Donovan Moxey is nothing if not committed to an idea.
Six months after shutting down his company, LIPSinc, Moxey will announce today that he is launching another venture built on the same voice-to-animation technology upon which LIPSinc was based. He says he has learned from past mistakes and plans to position the new firm, Interactive Multimedia Solutions (IMS), differently in order to succeed this time around.
“The major fundamental problem at LIPSinc was that we never packaged the technology in a way that’s easy to use, served a large market and is priced for access,” Moxey says. “I strongly believe in this technology and feel it can be successful if we pursue the right markets and package it properly.”
As its name suggests, IMS plans to pitch the software at the multimedia development market instead of the computer graphics and gaming animation market that LIPSinc targeted, he says.
Multimedia developers like to experiment and find ways to make their work look “cool,” whereas animators often viewed the LIPSinc technology as competition and were reluctant to adopt it, he says.
Moxey co-founded LIPSinc in 1998 after coming across the voice-to-animation technology in a North Carolina State University computer research lab. The software analyzes sound files from a live or recorded voice in any language or a synthetic voice from a text-to-speech engine and produces the corresponding facial animation for a two- or three-dimensional animated character. Using complex algorithms and a computer engine, it detects inflections in the voice signal and generates speech gesture data that is used to automatically drive the eye blinks, eyebrows and head movements of the animated character in synch with its speech.
During its four-year run, LIPSinc raised about $11 million in venture capital and attracted some media attention both for its technology and the creative titles of its officers, such as “Head Mouth” for the chief executive and “Loud Mouth” for the company spokesman. But when its lead investor, Belgium-based Flanders Language Valley Fund, decided last summer to close out its fund and not support its portfolio companies anymore, LIPSinc had to shut its mouth for good because it couldn’t attract other investors and wasn’t generating enough revenue to survive on its own.
After shutting down the company in August, Moxey put up his own money to license the technology from his former backers and try again. As business development director for LIPSinc, he says, he saw the sales potential in the multimedia market but was never able to convince the rest of the management team to pursue the opportunity. Now, he says, the technology can be used to create presentations and applications for interactive learning, direct marketing, web design, customer interfacing solutions, entertainment and multimedia messaging for wireless devices.
Suite of products
IMS is developing five products.
Three are companion products to Macromedia’s line of products, including its Shockwave 3D rendering engine, and the others are multimedia developer kits targeted at application developers.
The two developer kits are available for licensing, and IMS already has a demonstration version of a software tool, IMS CharacterGenerator Studio, which complements Macromedia Director MX, on its website before a formal launch of the product in a few weeks.
Moxey is operating IMS out of his house with the help of about a half dozen contract employees, and he says he will add staff slowly after he sees some sales traction in the market. He’s bootstrapping the operation and likely will continue to fund it internally, given the current climate for venture investing. But he says that, if an opportunity presents itself and he needs outside investors, his past experience hasn’t made him afraid to go that route.
Interactive Multimedia Solutions: www.IMS3D.com