Local startup creates live action, instant animation app

Traditionally, cartoon animation is painstakingly slow. Technology has streamlined the process tremendously but not for the average non-techie consumer.

A Seattle start-up called Freak'n Genius wants to change that. The four man team that includes an artists, web developer and comedy writer, met at last year at Seattle's Startup Weekend hackathon.

Since then, Freak'n Genius has been building a program called Presto, which uses the Kinect as a building block for live action, instant animation.

"We realized very quickly that animation is really difficult," says Kyle Kesterson, Freak'n Genius' founder. The group's original idea was to create a cartoon about a talking tapeworm. But they found a shortcut by using the Kinect as a motion capture device. Microsoft's Kinect, is the motion-sensing device use with many Xbox games comes with depth sensing video camera.

"So we are building the ability for anybody to animate, instantly by just using their body, their face and their voice," says Kesterson. "All you have to do is move around and the characters do exactly what you do and speak exactly what you say."

They may have found the germ of a very viral idea because companies like Microsoft and Google are looking for innovative ways to create sharable content. Presto could become a platform for e-cards - much like what JibJab has perfected - except anybody with a creative mind can produce a JibJab-esque e-card instantly.

Up to two people can control characters in one recording, but the team is working on layered recordings so one person can animate multiple characters.

Freak'n Genius is one of 11 companies working out of a South Lake Union office space under the watchful eye of Microsoft. The companies are part of the Microsoft Kinect Accelerator program which gives companies three months to build upon an idea that incorporates the Kinect into the company's product.

"We get all sorts of mentorship from investors, entrepreneurs and allot of people from within Microsoft," says Kesterson.

Soon the companies will get their chance to pitch investors to fund their ideas into full fledged products. Presto is not available right now to the general public, but with luck and perseverance it could be available for the Xbox late this year - that's if an investor thinks Presto is freak'n genius.