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VWN Product Reviews: Pixel Perfect

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Themes:
Embodiment,
Mind Upload,
Mind Download,
AI,
Holographic body,
Augmented reality

Pixel Perfect is a 2004 Disney Channel Original Movie. It was first shown in January 2004, to 1.58 million viewers. As might be expected from a Disney branded production, Pixel Perfect can be somewhat teenager-orientated, however it is essentially S1m0ne, given a new twist.

The film opens onto a picture of a cat on a computer monitor, and a glasses-wearing teenage youth staring at it. This youth, whose name we later learn is Roscoe, is the son of a researcher doing work into 3D, air-suspended holography. He allows his son to tinker in the lab when he is not using it, as long as nothing to untoward happens.

Finished tinkering with the cat image, Roscoe calls up his teenage crush and best friend Samantha, via the webcam fixed above the monitor. He wants to show her something. After mild flirting, he shows her the cat, named Beta. The remarkable occurs when he doesn?t show her a computer model, he shows her a cat lounging on his dad?s new holoprojection cube. To prove it is computer-generated, as Sam is allergic to cats, Roscoe texturemaps it several times in real-time, whilst the cat is moving organically underneath the texture mapping, oblivious. This sets the scene for the technology used later in the film.



A holographic Cat




It transpires that Sam?s band, the Zetta Bytes, is having some problems in its auditions. To put it bluntly, they are driving the talent scouts out of the room. Everyone?s doing as well as they can, but they lack a lead singer, someone to really dazzle the performers. Eager to prove his worth to Sam, Roscoe has been working in the lab on a bigger project. He has digitally mapped faces and female model bodies from magazines, used machine vision and modern algorithms to convert them into their 3D equivalents, run heuristic algorithms to average them, and created a female model which seems to match the ideal. For a voice, he likewise sampled the voices of every major hit female singer of the past 15 years, and we see him blending the voices to find the ideal pitch and tone. A skeletal structure is built for the body, controlled by a very sophisticated AI that its not clear if he seeded, or simply took from elsewhere.

Ultimately, he introduces the band to Loretta Modern, a talented dancer, singer, who in an audition with the band, blows everyone away. Sam moves to shake her hand and welcome her to the and, but trips over some wires and falls ? straight through her.

So begins a madcap mix of adventures as the band try to perform with their new lead singer to a rip roaring success, yet, at the same time have to hide some very experimental technology from their sponsors and the public, lest they find out Loretta is only a holographic AI. Of particular challenge is the issue that the hologram technology only works by bouncing photons in enclosed spaces ? she will dissolve into nothingness outside.



Lolita, not quite solid



Despite the challenges, the band becomes successful, but with a growing concern: Sam begins to feel alienated, pushed aside as a singer and from the spotlight of attention as the computer-generated singer reaps the glory.

Ultimately Loretta is sold to a record company, but one of the executives, Darryl ? the name choice for which is interestingly familiar from another AI embodiment film, D.A.R.Y.L. ? takes pity on her and offers her a way out, giving her program to the internet winds when she chooses her freedom as an independent entity.

Samantha tries to take Loretta's place, but falls, hits her head and slips into a coma. Hooked up to modern medical equipment, in essence, Sam?s mind is now crudely linked to the information channels of the hospital?s network, and from that, to the Internet itself. Loretta finds her way through the hospital?s defences, and somehow downloads herself into, partially overwriting Sam?s mind. She finds Sam in a funk but manages to snap her out of it. Loretta explains that she hates being perfect and envies Samantha's ability to change, learn and grow as a being. Loretta cannot escape the bounds of her original design. The two reach an understanding but there is a problem. The organic mind can only take one separate personality at a time in control, same as with schizophrenia. Thus, Loretta takes temporary control of Sam's body so she can feel haptic, taste, smell, and kinaetic stimulation.

Loretta tries to be a normal person but fails, and Roscoe tells her to leave Sam?s body. She gets emotional, saying she cannot, but then as a storm breaks, she goes outside to stand in the rain. A bolt of lightning strikes her body, pulling Loretta?s personality out in an ascending data stream, and leaving Sam?s behind. Loretta?s personality merges with the storm cloud, and ultimately the planet.

Later, in a band session, Sam takes over as lead singer, but someone takes harmony. Its clear on the recordings, and the audience hears it, but no-one sang. Something resembling Loretta materialises briefly nearby, indicating she is still with them.

 

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