virtual reality

‘Expert Storytelling in XR’ panel at the 2nd Annual VR/AR Global Summit in Vancouver, November 1-2, 2019

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The 2nd Annual VR/AR Global Summit at the Parq Vancouver, from November 1-2, 2019, featured some of the leading brands in the broader XR space, including Apple, Lenovo, Viacom, Niantic, and Microsoft, among others. A diverse array of use cases and new solutions for VR training were demonstrated throughout the event. The event, produced by the VR/AR Association, showcased a solid representation from local Vancouver firms, validating Vancouver’s status as the leading visual effects and animation cluster in the world, a growing presence in the broader XR arena.

I produced and moderated a packed house for the ‘Expert Storytelling in XR’ panel on Day 2 of the event, November 2nd, featuring Srinivas Krishna, founder/CEO, GeogramMichael Owen, CEO, MediaCombo, and Amy Lou Abernethy, President, Creative Director, and Chief Learning Strategist at AMP Creative. Srinivas showed off his latest technology for virtual event production and promotion; Michael showed off his work in AR museum curation, and Amy Lou showed off AMP Creative’s work in VR empathy training.

Michael Owens, Srinivas Krishna, Amy Lou Abernethy, and Chris Pfaff, after the ‘Expert Storytelling in XR’ panel, November 2, 2019

Chris Pfaff, Srinivas Krishna, Michael Owen, and Amy Lou Abernethy, at the opening reception for the VR/AR Global Summit, October 31, 2019

Kris Kolo, executive director of VRARA, Chris Pfaff, and Michael Owen, at the opening reception for the VR/AR Global Summit, October 31, 2019

Chris Pfaff, Alan Smithson, and Michael Owen, at the opening reception for the VR/AR Global Summit, October 31, 2019

Alan Smithson discusses MetaVRse’s latest ed-tech work, while Sophia Loren looks on

Galit Ariel and Chris Pfaff, after Galit’s presentation, November 1, 2019

Group shot of attendees at the Vancouver Economic Commission’s VIP Dinner, at the Hawksworth Restaurant, November 1, 2019

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://app.frame.io/reviews/b04524d9-ce10-4ab7-94ad-27de9de713dd/79b0c049-369f-47a5-8fab-fff2a4d487e3

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

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

VR/AR Association Event, ‘VR for Producers’ Features Verizon envrmnt, Littlstar, and Associated Press at NYU Data Futures Lab

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The first VR/AR Association New York Chapter event of 2017, ‘Virtual Reality for Producers: How to Create and Deliver for the New Content Frontier,’ took place last Wednesday night, February 15th, at the NYU Data Futures Lab, and it delivered not only a full standing-room-only crowd of 95 people, but some of New York’s finest producers working the VR scene.

You can watch the video of the event at:

https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B58D21m9dOMOdFJJSGE1UWMzVzA

Kris Kolo, New York chapter head of the VR/AR Association, introduces the goals and benefits of the organization

As more New York producers learn the craft of producing in VR, the industry will grow concomitantly. Wednesday’s session was an ideal session for learnings from the likes of Paul Cheung, direct of interactive at Associated Press (AP); Alissa Crevier, global head of partnerships, at Littlstar, and Christian Egeler, director of VR/AR product development with Verizon envrmnt.

Chris Pfaff introduces the speakers and sets up the event

Paul Cheung guided the audience through his learnings with the almost dozen VR cameras that he and his team have tested. He discussed some of the work that AP has done with branded content partners, and how to adapt the standards of the AP (an organization that literally developed the journalistic standards known as “AP Style” over the past 180-plus years) to VR production. In other words, while shooting a scene, do you keep the DP and/or the producer in the shot, or matte that out? For AP, that choice is obvious: leave the production team in the frame. Cheung described some of the learnings in VR as they apply to the overall production work that his interactive has to deal with, enabling a smoother workflow scenario.

Paul Cheung discusses the range of VR cameras that AP has tested and and used

For Alissa Crevier, Littlstar’s work has grown to the point where the company is as much a platform for content as it is a stand-alone producer of VR content. This has created a new kind of channel for VR partners, and the Littlstar roster of clients includes the who’s who of major content distributors, including Disney/ABC, Discovery, Nat Geo, Showtime, and the Wall Street Journal, among others. Crevier’s experience with Spotify, and the music industry in general, have helped her navigate clearances and understand the vagaries of the live music scene, and live streaming, to understand the value of WebVR versus individual VR platforms, such as Oculus, Gear, or Vive, among others.

Alissa Crevier presents Littlstar’s productions and its content platform model

Christian Egeler took the audience through the Verizon envrmnt learnings, and how they have applied to the studio’s growth in areas that include their Social VR platform. The envrmnt cross-platform SDK has gained traction in the industry, including with the March, 2017 issue of Cosmopolitan magazine, which includes an AR app, a native app, and integrated envrmnt SDK so that trigger images are easier to recognize. Egeler also showed an Alpine Village demo with dynamic updates (first showed at the Amazon Web Services Invent and Nvidia conferences). He hinted at the possibility that envrmnt might release a “build your own” 3D engine later this year. A VR experience produced for Super Bowl LI was also demonstrated.

Christian Egeler shares learnings from Verizon envrmnt’s studio work, and showcases new work, including its Social VR platform

The audience, mostly comprised of producers, was intrigued by the experiences that the three presenters had. The lively panel discussion dove into issues surrounding the growth of an industry that still has yet to standardize areas of production and post-production, as well as the growth of WebVR, in the wake of a still-early headset market.

Paul Cheung during the panel discussion

Mina Salib (right, speaking), program manager at the NYU Futures Labs, introduces the audience to new opportunities at the Labs

Paul Cheung (rear of photo, against window), and Alissa Crevier (right front), address audience questions after the ‘VR for Producers’ event

 

Producers Guild of America New Media Council East event, ‘Virtual Reality for Producers: Through the Looking Glass,’ gathers the VR creative tribes at The New School

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The power of virtual reality (VR) platforms is now fully realized in the explosion of creative content that is being delivered to headsets, PCs and smartphones every day.

 

The producers who are delivering new experiences for VR comprise a profile that is part-pioneer, part inventor, and all storyteller. This encapsulates the panel that was convened at The New School’s Lang Auditorium on Tuesday, February 9th, as part of the Producers Guild of America (PGA) New Media Council (NMC) East salon series.

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datavized’s Caitlin Burns and Deborah Anderson prepare demos for attendees

 

With the recent introduction of the $99.00 Samsung Gear VR headset, the announcement of the Oculus Rift CV-1 headset, and the innovative apps that are powered by low-cost (as low as $10) VR glasses and Google Cardboard, VR is creating a new market for production companies. With customized camera rigs, stereoscopic lenses, and streaming applications, producers are creating new experiences for brands (Tommy Hilfiger); news organizations (Associated Press, CNN, The New York Times), and media companies (HBO; 21st Century FOX, NBA), as audiences prepare to dive into content in ways not felt, or seen, before.
The Consumer Technology Association (CTA) estimates that 1.2 million VR headsets will be sold in the US in 2016, and estimates that, by 2020, the overall VR market will be somewhere between $50-150 billion. As VR content moves onto mobile devices and cost-effective headsets at an increasing pace, producers will be in greater demand for new forms of immersive storytelling.

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Dennis Adamo (right), COO of daydream.io, demos his virtualizer platform for an attendee

 

Produced and moderated by Chris Pfaff, one of the founders of the PGA New Media Council, and a former national delegate to the PGA NMC board; former delegate to the PGA National Board of Directors, and head of consultancy Chris Pfaff Tech Media LLC, the panel featured Caitlin Burns, COO of datavized, a VR production company that has developed new forms of WebVR content; Shazna Nessa, director of journalism for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation; Marco Ricci, director of EdgeDNA, and Dennis Adamo, COO of daydream.io.

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Chris Pfaff welcomes the audience at the PGA New Media Council ‘Virtual Reality for Producers’ event at The New School

 

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Marco Ricci, director with EdgeDNA, prior to the event

The event featured a packed house of more than 180 people, mostly PGA members and guests, as well as many stalwarts of the New York 3D, VR, and immersive industry. Demos were provided for the audience, pre-show, by datavized and daydream.io.

PGA VR Event at New School, Bill Platt Photo, 02.09.16

Chris Pfaff leads discussion on the VR industry

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Marco Ricci, from EdgeDNA, presents

 

Caitlin Burns discussed the need for VR workflow and post-production protocols for VR, detailing how difficult it is to pull frames to conform to Samsung Gear VR headsets. Together with Prime Focus Technologies, she and her team have created what is one of the first VR post-production workflows in the industry.

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Caitlin Burns, from datavized, presents

Dennis Adamo showcased daydream.io’s virtualizer technology, which renders individual user’s smartphones as VR engines for their own content.

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Dennis Adamo, from daydream.io, presents

 

Marco Ricci gave what amounted to a tutorial on how to prepare for VR shoots, and what to expect from VR clients. The proverbial “I want the world…for $5,000” conundrum was discussed amongst the panelists.

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Shazna Nessa, from the Knight Foundation, presents

 

Shazna Nessa gave an in-depth look at how journalists are using VR, with an overview of how the Knight Foundation has nurtured storytelling from outlets that include the Des Moines Register, among others.

 

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Marco Ricci during the Q&A session

The Q&A session, always a staple of PGA NMC East events, included questions regarding the challenge of overcoming user nausea with VR; the New York State Start-Up New York program (from which daydream.io has benfitted), and the growth of New York VR production.

 

The number of attendees who represent VR production companies, or are working on VR projects, comprised at least half of the audience. With the vast majority of media buyers; agencies; brands, and media outlets in New York, VR should reflect a New York attitude, if it doesn’t already.