Invirtua 3D Live Animation For Mental Health

Autistic children are using live 3D animation systems to communicate with speech pathologists and having fun doing it, a technology made possible by a Nevada-based company bringing interactive virtual reality to the healthcare industry.

Live 3D animation gives therapists, speech pathologists, parents and clients the ability to control computer-generated “digital puppets.” People can control these characters and use them to help one another communicate better and improve motivational and social skills. The characters appear on video screens where they can interact in real time, talking with an audience of one or hundreds. The individual can make the characters tell stories, teach lessons, demonstrate facial expressions, play with body language or simply have fun.

Autistic people can even be the puppeteers, learning quickly how to control the animations, since the lip sync is completely automatic. Young people of any age or ability (with supervision) have fun and enjoy the experience of communicating via cartoon characters, or even life-like, realistic characters. It adds an engaging dimension to role-playing that can be productive in many ways and since children love cartoons, they love the live, animated cartoons created for Invirtua by the artists at CHOPS & Assoc. Live Animation.

Gary Jesch, also known as “CHOPS” and founder of Invirtua, is a performance animation artist and character creator. He brings people and virtual characters together by combining several artistic disciplines, including acting, computer graphics and video production design. His frequent corporate appearances at trade shows and company meetings offer something few people have ever experienced – interacting with a cartoon character that can see them, hear them and talk back to them.

“My interest in helping those on the autism spectrum started in around 1997, when I was following the work of Dr. Rosalind Picard at MIT’s Media Lab,” Jesch said. “Picard showed me that we take things like facial expressions and body language for granted, when it comes to expressing ourselves. Now we can help therapists work with those with autism.”

Earlier this year, he started Invirtua and organized an advisory board comprised of professionals in autism therapy, for the purpose of developing systems to be used to increase communications, based on his original live animation technology. He exhibited his prototype of the 3D Digital Puppeteer (TM) system to receive feedback from attendees at the Autism Society Annual Conference. His goal is to complete development of specific software and hardware that will contribute to better communication, reduced anxiety and other improvements for the autism community.

Invirtua is a resource for therapists, speech pathologists, behavioral analysts, parents and caregivers who are interested in affinity therapy studies and also provides materials related to autism, such as videos and online workshops.

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