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On the Edge Conservation creates virtual animal influencers

On the Edge Conservation is launching “virtual animal influencers” on YouTube and other digital platforms to draw attention to endangered species.

It’s a novel attempt by the nonprofit to champion a cause in a crowded media and game market. It follows up on an endless runner mobile game called Kakapo Run that was also designed to draw attention to biodiversity using pop culture channels.

Kakapo Run is the first in a series of games aimed at raising awareness and support for Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) species, with a particular focus on the Kakapo, the flightless parrot that won New Zealand’s Bird Of The Year designation. Just over 200 Kakapo remain in New Zealand today, CEO Beth Blood said in an email to GamesBeat.

The game is free to play, and there are no ads or in-app purchases.

With the animal influencers, OTEC is mimicking the human “virtual beings” market that has blossomed in the past couple of years with the convergence of artificial intelligence, animation, and influencer marketing. Rather than using digital humans, OTEC is using animals, which are parroted by human actors.

The charitable foundation is dedicated to promoting biodiversity and tackling conservation attention inequality. It has used popular digital platforms and the latest motion capture technology to create a series of short-form video diaries starring three new virtual animal influencers, launching today.

Above: Eric the Pangolin rides the Tube in London.

Image Credit: OTEC

OTEC hopes digital natives can inspire and engage a growing number of young activists who can in turn advocate for the diversity of life in our natural world.

The effort was started by Blood and Bruna Capozzoli, head of creative content and creator of the series.

They created animated animal characters and added human voiceovers and movements to them, as well as crafting narrative tales. This allows them to transmit information about endangered species through storytelling that resonates with the way people consume media these days.

OTEC has produced a series of short-form video diaries that follow the exploits of a group of digitally animated characters drawn from the list of 3,147 species on the established Evolutionarily Distinct Globally Endangered list.

They chose Lexi the Aye-aye, Eric the Pangolin, and Tegan the Kakapo to represent some of the most unique, endangered, and overlooked species on the planet.

The team had to create tech with a motion capture pipeline so virtual influencers could express themselves through human movements, as well as building realistic character models that matched the video surroundings. And they had to produce the content quickly.

The adopted motion capture pipeline was designed by Doppelganger, which formed as a collective in response to OTEC’s request. In addition to using motion capture data to control the character 3D model live, Doppelganger used cutting edge technology to capture data from faces, hands, and body movements at the same time, rather than relying on the more traditional method of combining those elements afterwards.

The company has 11 people working on the project, which is funded by Blood and her husband David Blood. Over time, OTEC will secure its financial sustainability through digital publishing activities.


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