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Startup – Big Stage $2.7MM raised for Avatar Software

Startup News – Los Angeles – Big Stage Entertainment, is the worlds leading developer of 3D facial creation technology, otherwise known as an Avatar, announced on Tuesday that it had secured an additional $2.7 million in second round funding, from Mission Ventures, Selby Ventures and TechCoast Angels.

Big Stage Entertainment is a So. Cal Startup, founded by Jonathan Strietzel, Jon Kraft and Jon Snoddy, that has raised a total of $10.6 million through their Angel and Series A rounds of financing.The company said its Series B round will remain open for an additional $3.3 million.

Big Stage allows a user to insert their avatar onto a fully animated, 3D avatar, this avatar can be used in video games, virtual worlds, mobile games, learning and training simulations and much more.

Some of Big Stage’s Clients include Lionsgate, Funcom, Sony BMG, GGL Global Gaming, Cannel Group and Intel Corporation.

The company will use the new funds to accelerate research and development, and sales and marketing efforts.

Startup News – Jonathan Strietzel on IEEE

Strietzel Featured on IEEE

Startup – Strietzel | Big Stage

Startup Mayhem – Strietzel‘s Big Stage Technology

“UM YEAH. THIS IS LIKE EVERYTHING THAT I’VE BEEN EXCITED ABOUT FOR A WHILE.” 

April 05, 2009

These are true words from an email I received earlier this week as authored by a well-respected digital marketing executive. What can I say… it resonated with me, not simply because of the boiled down truth, but because this same sentiment has been echoed in countless meetings since I joined this hot Startup founded by Jonathan Strietzel, Jon Kraft and Jon Snoddy – Big Stage nearly two years ago. Yes, reading this email made my day (thank you)! 

Why do people respond like this to Big Stage? Other than the undeniable wow factor of our 3D avatar technology, I believe it’s about an immediate connection to our unique vision. In brief, how cool is the idea of having a digital version of YOU that can be deployed on command across your digital life?

Well, this reality has already begun and the rest of our story involves taking a leap. Just think… How much fun would it be if you could play your favorite video game as YOU, competing against Tiger Woods, LeBron James, or even battling an army of super ninjas with the help of your buddies online. You could even go inside a virtual world as YOU, decked out in some crazy hair, Prada glasses, and the cool shirt that would absolutely freak out your mom… And just think about how much fun you could have by tasking your digital ‘self’ to represent you by way of your instant messenger, articulating to friends and family with life-like gestures as you type or [better yet] speak into your connected headset. It’s you, your way, online… as many ways as you want. Pretty wild!

Those of us who’ve been in the digital trenches since the mid-90s can well recall how personalization has evolved from custom emails to the use of collaborative filtering on websites to deliver merchandise and/or content experience based on your own likes/dislikes. These were considered game changers back in the day, and many of them were actually not about “you” but rather “them” trying to figure out a better way to sell you stuff. Fortunately for us, personalization has continued to evolve, largely to help us save time, gain access to better information, and generally make our lives a whole lot easier. But now, the age of personalized has gotten ‘photo-real’ thanks to the technology and early vision of Jonathan Strietzel, Jon Kraft, Jon Snoddy and the amazing team he built at Big Stage.

You are now free to roam across your digital life – as YOU.

Um yeah. This is what we’re most excited about, and it’s only the beginning. Stay tuned!

 

Posted By : Jonas Gray – aka Scoob

Startup News: Transport yourself from Game-to-Game

Dean Takahashi | December 11th, 2008 | Repost by Jonathan Strietzel

If your interested in building a 3-D avatar, or virtual character, you might as well spread take it everywhere with you. That’s the point of Big Stage Entertainment’s PortableYou program.

Big Stage uses a highly advanced, facial modeling system to render an amazing digital replica of you in seconds which can be transported into numerous forms of interactive media.

Big Stage allows you then take your avatar from one place to another, as long as each desitination conform to Big Stage’s own applications programming interface, or API. For now, the API is proprietary, but Big Stage hopes to make it a standard.

Creating an avatar is easy.  An avatar can be created in a few seconds using three standard digital camera photos of someone’s face taken with any standard camera with a flash. This amazing process creates an amazingly accurate, high definition avatar in seconds and allows you to transport it into a number of environments.

Still, the idea could catch on because it fits with the theme of personalization that is taking over everything from YouTube personal video channels to social networks, said Phil Ressler, chief executive of Big Stage.

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Digital Podcast 52: Everyone Can Be a Star

by Andrew Krainin

In Digital Podcast 52, Andrew interviews Jonathan Strietzel, Co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of Big Stage, whose breakthrough technology allows users to create and integrate life-like 3-D avatars of themselves into movies, videogames, commercials and other digital video content using just three digital face photos.

Imagine if you and your friends could star in a music video, famous movie clip, or commercial as realistically as if you were around for the shoot. Jonathan describes the company and the potential that its technology has to transform advertising and the audience relationship with movies, television and videogames. 

icon for podpress  Digital Podcast 52 [23:00m]: Download (4858)

In the interview, Jonathan describes his early start as a wunderkind discovered by SoCal VCs (0:00), his insight into the coming importance of personalization as he discovered the technology behind Big Stage (2:45), and how he helped move the technology to become consumer internet capable and fundable (7:05).

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Starring You On The Big Screen

Forbes, CES 2008

Forbes, CES 2008

Louis Hau 1.9.08

CES 2008

Las Vegas, NV

How would you like to give yourself a starring role in your favorite videogame? Or music video? Or your favorite movie scene of all time?

South Pasadena, Calif., start-up Big Stage wants to help you do just that. The company has developed a technology that will allow anyone with a standard digital camera to create a life-like avatar of themselves. They will then be able to place that avatar on a blog, Web site or social-network page as a fun way of identifying themselves.

Even better: with a little know-how, users will be able to insert their virtual selves into a digital media file–or, say, place a 3D image of Intel (nasdaq: INTC ) Chief Executive Paul Otellini in the music video for Smash Mouth’s 1997 hit “Walkin’ On The Sun,” as Big Stage Co-founder and Chief Creative Officer Jonathan Strietzel did during Otellini’s CES keynote address at the Consumer Electronics Show on Monday.

Big Stage’s technology has its roots in government-funded research in 3D imaging done at the University of Southern California. The work takes what had been a complex, time-consuming image-creation process and boils it down to a consumer-friendly means to create personalized avatars.

The company’s technology is currently focused on reproducing facial images, but full-body avatars are in the pipeline. Its avatar system will be available to the public in the second quarter of this year.

On Tuesday, Strietzel needed only a few minutes to create a 3D avatar of me and superimpose my face over that of Harrison Ford’s in a scene from Raiders Of The Lost Ark. There I was, in a dank room, slyly replacing a coveted idol head with a small sack of sand. Damn, I was good.

As startling as it can be to see a moving 3D image of yourself, these are very early days for the technology, which is bound to become more compelling as the ability to simulate intelligence improves to create an even more realistic digital you.

What sorts of revenue-generating applications could a life-like avatar have? You don’t have to think too hard to come up with a pack: Videogame publishers could license the technology to give customers the ability to place their avatar inside a game. Similar uses could be attractive to online virtual worlds and social networks. And here’s one of Strietzel’s favorites: Allowing customers to insert themselves into famous movie scenes could give studios a new way of generating fresh revenues from existing film assets.

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CIA technology will map your face

By Rafe Needleman  / January 8, 2008 9:55 AM PST

LAS VEGAS– Intel CEO Paul Otellini’s CES keynote was sparkling. In contrast to Bill Gates’ pastel portrait of the future, Otellini presented a concrete vision of a personal, reactive Web, and the challenges to creating it (Silicon, Infrastructure, Context, and Interface). For a full rundown, see Dan Farber’s writeup on ZDNet.

Intel loves where the Web is going. The more interactive and personal it gets, the more processing power is required and the more new chips Intel sells, for both servers and local workstations. The most interesting (and newest) product that Otellini brought to the stage in his keynote was an automatic avatar builder made by BigStage.

BigStage founder Jonathan Strietzel mugs in front of Steven Harwell's avatar.

BigStage creates a model of anyone’s head by using just three photos–head-on, rotated a little, and rotated a little more. The company processes these pictures on its own servers and ends up with a model that knows which pixels your eyes are (so it can move and blink them), where your mouth is, and so it. In the Intel keynote demo, BigStage found Jonathan Strietzel created an avatar of Smash Mouth singer Steven Harwell. It was eerily good–much better and less creepy than avatars I’ve seen previously.

The technology comes from a CIA-funded project at the University of California. It was originally intended for scanning surveillance cams, since at its core it measures the three-dimensional geometry of key points on a face, for example between eyes, or the shape of a person’s cheekbone. The fact that the algorithm can extract a complete 3D model from only three images, and with what is now reasonably inexpensive computation (this is where Intel comes in) is what makes it commercially viable.

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Startup News: Intel In The 3-D Fast Lane

Startup – Strietzel’s Big Stage at CES 2008

Intel Keynote Speech at CES 08'

David M. Ewalt, 01.08.08, 2:35 AM ET

LAS VEGAS –

How do you show off your products to a crowd of slavering gadget geeks when most of what you make is smaller than a thumbnail and doesn’t do anything more exciting than route electrons?

That’s the problem that faced Intel Chief Exective Paul Otellini, Monday’s keynote speaker at the International Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas. His solution? Show off other people’s cutting-edge gadgets, talk about how Intel’s microchips make them possible and wrap it all up in some rock music.

The keynote began on a bleak note as video screens ran a painfully forced cover version of the classic 1979 Buggles song “Video Killed The Radio Star.” Cartoon figures ran around with cell phones and laptops as the song dropped corny metaphors and bad rhymes. “Internet shook the broadcasting star,” went some of the lyrics. “The Internet came and set us free … check out our mobility.”

When he took the stage, Otellini told the crowd that the song reflected his view that smart networks and consumer electronics would drive the next generation of the Internet, making it into something predictive, proactive and context aware.

To demonstrate, Otellini showed off a mobile device on a set designed to look like a Beijing street corner. A built-in camera on the gadget captured live video of a street sign and a storefront. Then, using “augmented reality” technology from Total Immersion Software, the device translated the Mandarin characters on the sign into English, and in real time, super-imposed the characters on the device screen with English translations. With a push of a button, a menu popped up offering further information, downloadable from the web, including video reviews and blog discussion.

The technology echoed the demo given by Microsoft (nasdaq: MSFTnews people ) Chairman Bill Gates in his Sunday keynote, and the audience seemed impressed on both occasions. But what does the gizmo have to do with Intel? The software and the applications seen were real, explained Otellini, but ran on several servers offstage. For now, portable hardware can’t hack such a complicated application. “Doing this will require exponentially more powerful processors that require exponentially less power,” Otellini said. Intel, he pledged, will invent the chips that can help usher in this new era.

Later, Otellini brought on stage an executive from software start-up eJamming. The company’s software allows musicians to connect online via a social network and collaborate in musical performances and recordings. They were joined on stage by Steve Harwell, lead singer of rock band Smash Mouth, who used the software to connect with his bandmates over the Internet and perform a few verses of their hit “Walkin’ On The Sun.”

While it was interesting to see members of a band connecting and performing regardless of geography, it wasn’t much of a performance, since the other members of the band were only represented as thumbnails and music waveforms on a computer screen. So next, Otellini brought out Jonathan Strietzel, co-founder of start-up BigStage. The company is currently developing software that allows users to create three-dimensional digital avatars of themselves.

It’s intriguing software: take three digital photos of your face, each at a slightly offset angle, and upload them to BigStage. Thirty to 60 seconds later, you get a well-rendered virtual version of your face, which can be easily customized with different haircuts, jewelry and expressions. The digital avatars are animated, so they turn their heads and blink realistically. No one would ever think it was the real you–but it’s surprisingly cool and easy.

To complete the virtual exercise and close out his keynote, Otellini brought on Andrew Tschesnok, founder and chief executive of Organic Motion. His company has developed motion-capture software that doesn’t require the “ping-pong-ball-bodysuit” worn by actors in movies like Beowulf. Instead, 14 video cameras capture an ordinary scene in front of a white wall, and translate the action into 3-D animation. Moving over to a side stage, Harwell was able to perform another tune–and this time, the main screen of the keynote stage showed a full-on virtual Smash Mouth, with digital avatars of each band member reflecting their real-world movements.

I have to admit it was all very cool–exactly the sort of telepresence that we need to make all those sci-fi fantasies of cyberspace happen. How cool will it be when you can have a couple of webcams on your desk, and a virtual 3-D version of you will walk, talk and perform in your favorite online hangout or video game?