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Meet ‘Lilly’, the 3D Animated Virtual Dog

Float Hybrid and Sandbox partner to create lifelike virtual dog for Elanco Animal Health.


Man’s best friend just got a digital makeover. Meet ‘Lilly’, a virtual interactive dog that uses computer vision technology to respond to people. Lilly wants to play! Gesture towards Lilly and she will sit. Wave your arms and Lilly plays in the yard. Play fetch with Lilly by throwing a virtual ball.

The experience has been featured at events around the country to promote Elanco Animal Health’s line of products. Designed and developed by interactive technology agency Float Hybrid and full-service agency Sandbox, the experience has driven unprecedented levels of engagement, growing in booth sales by more than 275% for Elanco Animal Health at the largest veterinarian conference in the U.S.

The interactive experience unfolds in several phases:

  • When no one is interacting with Lilly she is resting peacefully in her dog house.

  • When someone approaches, Lilly runs out of the dog house and up to the visitor.

  • Lilly will follow the visitor as he/she moves left and right around the space.

  • On screen instructions encourage visitors to interact with Lilly. By using different gestures Lilly will sit, run laps, fetch, and even take a treat.

The magic behind Lilly the virtual dog is her lifelike features and expressions. With so many expert vets at the conferences where Lilly is on display, every aspect of her appearance, behavior and environment had to be analyzed and hand crafted for Lilly to be convincing.

Float Hybrid and Sandbox researched the actions and characteristics of healthy Labradors to ensure that Lilly was designed and modeled accurately. Based on countless hours of research, a 3D model of Lilly was generated to be representative of a healthy Labrador. Details down to the color of her tongue and texture of her hair were all painstakingly crafted to ensure the most lifelike and photo realistic result.

“The magic of the experience is infusing a virtual dog with realistic behavior and personality so you feel like you’re interacting with a real dog,” says Steve Chen, Managing Director at Float Hybrid. “Every detail of the experience has to be lifelike to create the illusion effectively. It’s not only how Lilly looks but also her movements, expressions, and environment.”

All of Lilly’s movements, expressions and responses were designed and animated by Float Hybrid’s team of highly skilled designers and animators. The yard that served as Lilly’s living quarters was also 3D modeled and animated by Float, from the swaying grass to the rustling leaves on the trees. Lilly’s yard came fully equipped with a 3D modeled white picket fence, dog house, and dog toys.

Guests were amazed by Lilly’s ability to play fetch and retrieve treats in her virtual backyard. Float used Microsoft Kinect technology to recognize visitor’s gestures and to trigger Lilly’s real-time responses. The motion sensing technology was used to ensure that Lilly responded immediately and accurately to the list of gestures dictated by Float.

Float and Sandbox observed humans interacting with dogs to understand the most common gestures and commands. Once implemented for Lilly, the experience was tested with people of different age groups, genders and heights. Based on the results, the gestures and responses were finetuned to create the optimal experience.

The outcome was a highly interactive and entertaining experience that brought Elanco Animal Health’s brand message to life for their customers. The experience was viewed by attendees on a stunning 6k video wall that stood eleven feet tall and six feet wide, making Lilly life-sized on screen, and allowing visitors from all angles in the Elanco booth to see and feel part of the action.

“We are obsessed with user experience,” adds Chen. “We want the experience to look beautiful and lifelike, while never forgetting that the experience has to be simple, user friendly and engaging to be a success.”

Lilly the virtual dog was certainly a success for Elanco Animal Health, as growing booth sales by more than 275% at the biggest industry conference of the year is no small feat.

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