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Dancing with My 3D-Projected Self

This is Paige Fraser. Contemporary dancer. And behind Fraser, you can see her mirrored digital self, a real-time apparition created with Intel RealSense. But the magic here isn’t just the technology, it’s that Fraser is dancing at all.

Paige Fraser’s mother worked a few doors down from a dance studio in the Bronx and, when her squirmy daughter turned four, she enrolled her in ballet lessons. That day changed Fraser’s life forever; it was the day she found her calling.

Fraser is a professional dancer. The now 24-year-old Jamaican was the first African-American Clara in her school’s version of The Nutcracker. She’s toured internationally with the renowned Ailey II troupe and is a founding member of Visceral Dance Company, a contemporary dance studio in Chicago.

By all measures, Fraser is a success. But there were dark days when she felt her world crashing down on her. At the age of 12, she was diagnosed with scoliosis, a severe curvature in her spine.

She was told she’d never be a professional dancer.

“It was overwhelming and confusing,” said Fraser. She had to wear a back brace to school and while she slept. Doctors told her that she’d need surgery and that this would involve installing metal rods in her back. It was terrifying and heartbreaking news.

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But her parents found a chiropractor who worked with dancers and who showed her that surgery wasn’t the only way. It would take hard work, commitment and loads of perseverance, but the Frasers had no doubt their daughter could do it.

She could be a professional dancer after all.

Last year, Intel teamed up with Fraser, choreographer Tone Talauega and Mirada Studios to find a unique way to tell Fraser’s inspiring story using the latest technology.

By employing 18 Intel RealSense cameras powered by 6th gen Intel Core processor-based PCs, the team created an ethereal reflection of Fraser that followed her movements throughout a contemporary dance.

Tone Talauega has previously worked with artists like the Backstreet Boys, Jennifer Lopez, Chris Brown and Pink. He used Fraser’s incredible backstory to shape the choreography.

She starts the dance crunched down, in abstract poses that represent her scoliosis and struggle. The performance then transitions into a more powerful, athletic dance where she finds herself, eschews the restrictive brace and breaks through.

All the while, Fraser’s movements are mirrored by her digital self. “[It’s] an incredible way to fuse human creativity with the power of technology,” Talauega said.

“We’re pushing the envelope of what’s never been done before. The future’s bright when we figure out how to bring together humanity and tech.”

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“The technology is the tool that allows us to tell the story,” said Andy Cochrane, digital director at Mirada Studios, a visual effects studio that pushes technology and its ability to accompany the art of storytelling.

He explained that they wanted to show Fraser’s struggles and perseverance in a universal way that allows people to viscerally relate to her story. They achieved their goal by building an environment that responds whenever Fraser is moving.

Paul Tapp, Director of Technology for Intel Marketing, said that Intel RealSense 3D camera technology and its ability to sense depth affords new opportunities for expression and creativity. Its potential is only starting to be realised.

“This is a really nice way of showing how, with RealSense and high-performance computing, you can unleash the creativity of a dancer,” he said.

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Attendees at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show got a peek at Fraser’s live performance on the spotlight stage.

For Fraser, who’s faced years of ups and downs in a competitive profession, the projected dance partner is like having an earlier, otherworldly self dancing with her.

During the dance, giant boulders on the screen fall down and Fraser is able to crush them with a powerful kick or a dramatic shove. Meanwhile, her 3D-projected double follows her every move, almost backing her up her bravery.

“It almost feels like my essence is dancing with me,” said Fraser, adding that the Intel RealSense dancer embodies her struggle to overcome hardship. It’s also a message to other athletes and dancers to continue doing what they love.

“The RealSense dancer is that spirit I carry wherever I go,” she said. “It’s that little voice inside me that encourages and pushes me… and confirms the power I have inside myself. When I do this solo, I’m able to let go and be free.”

Mirada’s Cochrane says Intel’s RealSense technology is a way for computers to understand the world in a whole new way. “It’s a new pair of eyes,” he said.

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