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Motorola hires Pixar moviemakers to allow Moto X owners to peek into virtual world

After teasing something called Windy Day for a few days, Motorola launched it this morning exclusively on Moto X handsets, under a red sombrero icon.

A mouse, a red hat, a windy day and a smile. This is a new kind of story. Made by Motorola and [Oscar-winning Pixar movie director] Jan Pinkava. Brought to life only on the Moto X.

Described as the ability to tell interactive stories in real-time, Windy Day effectively turns the phone’s display into a pair of binoculars, peering into a cartoon world. To follow the action in the cartoon, you move your phone left, right, up and down … 

The story is delivered via an app called Motorola Spotlight Player. This should have been auto-installed on your Moto X handset, but if not you can download it here.

Wired was impressed:

All of this is presented with astonishingly high quality, and at times, it’s actually laugh-out-loud funny. In fact, the whole package — characterization, animation, scriptwriting, art — reaches the notoriously stratospheric level of a Pixar movie. This is not surprising because Motorola hired actual Pixar moviemakers to create it, including the co-director of Ratatouille.

Motorola is concocting what it hopes will be much more than an odd and expensive interactive cartoon. The company has set out to build a new platform that uses contemporary technology — powerful computation, smart sensors, vivid mobile displays — to reinvent the age-old practice of narrative itself.

A cartoon mouse and hat might sound frivolous, but Motorola appears to be serious about the technology: it’s the work of its Advanced Technology And Products (ATAP) team, headed up by ex-DARPA director Regina Dugan. We wondered at the time what her role might be, but we didn’t imagine it would be to create cartoons.

It began with Dugan’s insistence that the company should explore “what it means to have an experiential device.” She felt there was a strange dissonance between the power of our smartphones and the relatively narrow relationships we have with them. Though we are increasingly dependent on our phones, they do not provide the emotional kick of, say, a game console. Yet the technology inside our phones now rivals high-end devices like Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Most of the time, however, the powerful graphics capability on the phone is absolutely idle. Was there a way to do something amazing with all that wasted computational power?

It’s a pretty interesting concept, and the whole, quite lengthy article is worth reading.

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