by Gary Rainville

[Editor’s note: Nearly three dozen companies participated in the Emerging Companies Summit, held during NVIDIA’s GPU Technology Conference in May. Below is one in a series of company profiles showcasing how startups are innovating with GPU technology.]

Not since the Pony Express has a form of communication overflowed with as much character as Zoobe Message Entertainment’s animated video messaging service.

Zoobe’s mission is to bring entertainment to messaging. Founded by entrepreneurs grounded in filmmaking and computer graphics animation, the Berlin-based startup brings cinematic qualities to text messaging with the help of dancing, lip-syncing avatars.

Here’s how it works:

First, choose a big-eyed, brightly animated avatar from Zoobe’s cast of animal characters to embody your message. (The pink pig is particularly popular.)

Next, select a costume that reflects your style or fits with the setting. Choices include classic movie characters like Dracula and Catwoman, stylish dresses and rakish scarves, even an oversized Facebook “like” thumb made of foam.

Zoobe Message Entertainment bunny avatar
Zoobe’s cast of animated characters
brings your messages to life.

Then, think about the scene. A Parisian café, which you might use for an invite to coffee. The bunk of a prison cell could be perfect for a shame-faced apology. Or call up a festive party to help convey birthday greetings. Choose a background that sets the mood for what you’re trying to communicate.

Once the details are determined, record your voice or insert your message. The video is quickly rendered using NVIDIA GPUs in the cloud and returned for previewing.

The animated character will lip sync your message with a high-pitched voice, or something closer to your own, while shimmying, dancing or in repose, as appropriate for your scene. And then you can post your creativity on Facebook walls or send it to family or friends, who can share it, as well.

In a recently added Euro Cup soccer scene, avatars dressed in national team colors could congratulate compatriots, or talk trash to rivals.

Launched in beta last December as a free Facebook application, Zoobe already has 40,000-plus registered users, with plans to create versions of the app for Apple and Android mobile devices.

For birthday wishes, flirting or just saying “hi,” Zoobe lets people communicate with personality and style, while making texting seem as antiquated as sending a message on horseback.