Mobile AR Pioneer Reflects on his Immersive Journey and What's Next

Srinivas Krishna is a member of the VRARA Storytelling Committee and the Founder and CEO of the pioneering mobile AR studio AWE Company (2012) and the mobile AR platform Geogram (2017). He joins VRARA's Storyteller Davar Ardalan to talk about his foundational work in AR technologies, some of the most remarkable AR experiences of the past decade. His work as a digital media innovator has been applauded by Canada’s national newspaper, The Globe and Mail, as “utterly breathtaking… genius.” 

Prior to his work in augmented reality, Srinivas produced and directed feature films that have premiered at Toronto, Sundance and Cannes, and have been distributed worldwide. He launched his career in 1991 with the international hit Masala, which was voted by the British Film Institute among the Top Ten South Asian Diaspora Films of the 20th Century and is a classic of world cinema.

 

1) You are a pioneer in VR & AR storytelling and came to this space as a filmmaker. For those who still haven’t experienced immersive media - what is intriguing about it and why should they try it?

Immersive media is quite different from the movies. I started experimenting in this space after making films for twenty years. In 2010, my studio was commissioned to produce 10 films on athletes competing in the Vancouver Winter Olympics.  One of the requirements was to geo-locate clips of the athletes for playback on users' phones at various competition venues. This sounds relatively easy to do today. But, in 2010, two years after the introduction of the smartphone, it was a challenge.

This project got me thinking about the larger implications of distributing and delivering contextually-aware, narrative content for smartphone users.  Around the same time, I saw my three year-old son walking around with my newly acquired iPad. He was playing with the pre-loaded game demo from Unreal. Watching him inspired a vision. What if you could inhabit these 3D worlds? What if we could marry them to the real world and walk around inside them and interact with their characters and events? It was an epiphany. 

I spent a year looking for people who could build the tech to support this kind of experience. I finally found a team of scientists at Ryerson University's Multimedia Lab who didn't think I was crazy. We started a collaboration and, by 2012, I was developing and staging my first multi-user, room scale experience. It was a mixed reality historical drama for five untethered iPad users interacting with a cast of a dozen virtual humans, set in the oldest building in Toronto, a defensive bunker in old Fort York called the Blockhouse. 

You can see highlights in this video:

The Blockhouse was the first time anyone had experienced anything like this -- an audience in a room individually and collectively interacting with virtual humans who know you're there, who talk to you, even take a run at you. We ran hundreds of users through the experience and did countless focus groups and user interviews.  The whole project became, in a sense, a social experiment -- about human beings and how they relate to new technologies and experiences, why they might resist, and how to build trust, drive adoption and create pleasure. I learned so much

What I discovered was a fundamentally different medium. Immersive media - and let me be clear that I'm talking about unthered mobile experiences - is more like theatre than film. It places you in a location and runs in real time, much like a show on a stage. But it's also different from the theatre - because it puts you in the middle of the show and lets you interact with it. There can be sudden changes in scale, and changes in the location and time period of the world you are inhabiting, done digitally in a way that's not possible on a real stage. 

Moreover, you, the audience, require a device to access the show; in a sense, you become the cameraman of your own experience, holding a magic window into this other world. So where you look and how you navigate this world, as you walk around inside it and respond to it, will determine the kind of experience you'll have. It is a spatialized experience, unlike the 2D onscreen interfaces we are accustomed to, so there's a learning curve to it. I have seen users do nothing more than look through their devices at their feet for an entire 15 minute experience, despite all the noise and action happening around them, while others dance around the room and have full on conversations with the virtual characters.  

Therefore, as someone who creates immersive experiences, it's important to realise that you are not only staging the performance of the virtual characters and organizing the behavior of their virtual world, you are also choreographing the response, movements and gaze of the user in relation to them. That's the art of it. 

Now imagine doing that for multiple users inhabiting the same show and interacting with the same virtual characters, all in a real world location, all at the same time. It can be mind-boggling to plan and execute. But, when it's done well, the experience can be absolutely mind-blowing, utterly unpredictable and just plain crazy fun.


2) What was the first project you monetized when you knew you could make a living doing this work? 

After our demo at the Blockhouse, I got a slew of mobile AR VR projects in 2014 to 2017. These included a location-based AR adaptation of a mobile video game, an AR component to a web cartoon, a large scale visitor attraction for the Fort York National Historic site in downtown Toronto. My studio changed completely from doing film and TV to AR VR. We hired engineers and scientists. We developed new technologies and work flows. We produced experiences that were the first of their kind. We were inventing a new medium. And, incredibly, we made a living doing it. This was a hugely exciting time and it remains so to this day.


3) Tell us more about your pioneering mobile AR project at Fort York in Toronto and the patented tech you built in the process.
 

The prototype I built in collaboration with the scientists at the Blockhouse in 2012-13 was, as far as we knew, the first demonstration of multi-user, interactive, collaborative mobile mixed reality. We tracked the exact positions and poses of five iPad users as they moved around the shared space by using the devices' on board sensors and a slam algorithm. We communicated the users' location data to a server. Our mixed reality engine would render the virtual content in the users' video feeds, in real-time, according to each user's unique position and pose. We filed a patent application for our system and method in 2013 and were finally granted the patent by the USPTO in April 2018. Throughout these years, we've been building out our tech through our many projects. 

The most complicated and challenging of these projects was a visitor attraction at Fort York National Historic Site in Toronto. It required us to scale our prototype from 5 iPad users in a single room to a hundred thousand plus annual visitors at a nine acre Site; it meant tracking their location as they explored the grounds of the Fort and delivering, through smartphones, immersive recreations of historic events that took place right where they are standing.  

We started in 2014 by improving our tech stack so we could track a lot more users' positions and poses across the Site, and optimizing our slam algorithm so that we could deliver markerless AR on the consumer devices available back then. Because the client wanted historic recreations, we realised that conventional mixed reality wouldn't work; we'd end up placing virtual characters from the 18th century in a location surrounded by 20th century condo towers, and that would be jarring, comical, and weird. Instead, we built complete 360 degree worlds that would effectively take the visitor out of the present and immerse them convincingly in the past. In the end, we built eight of these worlds, from a depiction of the Site as it appeared before European settlement, to a battle scene from the War of 1813, to the construction of an elevated highway in the 1950's that's still there today. 

Here's how we did it -- we scanned the entire Site and created a model that we used to situate, scale and sculpt these virtual worlds into the topography of the Site. We did low cost 3D scans of real people on iPads to create our characters, did motion capture using Sony Playstation cameras and a great software called iPiSoft, and built a rich binaural soundtrack to lead visitors through the two hour experience from start to finish.  

Amazingly, by the spring of 2015, we were ready for user testing -- and that began a whole new social experiment in spatialized UI and a whole new set of lessons to learn. Suffice to say, by the Fall of 2015 we had achieved at Net Promoter Score of 9.3. The project was launched as the TimeWarp VR Experience at Fort York and we started getting our first paying customers.  At the time, we were among the few companies, if not the only one, to have a consumer mobile AR experience of that scale, complete with our own tech stack and UI, in the market.  

I think it's reasonable to say that the TimeWarp VR Experience at Fort York is a milestone in the early history of mobile AR, something that years later people will look at and say, "Here's the crazy shit they used to do before Google, Apple and Facebook made it all so easy!" I gave a rather entertaining fifteen minute talk about our roller coaster journey from prototype to paying customers at the AR in Action Summit at MIT in 2016. (You can watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7kThp0mFhA).  Now, two years later, we are  building version 2, incorporating AR Kit and AR Core. And, yes, these tools do make it easier.


4) Are there regions of the world where consumers are more actively engaged in buying VR and AR experiences?

When it comes to consumer AR VR, I believe all roads lead to China. I read an article recently in VR Scout (https://vrscout.com/news/rise-consumer-ar-china/#) that quotes a survey indicating that 95% of Chinese consumers have used AR or VR technology in the past three months compared to only 24% of U.S. consumers. Another survey of 2,000 Chinese Internet users revealed that 78% actively seek out AR products. The reasons for such strong consumer adoption rates are quite obvious. China is a mobile first country with cheap data plans and a massive and growing online user base, most of them accessing the web on mobile. I believe for these reasons Africa, India, and much of South East Asia will follow.


5) Any advice for current VR and AR students on where the industry is headed 2-3 years from now?

With the incumbents -- Google, Apple Facebook and the rest -- having entered the space so aggressively, we can safely say that the era of the spatialized web has begun. Over the next 2 to 3 years, we'll start seeing early consumer adoption of smart glasses while, at the same time, we'll witness AR VR integrating with IOT and AI to make the physical world increasingly intelligent as it goes online.  This has enormous implications.

For  VR and AR students today, this means we are moving up the stack from core tech and middleware to user data, design and content layers. No longer is it really about the tech, it's about how we will use this tech to create value.  What type of content and what kind of experiences will make life better? What kind of user interfaces will help us navigate and interact with an intelligent, spatialized web? How will the blockchain and decentralized data architecture enable greater individual liberty in terms of the stories and information we share in an online space that communicates intelligently with our physical world? This is where I would advise VR and AR students to look for opportunities.

At the same time, as an industry, it's important that we learn from the past and avoid making the same mistakes, those countless choices, big and small, that have led us from an open internet to monopolies and mass surveillence. But the world is about change, all over again, and we have a chance to make a real difference. That's what makes this moment so exciting.

La Camila: VR Animation for Cinemas & Arcades

 
 
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Jak Wilmot is a storyteller based out of Atlanta, Georgia and co-founder of VR studio, Disrupt! He loves film, games, & coffee. His newly released VR experience, La Camila, is available for Vive & Oculus. He joins VRARA's Storyteller Davar Ardalan to talk about animation techniques in VR and why his focus is on distributing at cinemas and arcades versus digital sales.

 

1) How did you get into VR?

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Throughout high school I dabbled in 3D animation, releasing short films on YouTube and experimenting with game-based storytelling. So when the current gen VR headsets were released, it was a medium that felt like the perfect mixture of gaming, storytelling, and animation. From there, my business partner Jordan and I combined talents to create Atlanta's first VR animation studio, Disrupt.

 

2) Tell us more about La Camila, based on Coelho's The Alchemist.

So La Camila was born out of a late night reading of Coelho's The Alchemist. I was captured by the concepts discussed in the book: finding one's path, working with the world around you, keeping balance in the face of chaos. The goal was to create a world that deals with those heavy themes, while also remaining lighthearted with goofy sheep & a father/daughter story.

 

3) What engagement sensibilities come with VR animation

I'd say I'm still figuring engagement out. It's a balance between keeping the viewer focused on your characters but also providing pathways that they can discover on their own. For example, I don't explicitly say what has happened to Camila's mother; however, if you physically move into her father's room, you can see a family portrait.

 

4) How are you monetizing your work in VR?

With the headset user base being objectively small, we've focused on distributing via location-based VR cinemas & arcades, rather than digital sales.
 

5) Where do you see the industry heading in the next 2 years?

My hope is that AR/VR HMD's will be designed to look more appealing. The tech is there, but until a teenager wants to wear one in public, it will still be a niche device. For instance, my generation didn't carry around blackberry even though it was more capable than a flip phone. Only until the iPhone rolled around mixing style with tech would you see them in the lunchroom.

 

Davar Ardalan is the founder and storyteller in chief of IVOW, an AI-powered storytelling agency, and Stanford Affiliate. Ardalan is also the Co-Chair of the the Storytelling Committee of the VR/AR Association and has been recognized with a 2017 NASA Team Leadership award for Space Apps, a Gracie Award from the American Women in Radio and Television and a shout-out in the popular comic strip Zippy.





 

Davar Ardalan

VRARA | Co-Chair, Storytelling Committee

IVOW | founder and storyteller in chief

www.ivow.ai  l Twitter @idavar

The Power and Potential of VR for Impact

By Davar Ardalan

Founder and Storyteller in Chief at IVOW & co-chair of the VRARA Storytelling Committee.

  My Beautiful Home  is one of the five 360/VR films selected in the 5th annual  Socially Relevant Film Festival in New York .

My Beautiful Home is one of the five 360/VR films selected in the 5th annual Socially Relevant Film Festival in New York.

As I considered how to select the 360/VR films for the 5th annual Socially Relevant Film Festival in New York, there were several criteria to include. How immersive and engaging were the films; what kind of impact did they have on us; did they have a creative approach to filming, sound, and storytelling; and finally, how original was the interaction? These questions were inspired by SwedenVR, an international VR competition that takes into consideration UN Sustainable Goals when judging films and their impact.  

My Beautiful Home and The Great, two of the 360/VR films showcased at this year’s festival, exemplify the transformative qualities of VR. Both films move you to your core but in completely different ways.

The Great invites you on an exhilarating dive with great white sharks. While the filmmaker is in a cage behind you or to your left or right, you’re immersed with a shark in crystal blue waters in the western frontiers of Mexico. The shark is free and you are mesmerized by the sheer strength and beauty of its nature and physique. The instant when you sense a shark coming towards you is surreal and powerful.

My Beautiful Home, set in the slums of Kibera, Kenya, although not nearly as well-produced as The Great, had much more of a personal impact on me. Lucy Ochieng of Kibera is our guide throughout this powerful story that chooses to dwell on the richness and universality of creativity and community rather than the extreme poverty that surrounds us. The spirit of the film is genuine and together with the narration, the whispers were effective in making me care and pay attention. Compared to the other films nominated, there was an unmatched depth and immersive sensibility to this film.  

Discovering the raw power of VR as an impactful storytelling tool has been one of the most fulfilling experiences of my career as a journalist. I spent two decades at NPR News producing national and international broadcasts including NPR's Weekend Edition, Tell Me More, and Morning Edition, where I helped shape the newsmagazines and was responsible for decisions that required elaborate coordination such as broadcasts from Baghdad, Kabul, New Orleans, and Ferguson, Missouri.

I left NPR in 2015 and joined the open innovation space. Working with SecondMuse, I designed a global immersive storytelling call-out around healthy eating in the South Pacific, funded by the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s innovationXchange (DFAT iXc). The selected pilot programs, produced by storytelling agencies in Sydney and Melbourne, will launch in late April and are geared towards tackling malnutrition and bringing pride back to traditional diets via VR and gamification.

Tash Tan is the co-founder of S1T2 in Sydney and the creator of Beyond the Stars, an educational program that uses innovative technology, play-based learning tools, and storytelling mediums to inspire children in Fiji to adopt healthy living habits, self-educate on subjects from their school curriculum, and consider the impact their actions have on the environment. Set across the backdrop of the Pacific Islands, the heroes of Beyond the Stars journey with students across islands, through mountains, and into underwater caves searching for legendary sacred relics that have been imbued with the wisdom of an ancient civilization. This knowledge is the key to restoring health and prosperity in the Pacific and preserving the natural beauty of the land.

S1T2 uses virtual reality to introduce this story in a first-person format that allows children to embody their character’s journey in the virtual world. Starting from the comfort of a familiar classroom, the story quickly moves to magical environments, merging fiction with reality. In the VR experience of Beyond the Stars, the hero is the protagonist urging children to make choices in the story world -- a consistent theme used to underline the importance of decision-making when it comes to healthy living and nutrition.

Tan says that action starts with empowerment, and in Beyond the Stars this is a central motif. “We use technology to enrich our story by allowing as many aspects of the story world to be interactive,” Tan says. “This not only gives children the chance to try, and try again in a safe environment, but also creates an understanding that everyone has the power to make a difference. This application of gamification methodology is essential to teaching healthy living because we are faced with decisions and choices every day on what to eat, how to live our lives, and our adoption of local tradition and culture.”

The purpose of the virtual reality experience is to imbue a sense of wonder within each child so that when they are exposed to other low-tech mediums they manifest their imagination into the program.

“We utilize transmedia storytelling in a similar manner that Star Wars and Harry Potter share their characters, stories, and universes over multiple mediums,” says Tan. “From initial reports and evaluations, we’ve found that this approach is proving to be immensely rewarding even in an educational context, as children are not only able to articulate the narrative of Beyond the Stars, they are also able to demonstrate an understanding of the program learnings and impact outcomes behind the narrative.”

One of the key VR storytelling elements that S1T2 has introduced into the VR narrative is Masi -- a flying cloth made from treebark. Masi is the companion who guides our heroes on their VR journey. “He is a bit cheeky and likes to play games with our hero,” Tan says. “In one scene for example, Masi imitates the player’s movements accentuating your agency over the world. This in some way makes the fictional world feel more real -- you are a protagonist who has a reciprocal relationship with the characters in VR.”

Allan Soutaris of SecondMuse is the director of the Legends project. He says the key to making it successful is to involve stakeholders from across the island nation of Fiji -- including the Ministries of Education and Health, as well as teachers, students, and parents.

“From the outset, we've worked closely with educators, cultural advisors, and local artists to ensure the program is very much a product of Fiji for Fiji,” Soutaris points out. We consider those stakeholders as co-creators and owners of the program, and their input has informed key elements of the narrative, structure, and classroom delivery. Without the valuable insight provided by schools and communities, I don't believe the program would resonate nearly as much has it has so far. There is a real sense of magic to the narrative that could have only come from an approach such as this.”

The inspiration I found in my work with SecondMuse and the Legends Projects led me to start IVOW, a storytelling agency powered by AI & Culture. Part of our mission will be to strengthen metadata in 360/VR storytelling. It is said that the best stories are not just read or heard -- they are felt. VR provides us a unique way to live inside a story, to experience an imagined world and the real life of the characters and creatures that shape our existence.

 

Davar Ardalan is the founder of IVOW, a storytelling agency powered by AI and culture. She’s also senior advisor to the Legends project in the South Pacific along with Ben Kreimer, IVOW’s Director of Storytelling Technology. Ardalan was formerly the director of Storytelling and Engagement at SecondMuse and an award-winning journalist for National Public Radio from 1993–2015.

California Newspaper, Ledger, Brings its Pages to Life with Augmented Reality Thanks to Strata

Northern California Newspaper, Ledger Dispatch, Brings its Pages to Life

Augmented Reality Technology Aims to Reinvigorate Newspapers' Revenue while Delighting Readers

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JACKSON, Calif., Feb. 13, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- In a dramatic move that promises to reinvigorate newspapers' revenues while delighting their readers, a Northern California paper is harnessing augmented reality technology to bring its pages to life.

The groundbreaking Interactive News initiative by the Ledger Dispatch allows readers to use their smartphones to "see" trigger images in the newspaper and access a deeper level of content. After downloading an app, readers simply hold their Android or iPhone device over photos or blocks of text to launch the interactive experience.

"With this tool, readers can use their newspaper as a launch pad to watch movie trailers, read the local crime log, shop for a new car, view the last few minutes of a high school basketball game, or just explore different dimensions of a news story," said Jack Mitchell, publisher of the Ledger Dispatch, a twice-weekly paper based in the Sierra Nevada foothills.

"The possibilities are endless. With just a smartphone, the traditional newspaper becomes a 21st Century interactive experience," said Mitchell.

Unlike virtual reality, augmented reality, or AR, does not require the use of special glasses, computers, or other accessories. Its power lies in the ability to overlay digital imagery on a person's view of the real world, using a smartphone.

"This is a great technological tool for consumers because it's easy to use and works on everyone's smartphone," said John Wright, chief executive officer of Strata, a Utah-based developer of some of the first AR platforms and the exclusive development partner for Interactive News. "It turns the newspaper into a portal for accessing limitless opportunities in a reader's local community and beyond." 

AR is perhaps best known for its 2016 application in the wildly popular Pokémon Go game. But the technology is rapidly gaining steam in mainstream business applications as well, and some analysts predict it will drive a $20-billion market by 2020. Nissan recently launched an AR experience that lets shoppers view cars through a device that delivers guided tours of automobile features by Star Wars droids and Stormtroopers.

With that application, however, consumers need to visit a showroom. With Interactive News, users can enjoy AR while eating oatmeal and reading the paper at their own breakfast table.

The Ledger Dispatch project is believed to be the first to use AR to enhance a newspaper. And while the paper – with a circulation of 6,000 and a staff of 12 – may seem a bit small for a meaningful demonstration project, its owners hope to spread the technology to others in the struggling newspaper industry.

Mitchell said the technology holds tremendous appeal for advertisers, whose steady abandonment of newspapers has sent industry revenues plummeting. With AR, businesses can layer video, audio and other features behind an advertisement in the pages of the paper, enhancing their ability to woo customers.

"We believe newspapers are the glue that holds communities together, and we know they are struggling to remain solvent and relevant in the digital world," said Rich Hoffman, chief executive officer of the Jackson Rancheria Band of Miwuk Indians, which owns the Ledger Dispatch. "We think the AR experience can help newspapers win back readers, and we want to make this technology accessible to them on a wide scale."

"Readers today are looking for more, and newspapers are trying everything to reinvent themselves," said Adam Dalton, chairman of the Jackson Rancheria Band. "AR could be a game-changer for this industry, and we are all in to make that happen."

On Friday (2/9/18), Mitchell formally launched the AR technology in the pages of the Ledger Dispatch, which covers Amador and Calaveras counties, the heart of California's famed Gold Country. The launch generated an overwhelmingly enthusiastic response from readers.

One example: by holding a phone over the acorn symbol on the paper's front-page masthead, readers can hear an audio round-up of news from the day. Another example: by holding a phone over an ad for a local pub, you can hear a tune played by its featured musical act.

"Newspapers are my lifelong passion, and I am very optimistic about where this technology can take us as an industry," Mitchell said. "How optimistic? For the first time in ages, we're hiring."

Mitchell plans to make a formal presentation to the California News Publishers Association later this month, but the technology is available now at www.InteractiveNews.live.

Ledger Dispatch
The Ledger Dispatch is a twice weekly, locally owned and operated, full-service newspaper that strives to innovate on behalf the consumer. Serving Amador and Calaveras Counties in California, the Ledger Dispatch most recently integrated augmented reality into its digital platforms, becoming first newspaper to do so. The Jackson Rancheria Band of Miwuk Indians purchased the Ledger Dispatch in 2016.

Jackson Rancheria Band of Miwuk Indians
The Jackson Rancheria Band of Miwuk Indians is a federally recognized Indian tribe that owns and operates Jackson Rancheria Casino Resort, located in the Sierra foothills town of Jackson, California. A sovereign government, the Rancheria is dedicated to developing projects that not only enhance the tribe's ability to remain self-reliant, but also reflect a commitment to be a good neighbor. Most recently, the Rancheria acquired the Ledger Dispatch newspaper as a part of their continued support of the community.  

Strata
Strata (Strata Mixed Reality Inc.) is an award-winning leader in 3D, VR and AR technologies and applications. The Strata AR platform brings the power of augmented reality to non-technical users for markets and industries as varied as newspapers, utilities and retail. "Strata" is a registered trademark of Strata Mixed Reality Inc. Learn more about Strata at www.strata.com.

Contact: Doug Elmets
(916) 329-9180

Checkout what our Storytelling Committee will Present during our Online Conference in Jan

Preview of what our Storytelling speakers will be presenting in January as part of our VR/AR Association Online Conference with 1000+ people attending and 50+ speakers. 

VR for Social Good - Davar Ardalan and Ben Kreimer, SecondMuse

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Presentation: From the United Nations, to the World Bank and the Australian Aid program, development agencies are among the first out of the gate that have been experimenting with immersive VR/AR technologies. The purpose has been to build empathy and educate local communities as they work to improve the challenging environments surrounding them. Veteran NPR News journalist Davar Ardalan of SecondMuse and storytelling technologist Ben Kreimer talk about ways emerging technologies can be accessed and leveraged by individuals in developing nations to inspire positive change, and help create bridges between otherwise disconnected human experiences.

Davar Ardalan is director of Storytelling and Engagement at SecondMuse with extensive expertise in social engagement and new technologies. In 2017, she designed and implemented an immersive storytelling project around healthy eating in Tonga and Fiji funded by the innovationXchange of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The pilots will launch in 2018 and are geared towards tackling malnutrition and bringing back pride to traditional diets via VR, gamification and the future integration of AI. As an award-winning journalist for over two decades at NPR News, Ardalan’s real-time storytelling campaigns cultivated thought leaders across platforms and reached millions on Twitter and Facebook. Ardalan is a contributor to HuffPost, co-chairs the Stories and Audiences Committee of the VR/AR Association, and has been recognized with a 2017 NASA Team Leadership award for Space Apps, a Gracie Award from the American Women in Radio and Television and a shout-out in the popular comic strip Zippy.

Ben Kreimer is a Storytelling Technologist specializing in storytelling with drones, virtual reality, 360o° video, 3D reconstructions, and open source hardware sensor platforms. Ben introduced 360o video to BuzzFeed as the first fellow in their San Francisco based Open Lab, a media R&D space. He is also an adviser for the Drone Journalism Lab and African skyCAM, and has worked with academic institutions and organizations including Columbia’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism, Times of India, CCTV Africa, the African Wildlife Foundation, M.S. University of Baroda, and Antiochia ad Cragum Archaeological Research Project in Turkey.

Branching Narratives in VR AR - Jeanne Kelly, A+E Networks

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Presentation: Jeanne will discuss branching narratives and how they might be leveraged in VR and AR to give the viewer a sense of agency within the story experience. Jeanne will make an appeal for the use of design strategies and tactics in narrative development and present on the importance of clarifying decision points to offer affordances within story experiences.

Jeanne Kelly is the Director of Product Design and Experience for A+E Networks’ TechLab. An award winning designer and creative executive, Jeanne is a passionate creative technologist and communicator with over 25 years experience in visual storytelling.

 

Cinematic VR Documentary - Michael Owen, MediaCombo

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Presentation: Michael Owen will discuss his firm, MediaCombo’s, recent AR and VR projects. These include an AR Tour for the Morgan Library and Museum in New York and a cinematic VR documentary about Lake Baikal in Siberia, the oldest, deepest, most voluminous body of liquid fresh water on earth.

Michael Owen is a principal at MediaCombo and producer of virtual and augmented reality experiences. Michael has been making documentaries, music videos, TV commercials and programs for digital platforms for over 30 years. Clients include the U.S. State Department, the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Google Expeditions, the American Museum of Natural History, Amnesty International, the Museum of Modern Art, Prudential, Pfizer among many other clients and agencies.

Using AR as a Communication Tool for Climate Change - Micah Taylor, University of Georgia

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Presentation: Micah Taylor, along with Brian Orland, professor of Geo-Design, and others from the University of Georgia are interested in using AR as part of a mobile application to communicate historical, cultural, and Environmental elements on the Coastal Georgia landscape to visitors and residents. AR will be used for visualizing largely unseen environmental effects of climate change based on historical and predicted data. This visualization is one component of a larger application that also provides narration to drivers and gathers feedback on what the individual 'values' in the landscape given the new information.

Micah Taylor is a first year PhD student at the University of Georgia's College of Environmental Design. His research interest are emerging technologies in environmental design and citizen engagement in planning. Past projects include using VR and AR for visualization of planning scenarios in Nashville, Tennessee. He comes from a strong GIS and Geo-Design background, and hopes to pursue this proposed project in the following semesters. 

How to Create Engaging 360 Video VR Experiences - George Egbuonu, VR eCards

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Presentation Topic: How to Create Engaging 360 Video VR Experiences. As we enter into the VR age with 360 videos, those that discover how to create amazing 360 videos and VR experiences will be able to differentiate themselves with highly desirable content creators.

George Egbuonu is the founder of VR eCards marketplace that provides you a WebVR Editor to create and share amazing 360 video experiences without any technical skills required.  The 360 videos you create can then be shared privately or published on the marketplace as VR Ecards for other users to personalize. Prior to founding VR eCards, he was the CEO of Flat Pyramid - A marketplace for 3d model files.   He holds a Mechanical Engineering degree and Masters in Business Administration (MBA).

State of the Storytelling in Cinematic VR - Alina Mikhaleva, SPHERICA

 
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Presentation: Alina Mikhaleva will share Spherica studio’s assessment on the state and current limitations for storytellers in cinematic VR, and discuss her studio’s recent projects that have experimented with making the 360 VR environment a more compelling space for creators. Spherica has been an innovator in the VR space for more than two years, constantly pushing the limits of what’s possible in VR filmmaking. In 2015, Spherica was the first studio to introduce fully stabilized camera movement that provides absolute comfort for the viewers. Alina will share the latest developments in the field as well as practical advice on how the freedom to move the camera can enhance VR storytelling techniques and make 360 experiences more compelling. Alina will also showcase some of the latest experiments in using camera movement in POV experiences to enhance the feeling of immersion and the sense of presence for viewers.  

After ten years of successful career in broadcast media, Alina Mikhaleva moved to lead a VR startup Spherica. Spherica is an independent VR production studio based in Los Angeles. Founded by a small team of VR enthusiasts, Spherica aims to create truly engaging cinematic VR experiences for viewers worldwide. Spherica's proprietary technology demonstrates to the industry professionals the potential of virtual reality filmmaking when it is freed from the limitations of a static camera. Spherica has been working in VR industry with clients including HBO, CBS, RYOT, and many others on both fiction and non-fiction content, as well as developing and creating original VR content. 

 

Storytelling Beyond the First-Person Perspective in VR - Christian Haniszewski, Hack and Paint

Presentation: As it stands, storytelling in VR is still in its infancy.  What often happens when a new medium emerges is content creators initially try to bridge the gap between the new and familiar by applying existing techniques towards the new.  Examining how filmmakers point cameras on stage to film the action of scenes, we are now applying the same existing techniques to photos and videos hoping to find relevance in the early stages of VR  However, as time and technologies progress, we will discover new innovative ways of storytelling unique to the medium of VR.  VR offers a groundbreaking level of immersion, choice, and viewer control that sets it apart from any medium before it- opening doors to vast uncharted potential in the future of storytelling.  I’m excited to explore storytelling beyond the obvious first-person perspective in VR.  At Hack and Paint, we are currently experimenting with putting VR viewers in the director’s seat, giving them the potential to switch between cameras themselves and empowering them to move through our story from new unique perspectives.

Christian Haniszewski is currently one of the founding partners at Hack and Paint, but prior to that, he has been working for over a decade, prominently in the Feature Animation and VFX industry including; Pixar, Blue Sky Studios, Framestore, Aardman Nathan Love, and 4mm Games. He’s credited for his incredible work on globally recognized films: “Brave”, “Monsters University”, “Epic”, “Rio 2", “Peanuts”, “Ice Age 5", “Ferdinand”, and “Salt” -just to name a few. In 2009, Christian graduated from the School of Visual Arts with a BFA in Computer Animation and Visual Effects.

 

Kathy Bisbee

Presentation: Kathy will share her experiences creating VR/AR storytelling content for the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA), partnering on immersive news stories with the Boston Globe, and building an international movement for Community VR to grow the VR/AR industry from the grassroots up, using community-based storytelling, artist residencies, partnerships with government, libraries, non-profits, schools, and storytellers to provide increased accessibility, content, and training in VR/AR.

Kathy Bisbee is the executive director of Brookline Interactive Group (BIG), a community media arts center, and the co-founder/director of the Public VR Lab, the first publicly-funded Community VR organization in the U.S. Kathy is an award-winning, multidisciplinary storyteller; producing international documentary films, collaborating on immersive news stories with the STAT journalism team at the Boston Globe, and creating customized VR global air pollution project for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Recently she presented on two panels to advocate the use of VR & Storytelling to world leaders at the third UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) event in Nairobi, Kenya on Art, Storytelling & Creating Change, and on Can Virtual Reality Help Save Reality?

 

Perspective is Vital to Impactful Immersive Storytelling-  Chris Bedyk, Perspective Films

Presentation: Since 2013, Chris has been developing 360˚ cameras, production gear and immersive experiences with a goal to help connect people to each other, the planet and to themselves. His focus has always been to help increase human advancement by producing experiential content for the sports, health, education and entertainment industries. Immersive technology has the potential to be the most effective and powerful story telling medium humans have ever seen. At the peak, our senses can be stimulated with such resonance, transparency and realism that our brain is tricked into believing a simulated experience is real. The level of presence we experience is relative to the quality and quantity of the stimulation. The body will provide feedback to the experience that can be felt physically, mentally, biochemically and maybe even spiritually. Camera resolution, placement, and height are some of the factors creators need to consider when inside an immersive canvas. Chris will discuss what he has learned over the years producing content for the Vancouver Canucks, BC Lions and his travel series VR Wonders of The World. Hopefully, this talk provides a deeper insight for creators to go beyond the spectacle of immersive technology and further understand how contextual perspective is the gateway to enhancing a stories impact on the viewer.

Chris Bedyk is a Cinematographer, Immersive Filmmaker, Teacher, and CEO of Perspective Films. Since 2000, he has worked on every type of TV / Film production as a traditional Camera Operator. In 2013, he started developing immersive production gear and experimenting with the technology. After attending the Oculus conference in 2014 and 2015 he started the transition from traditional to immersive storytelling. In 2016, he helped create the Vancouver Canucks first 360˚ experience and a key partner in establishing the BC Lions EXP app which captured behind the scenes moments on and off the field during the 2017 season. His immersive series VR Wonders of the World was created for the launch of the Idealens headset and received "Official Selection" at the 2017 Vancouver VR film festival. It is currently being distributed with JauntVR. In 2016 he established Mastering360 which provides workshops and courses for future 360˚ filmmakers.

More added soon. 

SURVEY: VR Stories & Audiences: VR Story Genres

VR Story Genres.jpeg

VRARA Stories & Audiences Industry Committee is conducting a survey, and we want you to vote. This questionnaire is for evaluating through the VRARA community the question "What are the VR story genres that are most engaging to VR users today"?

Whether you are a VR / AR content or technology creator or a user, we would like to know your feedback on the genres in the industry that are the biggest and most accessible today, and how you prefer to experience them.

Access the Survey here

The Keepers of VR (HuffPost Feature about Top 10 Virtual Reality Best Practices)

By Davar Ardalan, HuffPost Contributor

 COURTESY OF WORLD OCEANS FESTIVAL  VR Pavilion at the 2017 World Ocean Festival on Governors Island in New York featuring  Making Waves  a film on aquaculture innovators in Tanzania. (L-R) Stephanie Kimber of  DFATiXc , and Matt Scott, Davar Ardalan, and Ben Kreimer of  SecondMuse .

COURTESY OF WORLD OCEANS FESTIVAL

VR Pavilion at the 2017 World Ocean Festival on Governors Island in New York featuring Making Waves a film on aquaculture innovators in Tanzania. (L-R) Stephanie Kimber of DFATiXc, and Matt Scott, Davar Ardalan, and Ben Kreimer of SecondMuse.

When I first met Jeff Olm, he told me about Under the Canopy, a VR film that was shot using moving cameras and drones in the Amazon. It felt surreal to mount the VR headset and descend into the rainforest, in full stereo might I add. I asked to learn more about the production and Olm sent me a series of links. I especially loved going behind-the-scenes with a sloth in VR.

Jeff Olm is a VR/AR creative director and also co-chair of the VR/AR Association’s Stories and Audiences Committee. Together with several other industry thought leaders, we recently published the Top 10 Virtual Reality Best Practices in an effort to capture into one source the rapidly evolving knowledge about VR.

The radically new experiences that the medium provides today have been decades in the making. As part of this living document, we seek to present not only our experiences with the hardware and software, but also to dig into the specifics of development and content production. This work is especially timely given that analysts are projecting VR will transform into a multi-billion dollar industry in the next decade.

Jeanne Kelly is director of Product Design and Experience at A+E Networks, and an associate member of Tesla Lab’s VR/AR Initiative. At A+E, part of Kelly’s responsibility is to explore the potential of new technologies and to understand and present their value and impact to the business. Kelly is also co-chair of the VR/AR Stories and Audiences Committee. While storytelling is always A+E’s primary focus, they’re also exploring ideas in VR and AR games, marketing, and education experiences. The Network has invested in VOKE and live streamed in VR from the red carpet for the Golden Globe Award. Currently A+E has an investment in Littlstar, the premium 360 and VR content distribution platform.

Kelly says even though both VR and AR are currently in complementary and contradictory states of existence, she believes accessibility and distribution constraints are surmountable when the benefits outweigh these obstacles. “VR creates presence, allowing you to be somewhere you are not, doing something you are not doing – reacting to objects and events that are not real.”

Adaora Udoji produces and manages media at the intersection of emerging technologies. She’s an angel investor and also a contributing editor to our best practices document. “It’s magic time in immersive technology,” Udoji says. “Innovations and applications are sprouting like wildflowers and this white paper by the VR/AR Association will be fantastically useful. It’s a supercharged resource by working professionals in the space, aggregating information and lessons. The faster knowledge and information spread, the faster and more efficiently the industry will grow. No one needs to reinvent the wheel on basic questions and we hope to help prevent that and spur rapid and successful evolutions,” she adds.

On Storytelling and Building Narratives:

David Hamlin, executive producer of USA Today’s VRtually There explains that VR is different from traditional media in the way viewers engage with content and become immersed in an experience. But Hamlin points out a VR storyteller’s challenge remains the same as in all preceding platforms. “We still have to deliver on the promise of an engaging narrative, a story that offers and pays off a cathartic journey filled with obstacles, conflicts, drama, and resolution. To me, the social contract between viewers and filmmakers hasn’t changed. It’s just the tools at our disposal and the viewer’s visceral experience that’s being transformed,” Hamlin says.

Tash Tan of S1T2 feels that building narratives around characters needs to be considered within the greater view of interactive drama, the latest evolution of which can be found in virtual reality. “360-video and real-time VR applications may be distinctly different in creation but the understanding is that they both, to varied degrees, allow for the user to be a spectator and a player — you are the audience but also a character. This dual role is the key to building a successful narrative in VR; you should block, choreograph, and script to accentuate this multiple identity,” Tan adds.

USA Today’s Hamlin has learned there are critical questions to ask when deciding to produce a VR story: “What makes this opportunity uniquely VR? Is the location(s) and protagonist(s) going to effectively fill the entire space? Is the action inherently ‘spherical’? Is the world I’m documenting truly cinematic in this VR medium? Will I actually deliver on the promise of a valid and entertaining 360 experience?”

On Monetization and Driving up ROI:

Currently, one of the biggest drivers of VR growth arises from marketing budgets for products, series, and other media tent-pole events. These “VR” strategies manifest through marketing budgets because they result in novel products, and the majority of the time lead to earned media — a key metric in gauging the success of a marketing campaign. Luis A. Navia is co-founder and CEO of ODYSIA and co-chair of the VR/AR Stories and Audiences Committee. Navia says if we can begin to shift the industry’s perception from seeing VR as a marketing tool to embracing VR as a business unit within their businesses, we will see exponential growth as an industry at all levels, both micro and macro.

“For example, when a major corporation decides to invest in a VR business unit, it sets off a chain of events that generate economic value by driving technology forward, and it creates engaging content on innovative platforms for consumers. The industry has seen explosive growth in the form of record-breaking investments, creation of multiple types of headsets, and a burgeoning start-up ecosystem that continues to push forward the boundaries of VR technology, platforms, and content. Once we begin to see mass adoption across multiple industries,” Navia contends, “we’ll obviously start experiencing VR as a societal norm. This will help drive ROI up and subsequently fuel the industry to reach market-shaping size.”

On Social Impact and Capacity Building:

From the United Nations to the World Bank and the Australian Aid program, development agencies are among the first out of the gate to experiment with immersive VR/AR technologies. Their purpose has been to build empathy and educate local communities as they work to improve the challenging environments surrounding them. There is a commitment to understand how new communication technologies can be accessed and leveraged by individuals in developing nations to inspire positive change, and help create bridges between otherwise disconnected human experiences.

In October 2016 together with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s innovationXchange and emerging media technologist Ben Kreimer, SecondMuse traveled to the Southeast Asian island nation of Timor-Leste and documented the work of food innovators in the cities of Dili and Baucau, using 360˚/VR storytelling. Our film, Eating With the Seasons, was soft launched in Canberra, Australia, on August 8, 2017.

While in Timor-Leste, Ben and I provided a Samsung Gear 360 camera and smartphone to local producers, and incorporated one of their scenes in a 360°/VR experience. In this way, we are working to illustrate and better understand how simple, accessible, and low-cost consumer hardware can be leveraged by people in a non-western context by focusing on and encouraging the capacity building aspects of the medium. We believe that storytellers everywhere should have access to immersive storytelling tools, and that they don’t need cinema-grade cameras and teams of people to produce compelling, impactful content.

Another VR/AR/AI project for social impact is LAUNCH Legends — using emerging technology to encourage children to eat more nutritious food. In partnership with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s innovationXchange, LAUNCH Legends explores the potential for interactive narratives to help restore pride in traditional eating, and promote healthy food choices in the Pacific region where a worsening double disease burden of under- and overnutrition is devastating local communities.

Why We Produced this Best Practices Doc:

Juanisa McCoy has worked on UI/UX concepts and wi-fi performance for VR in-flight travel entertainment/e-commerce experiences. She will be expanding her VR/AR exploration into the performing arts, education, consumer goods, and gaming. McCoy is also a member of the VR/AR Stories and Audiences Committee. Her focus is to apply user experience philosophies to VR/AR in order to provide the best and safest engagement for audiences. She champions the awareness for empathy and accessibility in tech, design, and VR/AR.

“The latest development in virtual and augmented reality presents us with a unique level of challenges and opportunities to explore,” says McCoy. “With this new ecosystem, we need to establish optimal technical and experience standards that will offer continuous audience engagement, industry skill development, and socially impactful stories. These practices will allow industry leaders to successfully influence the audience’s journey and how they relate to our stories and the world.”

Download the Top 10 VR Best Practices to:

  • Identify the differences and similarities between virtual and augmented reality
  • Learn how virtual and augmented reality enhance user interaction and storytelling
  • Learn about development agencies producing VR for social impact
  • Gain technical insights on approaches for cameras, lighting, audio, design, and editing
  • Consider how and when to advocate virtual and augmented reality for better audience engagement
  • Focus on stories with spatial and audio perspectives and depth

As members of the VR/AR Stories and Audiences Committee, we see this as an opportunity for practitioners and stakeholders to share their experience and knowledge. As a committee we intend to update this material every six months. We encourage industry feedback to keep this a living document.

At SecondMuse we build purpose-driven networks using innovation to tackle the complex challenges of our time. We are doing this work in communities, cities, and countries around the world. We help organizations solve systems-level grand challenges, governments more effectively utilize their resources and connect with citizens, and corporations leverage their strengths and break silos to solve complex problems. We have implemented projects in six continents and worked with organizations such as NASA, Intel, Nike, IKEA, USAID, the World Bank, the US Department of State, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the City of Melbourne. We are a certified B Corp and have locations in Portland, San Francisco, New York City, Washington D.C., Melbourne, and Copenhagen.

The SecondMuse Storytelling Unit is a dedicated global team focused on expanding engagement and amplification for social, economic, and environmental impact. We share stories, and we empower our partners to tell them. Our films have won awards including a 2017 Telly Award; and our global campaigns have reached over 95 million people on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. SecondMuse is also co-chair of the VR/AR Global Association and together with USA Today, A&E Network, and other industry thought leaders has produced the Best Practices in Virtual Reality with an emphasis on VR for social impact.

Original article here

VRARA Top 10 VR Best Practices Report

To get your copy of this report enter your email here:

 
 

This report was created by the VRARA VR Stories & Audiences Committee. This Committee is creating best practices, guidelines, and call to actions (e.g., recommendations for standards) for VR experiences in order to grow the audience (user base) for VR. The Committee is a group of technologists, journalists, business leaders, entrepreneurs, visual artists, immersive sound technicians, and storytellers. 

This report is an effort to capture into one source the rapidly evolving knowledge about VR. The Committee seeks to present the hardware, the software and to dig into the specifics of the development and content production. The Committee sees this as an opportunity for practitioners and stakeholders to add their experience and knowledge. The Committee intends to update this material every six months.

Monetizing VR is a critical question for which there is little data in understanding what will be primary drivers of revenue. Currently, tech and manufacturing companies are spending tens of millions of dollars on developing hardware and software. On the content side, marketing budgets have been an enormous source of funding for content development and production.

The industry has seen explosive growth in record breaking investments in the billions, the creation of multiple types of headsets, and a burgeoning start-up ecosystem that continues to push the boundaries of VR technology, platforms, and content. Once the mass adoption begins, that we expect, across multiple industries, we believe we will start experiencing VR as a societal norm. This will drive ROI up and subsequently fuel the industry to reach market shaping size.