May 21, 2015

What the Heck is VR? : My Recap of SVVR 2015

Silicon Valley Virtual Reality 2015
If the number of business cards is a barometer as to the amount of brain food I consumed at SVVR this week in San Jose, I’m going to need to loosen the strap on my headset. Mind blowing! For those of you not familiar with Virtual Reality (VR), it is 360-degree, 3D video or CG environment. The medium is not new but VR has gained new momentum due to the advent of head-mounted displays that allow you to view VR on your mobile device.  No Imax theater, flight simulator or powerful gaming PC needed. VR is now portable. The story is no longer in a frame, it's all around us.

My takeaways from SVVR 2015:

  • Mobile VR devices are forecast to ship at a rate of 28 Million by 2020
  • Because of this adoption rate, Storytellers are going to have to learn to write for 360-degree, spherical video. See video to right for an admittedly crude demo from my hotel room. 
  • The advertising paradigm will also have to change for immersive environments.
  • Ears don’t blink. Audio is just as important as video for presence in VR. 
  • Presence and story are intertwined. Losing presence is like a cell phone going off during a movie. You want to use story and good production values to keep the viewer in the moment. 
  • Challenges for Storytellers include how do you infer where the audience should look?
    Cliff Plumer of Jaunt Studios
    & Aaron Koblin of VRSE
     How do you not get the crew in the shot?  
  • What is the grammar of VR editing? Should you use hard edits? Cross fades? What about camera movement? Opinions were mixed except everyone agreed on limited, slow movement to reduce simulator sickness. Cliff Plumer of Jaunt Studios also said camera height should be consistent to maintain presence.   

Startups and Projects I found interesting at the SVVR Expo.
A Veteran on Hospice uses
Google Cardboard
  • is a project I'm leading which will come out later in 2015. It’s a VR experience to the World War II memorial for terminally ill and aging Veterans not able to physically travel. The collaboration is with JauntVR, Google, Veterans United Foundation, Honor Flight and Ghost Machine VR. I'm looking for VR volunteers willing to host viewings at their local nursing homes.
  •  Nod is a new “joystick” of sorts that looks like a ring and acts like a trigger finger.
  •  Emergent VR's "Mobius" project makes recording Spherical video on your smartphone and sharing it easy. Instagram of VR
    The Nod
  • Cameras that shoot stereoscopic 360, 3D video are expensive but you can find a consumer-grade camera that shoots monoscopic, spherical 360 video (without the 3D) for a few hundred dollars. I’ve tried both the VSN mobile camera and Ricoh Theta consumer versions. Prefer Theta as it doesn’t require an additional adapter to get the videos into your computer. But getting it to Youtube still takes an extra step of connecting it to your computer. 
  • WeVR had some incredible VR content that I saw on Google Cardboard. Some of the most psychedelic I’ve seen thus far. Lots of movement in those experiences and surprisingly, I never felt sick. 
  • AltVR is like social media in an interactive environment. You can talk to people behind a life-life avatar.  Think 3D Hangouts but in a full body virtual environment where
     you’re dressed like a storm trooper. The future implications of this, fascinating!
  • Cerevum is a new VR training platform. 
  • Lines were hours long to try the Crescent Bay consumer version of Oculus Rift that comes out later this year. I have an Oculus Dev2 kit and didn’t want to wait that long. Someone please tell me what did you think? 
  • Several companies had solutions for LiveVR where the 360 video is stitched automatically as it’s outputted. For my newsies, 360, 3D VR video isn’t quite there yet for a day turn story due to the time it takes for stitching. But if you weren’t under a tight deadline, stations could create companion pieces in VR.     
  • Lots of VR goggles at the expo. Google tech is a pair of reading glass that slides on your mobile device and fits in a small glasses case.
  • The Zeiss VR One head-mounted display has impressive optics. It’s mobile device agnostic and runs like Google cardboard.  Pop in your phone, load the app and play. 
  • Palmer Luckey, creator of the Oculus Rift, stood outside the conference hall and talked to VR enthusiasts for several hours after his session. Even demoed some apps. 
  • Watched a great session with Nonny De La Peña who is the “Godmother of VR”. She creates virtual, CG environments to tell stories. She gave hope to the creatives in the room who are hearing “this will never scale.” 
  • Face Shift matches the movement of your face to your avatar’s face.   
  • Burning Man VR camp… Make it happen! 

How are you using VR? I would love to hear about your projects.
See you at SVVR in 2016!

Burning Man VR Camp. Make it Happen

Apr 14, 2015

Cardboard Journalism: Creating Video Content for a Cardboard Box

I'm a relentless practical joker. When I ask my fellow content creators to watch a movie on my new "cardboard box", they think I'm up to something. In reality, this piece of cardboard is a compelling new "screen", one that can turn your mobile phone into a virtual reality portal where the audio and video surround the viewer. No kidding!
World War II Veteran Using Google Cardboard

With U_News, our interactive newscast that used live group video, I couldn't help but think the media business was reaching the limits of telepresence or what I call "Human Media", media of the senses that simulates living, breathing interactions. How could it get any more life-like than being able to read the news and see your audience's facial expressions in real time? Then along comes devices that easily play Stereoscopic 3D video in a compelling way. #humanmedia is now even more human. Head Mounted Displays (HMDs) and even boxes like Google Cardboard transport you to a place where in the words of Mogul Peter Gruber at #NAB2015, you are "a participant and not a passenger." Recently, I gave a World War II veteran his first VR experience and watched his reaction. It was as if he didn't just view the video, he felt it.

In the words of many in VR, we are at the Lascaux Cave stage of an entirely new form of Storytelling. Arthur Van Hoff, CEO of Jaunt VR, says our "brains are now virtual reality machines." According to Hoff, video rendering in VR is 20-1 like back in the film days. No longer do we have to rely on a frame to direct a viewer's attention, the story is all around us. To get an idea of the kind of 360 Storytelling VR requires, check out the editing software Cosmo Scharf and his crew at Visionary VR have cooked up. Makes my Avid Media Composer look like a Tinker Toy. What challenges are you facing telling VR stories?

Apr 3, 2015

Miss SXSW Interactive? My Recap Beyond the Keynotes

Flying cars, Un-Advertising, Selfie Drones and one very large Dog. Be sure to watch the canine tackle at the end of this Day 1 recap of SXSW Interactive.

Day 2 Recap of #SXSW2015: Meerkat and more. . .

Day 3 Recap of #SXSW2015: Emotion Arcades and more. . . 

The best part of #SXSW is the people who share your love of social, video and new. If I didn't get to #HIRL (Hangout In Real Life) with you, let's #HIP (Hangout in Person) next year!

Mizzou Mafia

Geek & Geekette

Thinking Partners

Feb 16, 2015

5 Reasons to Teach Customers to Dial the Video Phone

"This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication." -- Western Union internal memo, 1876 
Photo Courtesy:

Just as Western Union failed to embrace the power of the telephone, I wonder if business has yet to fully embrace the power of the video phone.

Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 2.44.32 PM.png
Brand Without Video Calling
Can you SEE me now? Sadly for many customers calling businesses, the answer is no. Right now, your customers have the ability to video call your business. But most businesses don't know how to answer the video phone, so this is what the customer sees: a black screen. Here are 5 reasons why your brand might want to learn to dial and answer the video phone. 
1. One-Click Video Calling is upon us. WebRTC (Web Real Time Communications) is making B2C video calls easier. Think telephone communication without a carrier. Callers no longer have to download a plugin or an app to join a video call. WebRTC communications whether it be voice, video or text are now in-browser based and portable between devices.  

Feb 1, 2015

True Story of a Civilian Who Stopped to Help a Combat Veteran

In the last 24 hours, 22 veterans took their own lives. Justin Coil could have been one of them. How many times have you passed a seemingly homeless person with a cardboard sign and not stopped to help? I do that more often than I should. Perhaps, we're in a hurry. Perhaps, we swerved into the other lane at the intersection because we didn't want to make eye contact with the person on the side of the road. "He's just going to take the money you give him and buy beer," we irrationally reason. Sadly, that's some of our self-talk as our vehicles - that probably have enough spare change in the consoles to feed an entire family - inch closer to the words written in black Sharpie. "Homeless: Need Help." But what if that person honestly needed help and our stereotype of them meant their family would go hungry? What transpired last year in a minivan at a Columbia, MO intersection makes me think twice about passing by the people holding cardboard signs. In fact, there's a new way we can attempt to help all of them with something far more valuable than just our pocket change.