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VR/AR Association Webinar -‘VR & AR in Storytelling’ – July 18, 2019

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As co-chair of the VR AR Association (http://www.thevrara.com), or VRARA Storytelling Committee, I had the opportunity to moderate a well-attended webinar on ‘VR & AR in Storytelling’ on Thursday, July 18, 2019, from 2:00-3:00 pm EST.

The session featured the following presenters:

Maarten van der Lee, Tiledmedia

Jeff Olm, Perfect Pictures

Tim Martin, FS Studio

Cortney Harding, Friends with Holograms

David Rodriguez, Zanni

Srinivas Krishna, Geogram

Michael Owen, MediaCombo

 

The webinar, part of the VRARA industry education series, was sponsored by the sponsored by the Storytelling Committee of VRARA.

You can access the full event recording at: https://www.brighttalk.com/webcast/14711/362982?

TV of Tomorrow Show San Francisco, 2019: ‘AI and ML in the TV Industry: Mining Data in Every Corner’ panel

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The TV of Tomorrow Show in San Francisco, held at the Golden Gate Club in the Presidio, June 12-13, 2019, was a solid event. I moderated a panel – ‘AI and ML in the TV Industry: Mining Data in Every Corner’ – that brought together an incredibly rich array of perspectives on AI from five different solutions providers, including Randa Minkarah, COO and co-founder, Transform Inc.; Juan Carlos Riveiro, CEO, Vilynx; Kevin Gou, CEO, Hive; Aman Sareen, CEO, ZypMedia, and Arun Prakash, CFO, Cerebri AI.

The discussion ran from use cases of AI and ML in the OTT world as it reflects customer journey; content curation; content distribution, and programmatic advertising.

Chris Pfaff leads discussion on the ‘AI and ML in the TV Industry’ panel

Aman Sareen, from ZypMedia, discusses his approach to AI-powered local-first programmatic advertising

Kevin Gou discusses Hive Data, and how to build machine learning models 

Chris Pfaff, Aman Sareen, Randa Minkarah, J.C. Riveiro, Arun Prakash, and Kevin Gou, after the ‘AI and ML in the TV Industry’ panel

XR in Theatre: Immersing New Audiences – Leading XR Theatre Producers Discuss Their Work at Verizon 5G Lab – 11.06.19

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The past five years have seen groundbreaking production of theatre and opera that have integrated augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) – or, as the industry term refers to all types of immersive technology, XR – to develop new kinds of live and virtual experiences. The Welsh National Opera, in 2017, combined ‘The Magic Flute’ and ‘Madam Butterfly’ for ‘Magic Butterfly,’ an experience that used Google Daydream VR to demystify opera for audiences, in a new venue. Commonwealth Shakespeare Company produced ‘Hamlet 360: Thy Father’s Spirit’ in the past year, working with Google’s AR/VR Lens team to create five seven-minute acts in VR.

Yet, some of the boldest work in XR for theatre is not surprisingly being produced in New York. An event produced by Chris Pfaff, and sponsored by the VR AR Association New York Chapter and Verizon’s 5G Lab, on Wednesday, November 6, 2019 featured some of the leading practitioners of XR in the theatre world who discussed their work and and their platform and technology choices, as well as how to shape narratives for interactive audiences in real-time experiences. Demonstrations of their work, as well as a guest appearance from award-winning XR production firm Felix & Paul Studios, were held prior to and after the main event, which was held in Verizon’s 5G Lab at the Alley powered by Verizon.

The entire event can be viewed at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wQQhDrp0vtQ&t=31s

Brandon Powers, producer/choreographer of ‘Frankenstein AI,’ a piece that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2018, and producer/choregrapher of ‘Queerskins,’ discussed how he worked with the Intel Studios volumetric studio to use his choreographic and immersive theater expertise to move ‘visitors’ through the virtual space. ‘Frankenstein AI,’ which expressed our AI inhabiting a human body to communicate with the audience, and ‘Queerskins’ demonstrate ways for theatre producers to create new work with volumetric capture. In ‘Frankenstein AI,’ the human dancer performed choreography, which was created using a new choreographic notation that Brandon invented. The choreography was manipulated by an AI in real-time based on how the audience responded to the AI’s prompted questions, prompting the dancer to alter her performance for a unique live experience. Brandon is also developing a new episode in the VR experience ‘Queerskins,’ which involves an interactive choreographed duet utilizing volumetric capture which will give a unique experience for each user.

Kiira Benzing, from Double Eye Studios, the renowned producer of ‘Loveseat,’ a VR theatre piece that was featured at the 2019 Venice Biennale, in which two lonely, ordinary people are drawn into a reality show competition to win the love of a Perfect Partner (who looks an awful lot like an empty chair). Part-story, part-interaction between virtual and real worlds; the performers intersect realities in this comedy. Performed simultaneously to virtual and real world audiences. Kiira also discussed her work on ‘Loveseat’ and her more recent work on ‘Runnin,’ which was shot at Intel Studios in Los Angeles. ‘Runnin’ is currently available through the Samsung Gear app through Oculus Quest. Her work in designing virtual worlds has led her to ask ‘what is a stage?’ and ‘what is an audience?’ when audience members are represented by virtual beings and avatars.

Maciej Wisniewski, 99 Center Opera founder, and producer and composer of ‘Edelweiss VR, Act 1,’ or EVR1, the first original VR opera experience, discussed and demonstrated his work in creating a music-driven narrative that enables viewers to unlock hidden aspects of the story. Maciej’s work includes blockchain for encrypted messages that will be retrieved by the players of the EVR1 game, to unlock content. The story of EVR1 takes viewers through an interactive VR story in five acts, based on a true World War II experience of his great-aunt escaping a prison in Poland and becoming a Resistance fighter. Maciej’s work involves breathing light and texture into scenes based on music.

David Rodriguez, founder of Zanni, the first Audience Experience Design Studio, demonstrated the firm’s XR tools, Ovees™ and Zanni™ AXD, for both immersive audiences and theatre producers. David’s work with the Metropolitan Opera led him to consider how opera, and theatre, could evolve through VR and AR tools for both audience participation and narrative extensions, as well as how to enable immersive workflows for theatre/opera producers. Ovees is an XR take on stereoscopic opera glasses – and Zanni AXD – a mixed reality design tool that creates space to view stage production elements, reducing design process time and enhancing stage experience planning for design teams. Zanni is a new company, and the event marked the public debut of Zanni.

The panel discussion delved into how traditional theatre producers, directors, lighting designers, choreographers, and actors themselves are moving to expand the medium through immersive technologies. The group discussion yielded the overarching understanding of theatre being gamified and moved into a new genre altogether. The panelists discussed how technologies are rapidly evolving to meet demands for creative decisions. Kiira Benzing discussed how difficult it was to mount ‘Love Seat’ in Venice, with a massive point cloud that could, at any time, crash. The shared experience of theatre, in a live setting, pushes the boundaries of technical production for real-time communal energy.

Chris Pfaff welcomes the audience at ‘XR in Theatre: Immersing New Audiences’ at the Verizon 5G Lab, 11.06.19

Chris Pfaff, Mikael Chagnon, from Felix & Paul Studios, and Brandon Powers

Maciej Wisniewski (foreground) and Kris Ramanathan (rear) showcase their EVR1 musical interactive VR piece

Brandon Powers discusses his immersive choreographic work on ‘Queerskins’ and ‘Frankenstein AI’

Kiira Benzing discusses ‘Runnin’ and ‘Love Seat,’ her interactive VR theatre pieces, and her work with Intel Studios

Maciej Wisniewski, from 99 Cent Opera, discusses his use of blockchain to unlock content in the interactive VR musical narrative

David Rodriguez, from Zanni, discusses his use of immersive tools for theatre and opera

The Q&A session for ‘XR in Theatre: Immersing New Audiences’ 

The 100+ audience at ‘XR in Theatre: Immersing Audiences,’ at the Verizon 5G Lab in New York, 11.06.19

David Rodriguez; Brandon Powers; Chris Pfaff; Kiira Benzing, and Maciej Wisniewski, after the ‘XR in Theatre’ panel

VR/AR Association New York chapter members Chris Pfaff, Cindy Mallory, Michael Owen, and chapter president Gordon Meyer

Maciej Wisniewski, Linda Aro, and Kris Ramanathan before the ‘XR in Theatre: Immersing New Audiences’ event

Kiira Benzing, Chris Pfaff, David Rodriguez, and Brandon Powers before the ‘XR in Theatre: Immersing New Audiences’ event

VR/AR Association New York chapter member Chris Pfaff, chapter president Gordon Meyer, and member Gordon Yee before the event

 

 

 

Arctic 15 Fireside Chat: The Ethics of AI, with Pia Erkenhiemo, iloom.io founder

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At Arctic 15 in Helsinki, I conducted a fireside chat on the ethics of AI with Pia Erkenheimo, founder and chief orchestrator of iloom.io (http://www.iloom.io), on Thursday, June 6th, from 1:20-1:45 pm on theAccenture AI Track at Arctic 15, at the Cable Factory (Kaapelitehdas, Tallberginkatu 1) in Helsinki.

iloom.io uses natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning (ML) to analyze authentic text and language that employees and customers use to deliver narrative understanding beyond words. In addition to her role with iloom.io, Pia is also chairman of Solved – the clean tech company; serves on various company boards, is an AI researcher at the Aalto School of Science and Technology, and serves as an innovation expert and evaluator for the European Commission.

The conversation discussed the recent geopolitical issues with social media and targeted messaging and advertising, and how AI tools can spot and manage manipulation of public conversations. Pia’s work on the venture and non-government agency (NGO) sides lent great credence to the overall topic, and she hinted at further coming work on her behalf to help stem the tide of AI run amok in the public sphere.

Chris Pfaff and Pia Erkenheimo discuss the ethics of AI at Arctic 15 on June 6, 2019 at the Cable Factory, Helsinki

Chris Pfaff and Pia Erkenheimo discuss conversational topics prior to their fireside chat on the ethics of AI at Arctic15, on June 6, 2019

Chris Pfaff and Pia Erkenheimo enjoy radiant sunshine outside the Cable Factory in Helsinki, prior to their fireside chat on the ethics of AI at Arctic15, June 6, 2019

New Jersey Tech Council Future Forum Panel – ‘AI: The Challenges Ahead’

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For the 3rd straight year, the New Jersey Tech Council (NJTC) has held a day-long forum on various technology topics at Bell Works in Holmdel. This year’s Future Forum, on May 7th, featured a panel, ‘AI: The Challenges Ahead,’ in which I participated, with moderator Steve LeVine, from Axios, and featuring K.P. (Suba) Subbalakshmi, from Stevens Institute for Artificial Intelligence; Anastassia Loukina, from Educational Testing Service, and Brian McLaughlin, from Rutgers University. It was great to discuss AI topics with academics, since I have worked with several researchers from European universities in the AI field. This was one of those sessions that could have gone on for much longer, and it was great to finally meet Steve LeVine in person. It was also great to see how much progress has been made on Bell Works, which has grown immeasurably in the past two years. The event concluded with a reception and award ceremony on the Bell Works palazzo, complete with aerialists and characters from ‘Game of Thrones’ (the Night King was quite evident). The old Bell Labs space that I knew so well from the late 1990s has become a thriving hub for innovation and commerce – a minor miracle considering its overwhelming size.

Steve LeVine, from Axios; Suba Subbalakshmi from Stevens Institute for Artificial Intelligence; Chris Pfaff; Anastasia Loukina, from Educational Testing Service, and Brian McLaughlin, from Rutgers University, on the ‘AI: The Challenges Ahead’ panel at the NJTC Future Forum

(from left to right) Steve Socolof, from Tech Council Ventures speaks with attendee; Sid Ahuja, from Yorktel, and Chris White, from Nokia Bell Labs, before Chris White’s keynote presentation at the NJTC Future Forum

Chris Pfaff, Sid Ahuja, and Steve Socolof, after the event: the old Lucent New Ventures Group gang has a reunion

Sanjay Macwan (with microphone), from Vonage, speaks on the AI Perspectives panel, with Kurt Bettenhausen, from Siemens; Merwan Mereby, from Panasonic, Dan Tinkoff, from McKinsey, and Ibrahim Mohamed, from Google

Chris Pfaff and Sanjay Macwan, at the NJTC Future Forum reception

Chris Pfaff encounters the Night King at the NJTC Future Forum reception

The stilt lady at the NJTC Future Forum reception: I have always looked up to her; she has always looked down on me

The old transistor-inspired water tower at the entrance to Bell Works, Holmdel, NJ

 

Chris Pfaff and (VR/AR) Friends at Wharton Club New York – ‘Producing the Future’ – March 26, 2019

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Thanks to the inimitable Ben Weintraub, from Merit Software, I produced events on VR and AR producing at Temple Emanu-el and the Wharton Club in New York in December, 2018, and March, 2019, respectively. Both sessions were sponsored by the VR/AR Association’s New York chapter, of which I am an advisor, and current co-chair of the Storytelling Committee.

Michael Owen, CEO of MediaCombo, and Dex Smither, director of Verizon envrmnt, presented at Temple Emanu-el on December 16, 2018, and joined me again, along with Cortney Harding, CEO of Friends with Hologram, at Wharton Club New York, on March 26, 2019. The events, ‘Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality: Producing the Future,’ discussed various use cases regarding immersive experiences for brands, public institutions, and for the emerging 5G ecosystem, which Dex Smither explained flawlessly.

Many thanks to Richard Abeeku Mills-Robertson, from Greenberg Traurig, for hosting the Wharton Club New York event.

Ben Weintraub (seated) gets virtualized while (left to right) Chris Pfaff, Dex Yee, Michael Owen, and Dex Smither watch, after the ‘Producing the Future’ event at Temple Emanu-El

Chris Pfaff welcomes the audience at Temple Emanu-El, for the ‘Producing the Future’ event, 12.16.18

Chris Pfaff, Dex Smither, and Michael Owen, setting up for the ‘Producing the Future’ event at Temple Emanu-El, 12.16.18

Michael Owen demonstrates MediaCombo’s AR installation at the Morgan Library, at the ‘Producing the Future’ event at Temple Emanu-El, 12.16.18

Dex Smither discusses 5G, and its significance in the streaming AR and VR ecosystem, at the ‘Producing the Future’ event at Temple Emanu-El, 12.16.18

Dex Smither answers a question from the audience at the ‘Producing the Future’ event at Temple Emanu-El, 12.16.18

Dex Smither discusses Verizon envrmnt’s work at the ‘Producing the Future’ event at Wharton Club NY, at Greenberg Traurig, 03.26.19

Michael Owen, Dex Smither, Richard Abeeku Mills-Robertson, Chris Pfaff, and Cortney Harding, after the ‘Producing the Future’ event at the Wharton Club NY, at Greenberg Traurig, 03.26.19

Chris Pfaff, Ben Weintraub, and a guest at the Wharton Club NY event, ‘Producing the Future,’ at Greenberg Traurig, 03.26.19

 

BCaster Demonstrates Real-Time Fan Engagement Solutions at National Sports Forum in Las Vegas, February 10-12, 2019

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The 10th edition of the National Sports Forum, held at the MGM Grand Convention Center in Las Vegas, from February 10-12, 2019 was a gathering unlike any other in the sports-tech world: professional and amateur sports teams, leagues, and associations meeting with some of the industry’s most innovative start-ups. The fraternal atmosphere made for an unparalleled showcase of the solutions that the U.S. sports industry is deploying to expand the fan experience.

To this end, BCaster joined as a sponsor of the event, and showcased its platform for real-time licensing and monetization of photos and video content, enabling automatic user-generated content (UGC) uploads for sports brands, teams, leagues, and sportscasters. BCaster demonstrated its app during the Budweiser data at the T-Mobile Arena on Sunday, February 10th, in an event at the venue’s Jack Daniels Lounge, where participant content was uploaded in real-time to displays in the lounge.

Chris Pfaff moderated a well-attended session on Monday, February 11th – ‘Turning Fans to Dollars with User-Generated Content’ – that featured Sean Callahan, founder of SportsGeek; Dante Simpson, CEO of ESPAT Media; John Durbin, senior vice president of marketing and business strategy, Pegula Sports and Entertainment (Buffalo Bills and Sabres), and Patrick Hooper, director of digital, San Jose Sharks.

 

The ‘Turning Fans Into Dollars with User-Generated Content’ panel at the 10th edition of the National Sports Forum: (left to right) Patrick Hooper, director of digital, San Jose Sharks; Dante Simpson, CEO of ESPAT Media; Sean Callanan, founder, SportsGeek; Chris Pfaff, moderator, and John Durbin, vice president of marketing, Pegula Sports and Entertainment, February 11, 2019

Ron Seaver, founder and president of the National Sports Forum, thanks BCaster for its sponsorship, at the opening ceremony of the 10th edition of the National Sports Forum, Las Vegas, February 10, 2019

BCaster’s session on fan engagement was a hit with the National Sports Forum attendees

Fan content was uploaded in real-time to monitors in the Jack Daniels Lounge at the T-Mobile Arena, at the National Sports Forum in Las Vegas, February 10, 2019

From left to right: (back row) Josh Keiles, vice president of business development with the National Sports Forum; Dante Simpson, CEO of ESPAT Media; Sean Callanan, founder of SportsGeek; Patrick Hooper, direct of digital, San Jose Sharks; (front row) Sanni Kivipelto, head of customer success, BCaster; Pekka Parnanen, founder at MAD-Partners, at the T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, during the National Sports Forum, February 10, 2019

Sean Callanan (with microphone), founder of SportsGeek, discusses extreme fandom during the ‘Turning Fans to Dollars with User-Generated Content’ panel at the National Sports Forum, at the MGM Conference Center, February 11, 2019

 

 

Media Honeypot Gathers the European Media Start-Up Community in Helsinki

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The sixth edition of Media Honeypot, held on February 14, 2019 at the Sofia Future Farm on Sofiankatu in Helsinki, provided a comprehensive view of the European media start-up landscape, and its investors, in a full day of sessions, pitches, and speed-meetings. The value of having major European media houses, from Axel Springer to Bonnier and Schibsted, and leaders of the mobile gaming scene, including Small Giant Games’ Timo Soininen and Next Games’ Teemu Huutanen, as well as ventures from Belarus to London, is clear: the next big thing in media innovation is more likely to emanate from Europe than from North America.

I led a panel, ‘AI in Media,’ that featured panelists from various sides of the AI media spectrum: blockchain media distribution (Cedric Monier, CEO of iKAST.io); media curation (Romain Eude, CEO of Utelly), and AI service provisioning (Laura Avonius, founder, Fragity). The discussion of how AI can enable new services demonstrated the depth of European media start-up leadership in AI.

As always, Media Honeypot founder Heikki Rotko created an atmosphere of congenial spirit, capping the day off with a sauna session at Löyly, followed by a late-night session at the famous Kaarle nightclub.

Chris Pfaff, Heikki Rotko, chairman/founder of Media Honeypot, and Vinay Solanki, head of Channel 4 Ventures, at Löyly, Helsinki

Chris Pfaff listens to a pitch from holler.live founding partner Iva Sakarova in the Media Honeypot Deal Room

Two views of a selfie: Romain Eude, Utelly; Cedric Monier, iKAST.io; Chris Pfaff, and Laura Avonius, Fragity, after the ‘AI in Media’ panel

Cedric Monier (center), CEO of iKAST.io, discusses the implementation of AI with blockchain media distribution on the ‘AI in Media’ panel

Romain Eude (left), CEO of Utelly, discusses Utelly’s use of AI for media curation on the ‘AI in Media’ panel

Laura Avonius, CEO of Fragity, discusses media firm’s use of AI for data refining, on the ‘AI in Media’ panel

Two long views of the ‘AI in Media’ panel

Chris Pfaff (right) discusses the ‘AI arms race’ in the media industry on the ‘AI in Media’ panel

Credentials and coffee at Media Honeypot 2019

VR/AR Association New York Chapter Celebrates 3 Years at RLAB

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The third anniversary of the VR/AR Association (VRARA) New York chapter was a positive snapshot on the growth of the immersive/XR industry in the greater New York area in the past few years. The event was hosted on Tuesday evening, May 21st, at RLAB (https://www.rlab.nyc), the massive space that NYU and its academic and City of New York partners opened in late-November, 2018. RLAB hosts several companies, including members of its XR Beta program, and is being built out as a larger facility for immersive innovation, including volumetric capture space.

Dex Yee (left), from VRARA, watches as Jason T. Jaslow signs in the VRARA NY 3rd anniversary

Chris Pfaff, VRARA NY Chaper advisor, welcomes the crowd at RLAB

As VRARA has grown globally, so too has its New York chapter, and this mirrors the broader focus on the XR industry in New York, which embraces enterprise and consumer firms alike.

Banu Ozden in discussion with Janice Brown, manager, education and outreach at RLAB

Robin White Owen and Michael Owen, the first XR couple of Brooklyn, at Rlab

Unseen Media demos its soon-to-be-released narrative AR game

Gur Arie Bittan, from Mantis Vision, demos for Banu Ozden and Jeffrey Ginsberg

More than 50 guests attended the mixer event, which featured demos from XR Beta companies, as well as Mantis Vision (http://mantis-vision.com), and remarks by RLAB’s Alexis Seeley and VRARA New York chapter advisor Chris Pfaff. And, of course, numerous demos of mobile AR experiences were shown by VRARA members as well.

Robin White Owen and Michael Owen listen to Tim Meyer, from IBM’s IoT group

Alexis Seeley, director of education and opportunity programs at Rlab, welcomes the crowd

Mantis Vision’s mo-cap installation, and some of its forthcoming collaboration tools, were a major hit at the event. Unseen Media ((https://www.unseenmedia.io), a narrative AR game developer, demonstrated its soon-to-be-released game, while echoAR (https://www.echoar.xyz), and AR-focused CMS and CDN provider, and SIY (Speak it Yourself – https://www.siyvr.com), a VR-based language instruction firm, demonstrated their solutions as well.

Chris Pfaff and Gordon Meyer, one of the Top 5 AR influencers in the industry

Chris Pfaff and Kate Specter, from Toonpack, at Rlab

Alexis Seeley and Janice Brown, with Rlab, prior to the VRARA event

 

TV of Tomorrow Show New York Panel, ‘Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence for the OTT Universe’

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It is always a pleasure to work with Tracey Swedlow and her team at the TV of Tomorrow Show. I have known Tracy since 1998, and she has indefatigably helped lead the discussion around advanced TV and video for more than two decades. And, yes, we shared the virtual stage in a famous Producers Guild of America (PGA) New Media Council event in February, 2008 (it was a webcast, with me in New York at the New School; she in San Francisco, at the Macromedia building), in which we presented panelists and debated the New York vs. San Francisco tech/new media scene.

At the recent TV of Tomorrow Show New York, held at the SVA Theatre in Manhattan on December 7th, 2018, I moderated a session, ‘Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence for the OTT Universe,’ that dove into a wide range of issues facing broadcasters; MSOs; user-generated content, and advertisers as machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) increase their sophistication in the overall OTT world.

My panelists included:

Romain Eude, CEO/founder, Utelly

Randa Minkarah, COO, Transform

Janne Neuvonen, CEO/co-founder, BCaster

Aman Sareen, CEO, Zypmedia

Have a listen to the audio from this session by clicking the link embedded in this post from the TV of Tomorrow site:

https://thetvoftomorrowshow.com/radio-itvt-machine-learning-and-artificial-intelligence-ott-universe