Why Create a Blog on Avatars and Who are We?

We are very pleased to launch this blog dedicated to avatars: their uses, their creation, the technologies that bring them to life, and their future.  In different posts, we’ll blog about these topics through expert lessons learned, testimonials, business cases, and academic and industry research results. We also want to hear from you—and encourage you to contribute.
As a way of introduction, I thought I would explain how we entered into the world of avatars. Let’s go back 20 plus years…
From Video Games to Avatars for Companies…
We started working on 3D character animation in the beginning of the 90’s by contributed to the production of the first real-time 3D Video games and animated films, including Down in the Dumps published by Philips Media, and L’ile du Docteur Moreau (The Island of Doctor Moreau) published by Sony Psygnosis. This early work in video games and film allowed us to develop in-depth knowledge of the limitations (including user-friendliness and technology) related to the animation of virtual characters. In 1998, we were asked by the company Michelin to create a video game prototype called Le tour du monde du Bibendum (Michelin Man’s World Tour), for the 100th anniversary of their mascot, Michelin Man. We discovered the power of using avatars for corporate communication. We began using a technology called MS Agent. We created and scripted virtual characters, integrated them into software, and managed their roles as guides, assistants, and trainers.
Bugs & Daffy
Soon after the company Cantoche was born and we started providing consulting and creating 3D avatars.  To promote the use of avatars, we created models that could be downloaded free of charge from the Internet. Our James character is still the most downloaded agent in the world. In just three years, we created over 50 virtual characters for companies from all over the world including Warner Bros, Hewlett-Packard, Gateway, Ford Credit, John Deere, etc.
In 1999, Microsoft asked Cantoche to create the QMark character,which was designed to support new users as they install Windows XP. QMark has been installed QMark, Avatar for Microsoft in almost all of the Personal Computers in the world.
After evaluating all of the available avatar solutions, we decided to create our own technology. The first version of Living Actor™ was introduced in 2002. Thanks to the requests of folks with the same passion for character animation, we created more than 600 Living Actors for different uses such as interactive on-line assistants, virtual presenters, guides, tutors, or virtual actors–which explains why we chose to name our technology, Living Actor™.
An Important R&D Activity Conducted with Academic and Industrial Experts…
The creation and evolution of our technology is possible thanks to the strong partnerships we have with several laboratories and universities in Europe and the US. We currently team with our partners on several R&D projects addressing man-machine social interactions and studies about the future of the avatars with a focus on emotions (projects Humaine and Affective Avatars), attention (AtGentive), or scenario tools for automatic gesture animation  (Living Actor™ Broadcast, Interactive Actors for All, MyPresentingAvatar).
The aim of this blog is to share experiences on all things avatar—artistic approaches, technology development, design, production, and use cases.  Our industry and academic partners will also blog about a number of different topics related to avatars. Another goal of this blog is to generate conversation–so post your comments, reactions, and questions. Tell us about new articles, techniques, and your experiences. Andrew, our avatar, may even ask to interview you for the blog.
That’s how we got started and our goal with this blog. I invite you to come back next week for Andrew’s first post.
Benoit Morel
Founder & CEO of Cantoche