Puppeteer steps into the Dragons’ Den

full_752994puppet_monday.jpgBy Simon Barrett of the Argus

A puppeteer behind a hi-tech cartoon character will take a brave step into the Dragons’ Den.

David Field, of Alfriston, near Polegate, will present his ‘Virtual Puppet’ to the fiery panel of self-made multi-millionaires on the BBC show, on Monday.

The father-of-two believes the 3D character is the future of shopping, advertising, corporate events and children’s parties.

Projected on a plasma screen, the character imitates the body movements and facial expressions of whoever is wearing a special suit fitted with sensors to detect the tiniest gestures.

Millions of viewers will see the 39-year-old appealing to the Dragons for investment for his state-of-the-art motion capture technology system.

He ventures into the den hoping to secure a £200,000 investment.

Mr Field said: “Going into the Den was terrifying and it took an awful lot of preparation and money from all different sources just to get to that stage.

“The pressure was really on to get the investment and to answer all their questions. It felt that everything was on the line. It looks like entertaining reality TV, but believe me it was very real indeed.

“People say the Dragons are horrible but that’s just part of the whole game, and I did think it was great fun.”

The technology behind the Virtual Puppet, which would have cost millions of pounds to produce just a few years ago, can now be run from the average home computer.

The person operating the virtual puppet is hidden nearby behind a screen or curtain and can interact live with an audience.

Mr Field, who was born in Lewes and grew up in Brighton, said it could be used by a shop to chat to customers entering a store about its latest offers, and at trade shows, information booths and business conferences.

But he is sworn to secrecy over whether he received the cash – although he admitted that business was booming since he entered the den.

He added: “We are near to completing some amazing contracts. It really has all taken off since I went into the den.

“There are shops who want to use the Virtual Puppet already in time for the Christmas rush by welcoming customers to their store and telling them about their special offers.

“People just stop and look at it because it is so amazing.”

He has been working with Hove-based company Berlin-Armstrong Locatives, which has developed the technology.

Mr Field said: “The system captures your entire body movement and basically lets you become a joystick to control the character on the screen.

“Until very recently, computers could not do this kind of thing in a relatively cheap and accessible way. The advances in technology mean many of the things we could only dream of are on the verge of being made a reality.

“You never know, if it takes off I could be moving in next to Fatboy Slim one day.”

Dragons’ Den is broadcast at 9pm on Monday, on BBC Two.

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