philip lelyveld The world of entertainment technology


Oculus Super Bowl party could be the future of social sports broadcasting

...but Romo walked me through how it’ll work. I’ll admit: I was skeptical going in. Now? I’m a convert. This is the gathering space of our virtual reality future. As Edward Miller, the head of visual content for the VR news platform Immersivly, put it, this could well be “the beginning of [the] social sports broadcast.”

Strapping on an Oculus headset and some headphones, I was no longer in a cramped Altspace conference room. I was in a vast, high-ceilinged modern masterpiece of a parlor. With a futuristic cityscape out the window and a fireplace crackling off to the side, the room hosted a huge TV and a massive circular seating area around it, complete with comfy-looking cushions. Come Sunday, this is where dozens of people will come to watch the Seahawks and Patriots duke it out to be the NFL’s top dog.

Directional sound

If you watched the Super Bowl in the lobby of a hotel, you might be able to barely hear what someone on the other side of the room was saying, but if someone standing right next to you was speaking, you’d hear them loud and clear. That’s how it works in Altspace’s world, too.

Plus, it’s directional: ...

Tech has some limits

The company’s tech does have some limits. Because of the demands of processing all the audio and users’ voices, Altspace can generally handle only a few dozen people in a single space. Romo said he hopes for the Super Bowl, they’ll be able to get 75 together seamlessly. That means they’ll be running numerous instances of the Super Bowl party to accommodate everyone who wants in. Today, there’s 2,000 people on Altspace’s waiting list, but this weekend, it’s opening its doors to everyone.

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Rothenberg Ventures ‘River’ VR Accelerator Ups Ante to $1.3 Million, Announces Seed Investments in 13 Startups

[Philip Lelyveld comment; I've met with FOVE.  Emblematic Group is USC SCA's Nonny de la Pena's company.  I've advised Vantage VR. ]

Each company gets $100,000.

FOVE (Hardware)
Creating a VR headset with eye-tracking

DeepStream VR (Healthcare)
VR games for pain relief and rehabilitation

Emblematic Group (Journalism)
Recreating non-fiction events in VR

Psious (Healthcare)
Platform for mental health practitioners to help patients cure fears using immersion therapy in VR

SDK (Training and Travel)
Industrial training and travel in VR

Solirax (Education)
Platform for exploration, discovery and creativity, developer of World of Comenius

EmergentVR (Social Media)
Application to create, edit and share 360 VR experiences with the world using mobile phones

Vantage VR (Entertainment)
180-degree viewing experience for concerts and live events

Triggar (Hardware)
360-degree capture camera and system

Reload Studios(Entertainment)
Game studio of developers and artists from Disney and Call of Duty

Innerspace (Entertainment)
High quality content focused on artistic and cultural expression

DISCOVR (Education)
Immersive learning experiences about exploring the ancient world

Thotwise (Entertainment) – Game studio focusing on exploration and suspense, developer of The Hum

Each company will be working at least partly in the Rothenberg Ventures office and will meet weekly for a mentor dinner. At the end of the three month program, the 13 startups will be part of Rothenberg Ventures’ ‘Founder Field Day’ event held at AT&T Park in April 2015, followed by an SVVR demo day in May 2015.
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Augmented-Reality Headset Maker Meta Secures $23 Million

BN-GR292_META_G_20150128154944[Philip Lelyveld comment: this is major because it sets a bar that Microsoft Hololens, (Google) Magic Leap, Daqri (for warehouses, hazardous situations) and others will now have to beat. The pre-order cost is $667,]

When the Portola Valley, Calif.-based startup launched its 2013 Kickstarter campaign, it fast became a darling among the early adopters, raising $2 million and logging 1,500 preorders. The headsets, which are shipping now, have a 3-D see-through display, two cameras, Dolby 3-D audio and 360-degree head tracking. The technology projects digital items, like a ball for example, into the physical world and allows people wearing the eyewear to play catch with the digital image.

Although many early endeavors in augmented reality have focused on consumer applications like gaming, the initial crop of Meta users have included enterprise applications including showrooms, warehouses and first responders going through emergency simulations.

Mr. Hamer acknowledged the technology is complex and there are still a number of hurdles to surmount before it is ready for mainstream adoption. Still, it has made progress since the company, known as Meta Company Corp., was founded in 2012.

The infusion will be used to hire more hardware and software engineers and nurture a developer community to create applications designed to run atop the headsets. The funding will also help bankroll roadshows, hackathons and developer workshops.

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VR Makes Headway at Sundance Film Festival, Highlights New Cinematic Experiences

2049972768Evolution of Verse, by Chris Milk... but does tempt you with visual cues that draw you in the right direction—an important distinction for storytellers working in the new medium. 

Felix and Paul Studio.... Gear VR ... Herders, Strangers with Patrick Watson, ... The films aim to give you a fly-on-the-wall perspective of daily life, and although there’s that niggling feeling of voyeuristic taboo to overcome, the films demonstrate just how private these experiences can feel when done right.

Lost by Story Studio ... The film explores the possibilities afforded by rendering the experience in real-time, as opposed to a set of pre-recorded sequences. 

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Disney launching second startup accelerator program

The Walt Disney Co. said it is accepting applications for a second round of its Disney Accelerator program aimed at helping 10 technology-based startup companies working in media and entertainment fields.
The program, powered by Techstars, will select companies for a three-month mentorship and investment program beginning July 6 and concluding with a Demo Day on Oct. 6.
Participants will be offered $120,000 in investment capital along with mentoring from top Disney executives, entrepreneurs, investors and other business leaders from the entertainment and technology communities.
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Virtual Reality at Sundance – PBS News Hour


Oculus is now making its own virtual reality movies – VR Cinema

The prominence of virtual reality has been one of the biggest stories of the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, and now Oculus itself is stepping into the fray to highlight the importance of storytelling in VR. The company has pulled back the curtain on Oculus Story Studio, an internal team focused on exploring the potential of what it calls "VR cinema" — and the group's first movie is debuting this week.

Called Lost, the project is a real-time computer generated VR experience for the Crescent Bay prototype, and is directed by Saschka Unseld, a former Pixar animator who created the 2013 short The Blue UmbrellaLost runs roughly five minutes in length, but in what Unseld touts as one of the project’s innovations, it changes the pace of its storytelling based on the action taken by the viewer. "It could be three-and-a-half minutes and it could be 10," he says. "It all depends on you."

The Oculus story team is small, currently just around 10 people. Iribe and Unseld say the goal is to stay nimble so they can shift as the medium evolves creatively in the months ahead

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As UltraViolet Fades, Studios Ponder Options

large_CES[Philip Lelyveld comment: there is so much innovation at the studios and in the industry that breaks out of the intended rationale for and limitations of UltraViolet that its demise will barely be noticed.]

Known as UltraViolet, the venture is backed by most of the major studios but has so far failed to persuade big digital retailers to work with it. As a result, entertainment executives say they no longer see UltraViolet as the only path to a system where consumers can buy movies from any outlet and play them on any device.

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Is virtual reality the future of news?

hongkongunrest2Three companies today launched virtual reality-enabled news documentaries, hoping that the 360-degree films can lure back people turned off by conventional news.

One of the apps was made by Vice News, in partnership with digital artist Chris Milk and director Spike Jonze, to film the Millions March protests in New York in December.

Another called “Hong Kong Unrest” covered the Hong Kong protests and was made by the creators of, an app that is being developed to make news journalism in virtual reality.

A third has been made by the UN, following a Syrian refugee. The film is called “Clouds Over Sidra” and was also created by Chris Milk, along with UN advisor Gabo Arora.

… The launch of the three films all in one day is probably a coincidence — though one probably driven by Sundance Film Festival. ...



What is holographic, and what isn’t?

3DVideo2[Philip Lelyveld comment: this is a nice academic discussion that argues we should define holographic by the experience, not the technology.]

When viewing close-by objects, there are six major depth cues that help us perceive three dimensions:

  1. Perspective foreshortening: farther away objects appear smaller
  2. Occlusion: nearer objects hide farther objects
  3. Binocular parallax / stereopsis: left and right eyes see different views of the same objects
  4. Monocular (motion) parallax: objects shift depending on how far away they are when head is moved
  5. Convergence: eyes cross when focusing on close objects
  6. Accommodation: eyes’ lenses change focus depending on objects’ distances

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