideally I would like an avatar that will respond directly from text so that It can be driven from the database. This is possible with Vhost, but I have not managed to make the connection as yet.
The idea behind using an avatar, especially as a representation of me, is to engage the students. This is very dependent on sticking the right balance of humour and stupidity, without ‘dying’ (to use the theatrical term). Like a comic or clown, the right balance may enable the students to don a persona when they enter the space I have created; the circus ring, with me as the ring master, or the space of the story, with me as the narrator or story teller.

The success (or otherwise) of this is very dependent on my relationship with my students, and the age of my intended audience. It would be better if I could use images of them, or perhaps a cartoon image. They will never tire of seeing themselves on screen, especially in a distorted manner. The Apple company did some experimentation with an avatar for their ‘help’ interface, and decided that it would not work. Being nearly human is not good enough, it is better to remain distinctly non human. A paper clip perhaps.