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A talking seagull, and making VR characters you can talk to

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That time when a seagull tried to steal your lunch.

At Sony’s PlayStation VR press event yesterday, most of the software on display consisted of games, but a handful of short films popped up as well. One of those, Gary the Gull, runs about four minutes and features a seagull talking to the viewer for most of that time. The twist is that the viewer can talk back.

The film is the first public experiment from a company called Limitless, which has created technology to help make virtual characters that can respond to a viewer’s actions. A separate team called Motional used that tech to create Gary the Gull which asks the viewer to shake their head, answer basic questions and turn around to get different responses out of the seagull.

"Just like in real life, if a seagull started talking to you, you’d probably talk back," says Tom Sanocki, CEO of Limitless.

Gary the Gull

The story features light conversation where Gary asks the viewer’s name and tries to convince them to turn around so he can steal their lunch, but there’s nothing overly complicated here. Over the course of four minutes there are six points where the viewer can interact, and those generally takes the form of yes or no answers. In many ways, the short film feels like a tech demo intended to sell Limitless’ technology, or to give a hint at what could be possible down the line.

Sanocki says he isn’t sure yet in what form Limitless and Motional might sell or distribute the project, but that Limitless is working with other partners as well to add different sorts of interactive characters in different mediums. He sees a world where characters like Gary the Gull can appear as part of a larger game, as well, similar to what Lionhead attempted with its simulated boy in the unreleased Milo & Kate.

Ultimately, Milo & Kate ran into trouble by being overly ambitious, whereas Gary the Gull seems too simple to really judge one way or the other. It makes for a fun four minutes, though.