Creative people famously consider the impossible just another problem begging for a solution. So when the folks at Wieden + Kenney Amsterdam, an agency known for the global nature of its staff, realized they couldn’t physically be with their families over the holidays, they simply got to work and created the Virtual Holiday Dinner.
The dinner, which was first created in 2010, sees friends and families call in to Skype where each person’s face would appear on a monitor mounted atop a robot convened around a festive table. Facial tracking software, which looks for participants’ eyes, nose, and mouth, was created using visual programming language Max/MSP and allowed each user to control their robot by moving their head from side to side.
This year, the unusual communing continued but with a new twist: dinner guests were given a comical script to recite while awkwardly contorting their bodies to move the robo-head and address others around the table. Once the dinner theater began, each guest would read the lines that appeared on their computer screen. Script themes included The Business As Usual Dinner, The Resolutions Dinner, or the Overly Friendly Holiday Dinner. Plot points ranged from saccharine compliments to outrageous resolutions such as giving up auto-asphyxiation. Oh, that old holiday yarn.
As agency managing director Lee Newman says, “We’ve used the finest technology known to man to ensure this is as awkward as any real-life family holiday dinner. Maybe more so.”
Adds Mark Bernath, Executive Creative Director, W+K Amsterdam: “The idea was to gather clients, friends, and families from all over the world around our virtual holiday dinner table to catch up on things. But, as you all know, conversations between facial tracking Skype-controlled robots can sometimes be a little awkward. So this year we provided scripts to ensure that the banter was as witty and convivial as possible.”
For a recent dinner Co.Create played the role of gracious Granny with an overactive robot head and a resolve to adopt a rigorous diet of endangered species in 2012. Witty? Yes. Convivial? For sure. Awkward? Hilariously so.