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Chris Pfaff Tech Media LLC Celebrates 20 Years!

By • Posted & filed under Announcements, Uncategorized

 

Twenty years ago, there were no smartphones (with full web browsers); broadband was 5 MB/s downlink; 1 TB of storage cost $10,000; there were no social networks; the iPod was the hottest tech toy; there were more than 8 Tier 1 cellular carriers in the U.S.; MP3 and BitTorrent were creating headaches for the music industry; Nielsen was still king of ratings; OTT was mostly a cable Internet industry term; AI was still in the labs; DVD defined digital video; HDTV was still a niche offering; mobile video was non-existent; VR was only for industrial customers.

It was at that time – on November 21, 2002 – that I founded Chris Pfaff Tech Media LLC. To help bleeding-edge tech entrepreneurs gain market traction. To bring new ideas and approaches to legacy industry segments. To bring global visibility to early-stage ventures. 

From WAP to TikTok; from holographic storage to Flash drives; from contextual content to projected holograms; from facial recognition to virtual humans, and beyond, Chris Pfaff Tech Media LLC has been there. And – in many ways – was there. At the protean start. 

Many, many thanks to all of the collaborators, colleagues, and clients who worked with us on this epic journey at the beginning of the 21st century and over the past two decades. 

Here’s to the next 20 years.

And beyond.

 

Thanks to:

William Wilson Kevin Curtis Roy Elkins Moses Asom Eric Petajan George Caravias Narain Gehani Barry Cinnamon Michael Wood George Searle Steve Lubin Duncan Campbell Daniel Goldscheider Larry Henderson Steven Socolof tony Verderosa Edward Boddington Troy Sample Jason George Matt Frost Jani Houponen Sam VashIsht Irwin Kornfeld Paul Smith Mike Folgner Eric Eccles Thanasis Iatrou Nikos Kyriopoulos Chris Gottschalk Robin Rush Harry Kargman Boris Fridman Stein Erik Sorhaug Romain Eude Jacques Edouard Guillemot Stelio Tzonis Hans Eriksson Amorah Sandberg Fredrik Oscarson Michal Suchon Laurent Weill Colas Overkott Paul Amsellem Werner Haan Helmut Bems Agnes Chung David Hoga Tobias Soppa Jonathan Levy Bencheton Thierry Coutanceau Jean-Christophe Perier Christophe de Courson Petri Martikainen Richard Collins Janne Neuvonen Pasi Ilola Tony Hope Heini Vesander Mikki Kuusi Ville Makinen Wilhelm Taht Roope Suomalainen Hannu Anttila Harri Pesola Heikki Rotko Kaius Meskanen Mika Rautiainen Ville Hulkko Hannu Verkasalo Joonas Makkonen Olli Rundgren Topias Soininen Jesse Heikkila Vesa Perala Jani Penttinen Jouni Maaranto Tarmo Virki Laura Avonius Will Cardwell Nilay Oza Tuomas Kosonen Jari Tuovinen Peter Vesterbacka Laurent Martin Vamsi Palukuru Jussi Autio Chris Thur Jussi Harvela Antti Keranen Jari Mieskonen Sami Hyrylainen Jarno Eerola Projjol Banerjea Arkady Fridman Are Traasdahl Helge Hoibraaten Karl Kathuria Miguel Silva Jonathan French Paul Finster Lindsay Stewart Christina Castellano Brian Kline Juraj Siska Oliver Lietz Jason Porath Tom Link Cheng Wu Hal Vogel Jon Vlassopulos Seth Schachner Christian Egeler T.J. Vitolo Mohammad Raheel Khalid Brian Johnson Kanwaldeep Kalsi Jan Ameri Eero Kaikkonen Janet Greco Fred Pfaff Margus Uudam Andrew Knight Rob Rosenberg Suren Pai Sanjay Macwan  Claude Theoret Martin Enault Stephane Rituit Olivier Trudeau Anick Beaulieu Richard St. Pierre Daniel Japiassu Thomas Jelonek Kristjan Laanemaa Urmas Peiker Mike Klyszeiko Kris Kolo Nathan Pettyjohn Anne-Marie Enns Tracy Swedlow Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen Joel Unickow Trygve Refvem Jarno Vanto Sami Paihonen Pekka Parnanen Anton Gauffin Sami Niska Ekaterina Gianelli Andrew Johnston Pia Erkinheimo Beni Cohen JR Dawkins Robert O’Neill Nita Pilkama Imram Ahmed Jakub Majkowski Andrew Bud Peter Northing Ted Iannuzzi Felix Froede Kris Ramanathan Werner Haan Patricia Steele Bradley Glenn Simon Schatzmann Jonathan French David Hoga Agnes Chung Christoph Huning Jonathan Levy-Bencheton Thierry Cottenceau Jean-Christophe Perier Christophe de Courson Petri Martikainen Richard Collins Janne Neuvonen Pasi Ilola Tony Hope Heini Vesander Miki Kuusi Ville Makinen Wilhelm Taht Roope Soumalainen Hannu Anttila Harri Pesola Heikki Rotko Kaius Meskanen Mika Rautiainen Ville Hulkko Hannu Verkasalo Joonas Makkonen Olli Rundgren Topias Soinenen Vesa Perala Jani Penttinen Tarmo Virki Laura Avonius Will Cardwell Nilay Oza Tuomas Kosonen Jari Tuovinen Claude Theoret Martin Enault Stephane Rituit Olivier Trudeau Anick Beaulieu Richard St. Pierre Daniel Japiassu Thomas Jelonek Kristjan Laanemaa Urmas Peiker Mike Klyszeiko Kris Kolo Nathan Pettyjohn Anne-Marie Enns Tracy Swedlow Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen Joel Unickow Trygve Refvem Jarno Vanto Sami Paihonen Pekka Parnanen Anton Gauffin Sami Niska Ekaterina Gianelli Andrew Johnston Pia Erkinheimo Beni Cohen JR Dawkins Robert O’Neill Nita Pilkama Imram Ahmed Jakub Majkowski Andrew Bud Peter Northing Ted Iannuzzi Felix Froede Kris Ramanathan Werner Haan Patricia Steele Bradley Glenn Simon Schatzmann Jonathan French David Hoga Agnes Chung Christoph Huning Peter Vesterbacka Laurent Martin Vamsi Palukuru Jussi Autio Chris Thur Jussi Harvela Antti Keranen Jari Mieskonen Sami Hyrylainen Jarno Eerola Projjol Banerjea Arkady Fridman Are Traasdahl Helge Hoibraaten Karl Kathuria Miguel Silva Jonathan French Paul Finster Lindsay Stewart Christina Castellano Brian Kline Juraj Siska Oliver Lietz Jason Porath Tom Link Cheng Wu Jon Vlassopulos Seth Schachner Christian Egeler T.J. Vitolo Mohammad Raheel Khalid Brian Johnson Kanwaldeep Kalsi Jan Ameri Eero Kaikkonen Janet Greco Fred Pfaff Margus Uudam Andrew Knight Rob Rosenberg Suren Pai Sanjay Macwan Patricia Steele Bradley Glenn Simon Schatzmann Jonathan French David Hoga Agnes Chung

Chris Pfaff produces/moderates the ‘Building Infrastructure for a Better Metaverse: How to Ensure Seamless VR and AR Experiences’ panel – at the VR AR Association Metaverse event – December 17, 2021

By • Posted & filed under News and Press Releases

Chris Pfaff produced and moderated the ‘Building Infrastructure for a Better Metaverse: How to Ensure Seamless VR and AR Experiences’ panel at the VR AR Association’s Metaverse Platforms & Avatars event, on December 17, 2021, with panelists including:

  • Cindy Mallory, emerging tech strategist, American Tech Services/chairman, New York Chapter, VR AR Association
  • Aaron Pulkka, producer, Pulkka Creative/co-chairman, Location-Based Entertainment Committee, VR AR Association
  • Marcin Klimek, CEO/co-founder, ExplodedView/chapter president, Poland, VR AR Association
  • Luis Bravo Martins, CMO, Kit-AR/former co-chapter president, Portugal, VR AR Association
  • Chris Pfaff, CEO, Chris Pfaff Tech Media LLC/co-chairman, Storytelling Committee, VR AR Association (moderator)

This session discussed the tools and methodologies necessary for more adaptive and readily integrated VR and AR experiences, across the enterprise, consumer, and industrial domains. Breakthrough design, including UX/UI and UE, as well as accessible WebXR and AR, were also discussed, as pathways to a more inclusive and seamless immersive future.

Cindy Mallory (upper row, left); Aaron Pulkka (upper row, right); Luis Bravo Martins (middle row, left); Chris Pfaff (middle row, right), and Marcin Klimek (bottom row)

Aaron Pulkka shows off recent work, Cryptostream

Aaron Pulkka discusses his work with Amber Labs

Marcin Klimek shows off a cat avatar

Luis Martins shows off some AR for industrial use

 

 

Arctic15 in Stockholm, February, 2020: Chris Pfaff leads the Media Revolution Track

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Jan Ameri, CEO of Arctic15, welcomes the crowd on Day 1 of Arctic15 Stockholm 2020

Peter Vesterbacka kicks off the show on Day 1 with a heady talk

Our good friends at Arctic15 held one of the last events in the venture world before lockdown at the Münchenbryggeriet in Stockholm, on February 5th and 6th. The sprawling event space was ideal for making new contacts, and dozens of new investors and start-ups crowded the Deal Room area (a much more commodious and well-lit space than the Cable Factory in Helsinki). This was the first legitimate Arctic15 event in Stockholm, and the likes of Industrifonden, Northzone, Bonnier Ventures, Ericsson Ventures, Luminar Ventures, Creandum and GP Bullhound, among other reputable Swedish investors, welcomed founders and investors alike at their stands facing massive windows overlooking a surprisingly sunny Stockholm sky.

Outside, and inside, the Münchenbryggeriet

Chris Pfaff chaired the Media Revolution track on Day 1, which included a fireside chat with Arctic15 CEO Jan Ameri and the legendary Tommy Palm (Candy Crush Saga, King Digital Entertainment, Resolution Games), a panel moderated by Pfaff, with Harri Manninen, Finnish gaming legend and founding partner of Play Ventures, and Joakim Dal, partner at GP Bullhound. The panel, ‘How Gaming Will Dominate the Entertainment Industry in the 2020s,’ can be heard at:

https://bit.ly/3gXFKL4

Chris Pfaff introduces the Media Revolution Track at Arctic15 Stockholm 2020

 

Tommy Palm (left) discusses gaming with Jan Ameri

Harri Manninen (left), from Play Ventures, Joakim Dal (center), from GP Bullhound, and Chris Pfaff (right), from Chris Pfaff Tech Media LLC, discuss ‘How Gaming Will Dominate the Entertainment Industry in the 2020s’

Other sessions on the track included a showcase demo of Playpilot by founder/CEO David Mühle; a keynote – ‘Scale 10X like a Mobile Game Company’ – by Sonja Ängeslevä, product lead for Zynga; a fireside chat with Epidemic Sound founder/CEO Oscar Höglund and Staffan Helgesson, general partner at Creandum, and a rousing fireside chat to finish, with Jan Ameri and Yamba founder/CEO John Zerihoun.

David Mühle, founder/CEO of Playpilot, demonstrates the service on Day 1 of Arctic15 Stockholm

Sonja Ängeslevä, product lead for Zynga, gives a keynote – ‘Scale 10X Like a Mobile Game Company’ – on Day 1 or Arctic15 Stockholm 2020

 

Pfaff moderated a panel on Day2, ‘Journeys of AI & ML startups in the Nordics’ with Anna Holmquist, founder/CEO of Gazzine; Arash Pendari, founder/creative director of Vionlabs; Jonna Ekman, marketing director at Storykit, and Jonathan Selbie, CEO at Univrses.

Anna Holmquist, from Gazzine (with microphone), discusses her journey to AI

Arash Pendari (with microphone) discusses Vionlabs’ work with leading operators

Jonna Ekman (with microphone) explains Storykit’s value proposition

The panel, left to right: Jonna Ekman, Anna Holmquist, Chris Pfaff, Arash Pendari, Jonathan Selbie

Jonna Ekman (far left), from Storykit; Anna Holmquist, from Gazzine (second from left), Arash Pendari (center), from Vionlabs, Jonathan Selbie, from Univrses (2nd from right), and Chris Pfaff (far right), from Chris Pfaff Tech Media LLC

With a reception at Stockholm City Hall, and a grand tour of the historic building on Night 1 and a fabulous dinner at Stockholm Fisk, hosted by Epistemic VC and Northzone on Night 2, Arctic15 closed out another strong event in high fashion.

 

The scene at Stockholm City Hall, with (left to right) Chris Pfaff, Jordan Shapiro, VP, IonQ; Jari Mieskonen, managing partner, Conor Venture Partners; Henrik Keinonen, head of partnerships, gaming/XR/blockchain, from NewCoHelsinki/City of Helsinki, and Jan Ameri, CEO of Arctic15

 

Jan Ameri (standing) addresses the crowd at Stockholm Fisk

Chris Pfaff and Peter Vesterbacka discuss the “FinEst Bay” concept of connecting Helsinki and Tallinn via tunnel

Chris Pfaff, Arash Pendari, and Tomas Bennich on Day 1 of Arctic15 Stockholm 2020

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

 

 

 

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

Super Bowl Ads Take a Knee, Punting Boldness for Blandness

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The orgy of bombastic advertising self-love otherwise known as the Super Bowl, the National Football League’s annual championship game, has become a prisoner of the web and social media, and cannot justify the outrageous cost of broadcast TV spots. This was particularly evident in Super Bowl LIII’s mostly miscued spots and lost opportunities, highlighted even further by the lowest-scoring Super Bowl of all time.

All of this sounds familiar: brands using the bullhorn and the pie in the face to scream over the din. But that isn’t the real issue: it’s a lack of understanding where the audience is. The audience for the Super Bowl is everywhere (even on smart speakers), not just TV, and while TV is still king, it can no longer justify a one-screen-fits-all story.

What mystifies me about Super Bowl LIII’s ads is the lack of innovation, of 2nd-screen and even 3rd-screen interactive installations, calls to action, or use of technology that would make a non-football fan interested in a brand’s message. Why merely put up 30 seconds of overstuffed hyperbole and visual mayhem on broadcast television when you can leverage people’s more ubiquitous viewing screens: their mobile devices. This seems to me to be a travesty of capitulation, not mere conservatism.

I say that the Super Bowl ads are a prisoner of the web for a few reasons. One, it seems that brands are so skittish about instantaneous negative or critical reactions to spots that they are not taking any risks. This blandness and message sanitization is the curse of corporate communications in an age of increased polarization and, yes, fake news, but it doesn’t make sense if you are spending $5 million for a spot, on top of production and promotion costs. The “go big or go home” mantra for the world’s biggest advertising moment (never mind that more people watch the World Cup Final than the Super Bowl) seems to have been reduced to “go safe, or go home.” Secondly, the prisoner analogy seems apt in the way that brands now seem to have capitulated to the idea that whatever transmedia implementation they might embark upon is not worth the risk, or is only of interest to a tiny sliver of the audience. In an era of short-form content (even with the death of Vine), there seems to be much more that brands can do around the Super Bowl.

To be fair, the spots that were well-produced (Bud Light, Budweiser, Turkish Airlines, Weather Tech, to name a few) either have longstanding audiences and built-in online and social media audiences, but one would have expected some kind of prompt to an app or web extension, or even Facebook conversation. The mere fact that Ridley Scott returned to the Super Bowl with the cinematic thriller of an ad for Turkish Airlines was exciting, and had a nice call to action. The Burger King spot with Andy Warhol eating a Whopper in 1982 was amazing just for the site of Warhol eating a Whopper. Who knew? This was from a Swedish film, and the Warhol segment has been posted on YouTube. Perhaps #EatLikeAndy will catch on, and become part of a larger campaign, but there is no interactive component. Warhol would have found this a waste. He would have pulled all kinds of tricks with our mobile devices, game consoles, and even smart speakers. It was ironic that he showed up on this Super Bowl ad roster, in this sense.

And, yes, one of the few tech-related ads, from Amazon Alexa, was a massive failure of imagination and use of the technology. No spiffs for users of Alexa, no interesting narrative about the technology, and no tie-in via Amazon’s many sites (or, for that matter, Whole Foods). Just a colossal waste of time and money, with Harrison Ford (yes, get Han Solo and his dog to sell a backward message about what Alexa doesn’t do well) looking old and cranky. This was quite sad to see, on an evening where few tech companies were advertising.

If the Super Bowl really were the kind of event that we would all watch, regardless of our football affinities, the NFL and the broadcaster would make it as participatory as possible, leveraging more than 8K cameras, surround sound or the latest iso camera position. But, under fire for its handling of Colin Kaepernick and the Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) lawsuits that former players have filed, the NFL and its advertisers seemed to feel under pressure from a blitz – from its own would-be audience. Hopefully, Super Bowl LIV will “LIV” up a greater expectation for putting on a show, and actually having fun with its audience, instead of just talking to themselves. And playing it safe.

Take a listen to my conversation with my brother, Fred Pfaff, on the hits and misses of Super Bowl LIII ads, which we conducted on February 4, 2019 over lunch at P.J. Clarke’s at Lincoln Center, New York City. You can listen at: https://soundcloud.com/chris-pfaff-1/chris-and-fred-pfaff-discussing-super-bowl-liii-ads

 

Fred Pfaff (left) and me, at P.J. Clarke’s at Lincoln Center, NYC

 

 

 

 

The Gathering of the Immersive Tribes: VR/AR Global Summit in Vancouver Takes It Up a Level

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The industry gathering that officially cemented Vancouver as one of the major centers of virtual reality and augmented reality (or, just use extended reality – or XR – as your umbrella designation), the VR/AR Global Summit, provided a view of the technology and creative sectors that are driving new avenues for audiences and investors on a global scale. Held at the gleaming Parq Vancouver hotel and casino, which just recently celebrated its first anniversary, the event was largely sponsored by Vancouver’s events chamber, and had the British Columbia economic development stamp of approval all over it. And, for those of us who have known Vancouver as a powerhouse in the visual effects and videogaming spaces for years, the increased emphasis on Vancouver as a hub for XR development of all kinds is both obvious and welcoming.

Nathan Pettyjohn welcomes the crowd at the VR/AR Global Summit in Vancouver, September 21, 2018

HP Entertainment’s Joanna Popper details HP’s work in the immersive space

While the VR/AR Global Summit, held on Friday, September 21stand Saturday, September 22nd, was as much a homecoming and meet-up for members of the three-year-old VR/AR Association, many of whom had never met in person (and, yes, Kris Kolo, the elusive, near-mythical executive director, was there for people to actually meet, and dispel rumors that he is merely a clever avatar), the event summoned an even greater level of introduction to innovation that is happening rapidly in the immersive space, even for those whose revenue depends on some form of XR development.

 

The brainchild of Anne Marie Ens, executive producer of the event, the VR/AR Global Summit brought leaders from Hollywood, New York, Washington, D.C., the Bay Area, Taiwan, Ukraine, New Zealand, and, of course, all across Canada. What was resident, even from hardware providers, at the event was the level of creative production that is just starting to bubble in a meaningful way from major tech companies, from Intel’s Optane platform, showcased in its Smithsonian Museum Renwick Gallery walk-through, to HP’s impressive work with the likes of VR Studios, which itself got a PR boost the week prior to the event with Cineplex’s announcement of more than 40 full VR arcades to be installed across Canada by 2021.

Intel’s Raj Puran, with YDreams’ Daniel Japiassu; VR Studios’ Chanel Summers; Dark Slope Studios’ Ben Unsworth, and DreamCraft Attractions’ Krystian Guevara at the location-based entertainment panel, September 22, 2018

Perhaps the most famous global IP that was on display at the show was from Taiwan’s Studio2 Animation, which debuted its VR series of shorts for the popular animated character Barkley the cat. The 6-minute block of 25 shorts marks a major move into VR for animated content; the Barkely feature film was a huge hit in mainland China and Taiwan in 2016.

Chris Pfaff, Grace Chuang, and Chiu Li Wei (Studio2 Animation) with Studio2’s Barkley the cat

Producers were quite evident at the show, and highlighted by back-to-back panels on Saturday afternoon, as Chris Pfaff led the ‘Producing in XR: What to Know Before Immersion’ panel, with Silverscreen Cinematics’ Jeff Olm; AWE Company’s Srinivas Krishna, and MediaCombo’s Michael Owen. The panel explored major AR and VR production techniques, as well as post-production considerations. A second panel, ‘Storytelling and Content Creation in VR/AR’ featured Observe Media’s Travis Cloyd; InspireVR’s John Penn; Vuze’s Jim Malcolm, and Cloudhead Games’ Denny Unger.

Michael Owen, from MediaCombo; Jeff Olm, from Silverscreen Cinematics; Chris Pfaff, from Chris Pfaff Tech Media, and Srinivas Krishna, from AWE Company, prior to, and on the ‘Producing in XR: What to Know Before Immersion’ panel, September 22, 2018

Michael Owen, Srinivas Krishna, Chris Pfaff, Travis Cloyd, and John Penn after their panels, September 22, 2018

Local Vancouver firms were quite visible, from Cognitive3D to Mythical City Games to Stambol Studios. Dark Slope Studios, based in Toronto, held a private event with its principals; the studio is creating location-based immersive entertainment and features an all-star cast of principals, including Raja Khanna, Ben Unsworth, and CJ Hervey.

Raja Khanna, center, executive chairman of Dark Slope Studios, welcomes the audience at a private event, Tap & Barrel, Athlete’s Village, Vancouver, September 21, 2018

Of all the myriad experiences being demonstrated on platforms from Vive to Hololens to, yes, Magic Leap, perhaps the most compelling was YDreams’ ‘The Last Squad,’ produced with ArkaveVR. The 3-person VR shooter is an ideal arcade game, and is addictive in its graphical clarity, screen direction, and sheer entertainment value. As a sign of Vancouver’s attractiveness for the XR community, YDreams recently moved its company to the city. The BC Tech group put the final punctuation on the event by holding an after-party at The Cube, the 6,000-square foot co-working space that hosts a wide range of start-ups in the VR/AR space.

The Cube, scene of the after-party for the VR/AR Global Summit, Vancouver, September 22, 2018

Overall, the VR/AR Global Summit was an affirmation of what the VR/AR Global Association set out to accomplish when Nathan Pettyjohn and a few people started a truly global organization in 2015: bringing the immersive community together on a grand scale. This is still an industry in its early days, and yet even those who have been involved in it for decades see something new every day. So it was in Vancouver; another eye-opener for the immersive crowd.

Amar Dhaliwal, Atheer; Parm Sandhu, Telus, and Kris Kolo, executive director of the VR/AR Association 

 

 

VR/AR Association Brings ‘AR for Producers’ to The Alley in Manhattan

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Some of New York’s leading AR technology developers attracted a crowd at The Alley, Verizon’s 5G collaborative lab and work space in Chelsea last Tuesday, May 8th, at an event sponsored by the VR/AR Association’s New York chapter. ‘AR for Producers: How to Engage Audiences on Multiple Platforms’ was well-titled, as most of the audience was comprised of new media and television producers who are looking at AR for a wide range of production elements, including fan engagement, 2nd-screen extensions, and location-based entertainment.

 

JR Dawkins welcomes the crowd to The Alley     Michael and Serge Doudy provide an overview of the VR/AR Association

Eric Schwertzel, head of business development for eyecandylab’s US presence, demonstrated the AugmenTV concept, in which TV content triggers experiences on mobile using an AR app. This is a long sought-after play, and should have traction in sports as well as episodic TV.

Eric Schwertzel discusses AugmentTV

Gordon Meyer, head of marketing for Lampix, demonstrated the company’s projector-based AR solution, which is ideal for retail and public venue experiences.

Gordon Meyer presents the Lampix innovation

JR Dawkins, head of business development for Envrmnt by Verizon, showcased the Envrmnt AR Designer tool, the industry’s first true drag-and-drop AR tool. The simplicity of the tool enables anyone – with no coding experience – to create AR triggers on physical objects, and more.

JR Dawkins presents AR Designer      Ryan Hilla assists with AR Designer demo

Far beyond what previous generations of AR solutions have provided, the presenters discussed the value that 5G will bring to AR, enabling seamless, low-latency experiences with greater connectivity levels.

JR Dawkins, Gordon Meyer, and Eric Schwertzel discuss the AR industry

Chris Pfaff, JR Dawkins, Gordon Meyer, and Eric Schwertzel during the panel discussion at ‘AR for Producers’

For many in the audience, it was their first time in The Alley, which opened last spring, and has gained a following among the technorati of the city.

Lampix demo at ‘AR for Producers’

Chris Pfaff and Ally Perez, event coordinator for The Alley, powered by Verizon

Media Honeypot Shines a Light on European Media Start-Ups in Helsinki

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Heikki Rotko, founder and chairman of Media Honeypot (right), welcomes the crowd at Media Honeypot in Helsinki, as Janina Salo-Glasemann (center), CEO of Media Honeypot, and Ralph Simon (left), CEO of Mobilium Global, look on

The 3rd annual Media Honeypot Helsinki, the gathering of the European media start-up tribes, was another remarkable showing of the strength of media innovation in Europe. This year’s event, held on February 15th at the Crowne Plaza Helsinki, did much more than match the leading media companies in Europe with the leading media start-ups – it reinforced what many of us in the media and telecom industry have known for years: that Europe’s broadcasters are the most progressive in the world, and have been natural incubators for some of the most creative applications of media tech. With last year’s opening of Media City Bergen in Norway, there is much more activity on generating clearly defined start-ups that can address tomorrow’s needs for media companies.

Tomas Franzén, CEO of Bonnier, presents his keynote at Media Honeypot 2018

The Media Honeypot program – expertly curated by Janina Salo-Glasemann and her team – was emceed by the estimable Ralph Simon, whose bon mots in Finnish and Swedish brought more than a few chuckles from the crowd. Tomas Franzén, CEO of Bonnier, discussed how the company has managed to move into the digital space, while also nurturing a venture arm. He reminded the audience that, at its core, Bonnier’s chief job is to promote and protect democracy; a welcome message during these times. Moritz Holzgraefe, with Axel Springer, was one of several major publishers on the lookout for new startups; his company has certainly led the way in transforming a proud old publisher into a digital powerhouse. Laura Avonius, co-founder of Data Refinery, showed how her unit at Aller Media turned the company around by using its own data and spun it off as Data Refinery.

Laura Avonius (left), co-founder and CEO of Data Refinery, presents Data Refinery’s case for publishers

Anthony Herman, now heading up Amazon Web Services in the Nordics, discussed his background as a Silicon Valley venture capitalist, and how that informs his current role. Trygve Refvem, head of MTG Ignite, discussed what a broadcast group looks for in start-up development.

Valerie Vlasenko, from Arctic Startup, introduces the pitching finalists at Media Honeypot

Yet, for all of the prescient case studies and presentations and discussions regarding the next step for European media companies and start-ups, the most impressive aspect of Media Honeypot was the line-up of companies participating in the event. Frankly, one would have been hard put to identify an event that could present the likes of what we saw at the Crowne Plaza Helsinki last Thursday. From Stream Time, developer of a true cross-service EPG to Bibblio, provider of a content relevance and recommendation platform to Adlaunch, creator of an AI-based ad creation platform, there was a surfeit of talent and vision to be matched with the right media company.

And, yes, the pitching competition presented five finalists – Cloudbounce, Utelly, Kieku, Bibblio and Valossa – that virtually advertised the event for anyone paying attention: the leading AI media start-ups are in Europe. Valossa convincingly won the pitching competition, with founder/CEO Mika Rautiainen giving a clear reason for why Valossa delivers value for media companies.

The winner of the Media Honeypot 2018 Pitching Competition was Valossa. Here are, from Valossa: Sami Niski (left), VP of Sales; Mika Rautiainen, founder/CEO (center), and Tommi Karjalainen (right), business development director

Mika Rautiainen, me, and Janina Salo-Glasemann, CEO of Media Honeypot

Heikki Rotko, founder of Media Honeypot, has built something that should only expand in the coming years, as more European broadcasters and publishers seek new revenue streams.

Heikki Rotko (left), with Trygve Refvem, head of MTG Ignite, at Media Honeypot 2018