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Zoesis Studios Debuts TheLivingLetters.com,
The Premier Example of Computer-Based Living Characters

New Internet Animated Theme Park Marks A New Medium In Entertainment

NEWTON, Massachusetts (Sept. 12, 2000) -- Forging a new direction in entertainment, Zoesis Studios today unveiled the first example of Interactive Theater with its Web production of TheLivingLetters.com. TheLivingLetters.com is a wholesome and fun animated theme park for children ages five to 10 and their families. Zoesis Studios is developing the art and technology of artificial intelligence-based interactive characters, allowing people to become actively engaged with believable characters in a computer-animated world.

Interactive Theater is a theatrical form in which computer-animated characters appear to be alive, aware of the user, thoughtful and emotional. According to Gregory Lehane, independent director of such popular children's television programs as Sesame Street, "These virtual characters appear to have improvisational freedom, allowing the user to quickly forget the fact that the characters are drawings. To the user, the characters are real and seem to have free will. It is quite extraordinary."

The company's founders and creative talent believe Interactive Theater is a potent art form because it is a new way of combining the power of rich movie-like characters with the interactivity found in video games. Unlike existing video games or movie scripts, however, Interactive Theater incorporates live theater techniques by creating autonomy within the characters' minds. Users, and even the characters' creators, do not know what the characters will do next or how the characters will respond to a particular action.

"A powerful experience lived can be far more compelling than a powerful experience watched," said Zoesis Studios Founder and President Joseph Bates. "With TheLivingLetters.com, we have introduced loving, fantastical characters that respond to children in a very real way. We believe this production is the beginning of a new age of entertainment that will lead to deeply moving, emotional and intense interactive experiences." Bates and his team are bringing 15 years of the most advanced artificial intelligence and art research to market with TheLivingLetters.com.

TheLivingLetters.com features the Web's first expanding children's theme park. Called Letter Land, the theme park grows with new interactive attractions added monthly. With today's announcement, Letter Land premieres with three features: a playful game of Tag, hilarious Opera Singing and high-fashion Costumes. Future attractions include Olympic Soccer and Aerobic Workout.

The initial attractions star two loveable characters named Iris and Otto. Iris is a coy character based on the letter i. She is very good at tag and particular about what she wears. Otto is a warm and funny character based on the letter o. He is not as good as Iris at tag, and his singing skills need some help. The user participates actively and positively in all attractions by playing tag with Iris and Otto, designing Iris's costume or conducting Otto in his operatic efforts. Both Otto and Iris have emotional responses to the user's actions and behave according to their individual personalities. The engaging characters create a positive and fun computer-based experience for children and their parents.

"TheLivingLetters.com is a truly new and exciting form of interactive entertainment. Not only does it incorporate advanced artificial intelligence techniques to create richer characters, but it delivers positive, non-violent play activities that I am pleased to be able to offer my children," said Pattie Maes, Associate Professor at MIT's Media Laboratory.

TheLivingLetters.com is currently free of charge.

Technical Requirements
A typical 200MHz IBM-compatible computer or later model running Microsoft Windows 95 or 98 and a 28.8 kbps or better modem with Internet access using a standard Web browser (Internet Explorer or Netscape Version 4 or higher) are recommended for optimum performance. No unusual multimedia accessories, hardware or software are necessary.

About Zoesis Studios
Zoesis Studios, located in Newton, Massachusetts, was launched in Pittsburgh in 1996 when Joseph Bates, a senior professor of Computer Science and Fine Art at Carnegie Mellon University, founded the company with three Ph.D. members of his research team and several key artists. The company moved to Boston in 1997, where it continues to hire artists, researchers, and programmers who come from theater, traditional character animation, and the computer science research community. The company received financial backing as well as technical collaboration from Fujitsu Limited, one of the largest computer corporations in the world. A second round of financing will be sought in late 2000. Further information about Zoesis Studios can be located on the World Wide Web at www.zoesis.com.

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