Virtual reality and augmented reality are fast becoming part of our new reality, it’s as simple as that. There will be plenty of skeptics, naysayers, and the like, but we’ve always had that when new technology comes along. I say this after not having held any prior opinion on VR and AR before my visit to this year’s Seattle Interactive Conference. But I feel that I’ve really come around to this new tech. It began to intrigue me after listening to the session put together by POP VP Dave Curry and HTC Vive Creative Director Jonathan Faunce.
The Gear is Here: It’s a Virtual World We Live In!
Faunce and Curry provided a lively look at how new tech is already becoming the new normal in the way companies present their products. A great example is the old store catalog model. Forget print catalogs. Forget even PDF catalogs. The new trend is to provide an immersive experience. Consider Lowe’s Virtual Room Designer. Or IKEA’s Virtual Reality Kitchen Experience. Just type in “virtual” or “VR” and you will soon find that virtually everything will have its own virtual reality experience.
The signs of change are coming. Take 3D GIFs. They’ve been making the rounds these last couple of years and you’ll be seeing more and more of them. As the landscape shifts, big traditional companies will seek help. They needed it with the advent of the internet, and then with the emergence of social media. Faunce at HTC Vive and Curry at POP invite them all to give them a call.
One point that Curry and Faunce made really stuck with me: no matter how much they described VR and AR, you really have to try it to see for yourself. So, I did just that. SIC has a couple of stations, one by 8ninths and one by Samsung, and I dived in. The tech, at this point, is pretty remarkable. At 8ninths, I was completely blown away by my tour of a virtual car. I even got to look into the interior as well as check under the hood.
Samsung Gear VR
At the Samsung booth, I can tell, because I was looking for it, there is no motion sickness that’s going to grab you. If you get a chance, try the rollercoaster demo. In fact, stick around and try as many demos as you want. The more I did, the more I came away with a confidence in the tech. Who knew, but you can go inside a volcano and feel all giddy and get educated all in one.
Resolution will keep getting sharper and the immersive experience will continue to improve but we’ve clearly reached a tipping point. Imagine it this way: we’re already a couple of years in; we’re at the third generation level right now; and it’s just a matter of a few more production cycles. You can choose to join in or miss the boat and let your friend clue you in on how cool her goggles are. Nah, you’ll want to have a pair of your own too.
IndieFlix CEO Scilla Andreen gave a lot of thought and heart to her presentation at the Seattle Interactive Conference. It was definitely one of the best at this year’s SIC. She literally has enough material to do numerous talks and she played off that fact by bringing up one subject, talking about it, and then moving along to another saying that she could really focus on that only to move on to another. It was all masterfully done and quite entertaining. At the heart of it all, Andreen was talking about empowerment. You could say her journey began with empowering herself and how that led her to help others do the same.
We’re undergoing a sea change right now. Women are making inroads that seemed untenable only a few short years ago. At one point, Andreen teased out the idea that we will be seeing a significant change very soon with a Madam President and then she quickly moved along since, as I say, there is much to cover. First off, IndieFlix is doing very well by all the filmmakers who have work up for sale or rental. The RPM payment system that IndieFlix uses pays creators revenue per minute viewed. That is the best method to use and is in pace with how we consume content. Then there is the IndieFlix Foundation that brings home the company’s goals to help support the community through public screenings of activist and educational films. One such IndieFlix-backed film is “Screenagers,” about Millennials and tech.
Consider the title of Andreen’s talk: “To Hurt, to Triumph and to Be Human: Expressing Our Humanity Through Technology.” Andreen not only meets her goal of providing insightful examples of how technology affects us, she takes it a big step further by sharing a personal story. Gently, she peels back the story of her daughter, Rashel, an independent thinker who chose to embark on a career in the coffee business in Ireland. Then the news comes back to Andreen that Rashel has cancer. Andreen turns to the emergency crowdfunding site, GoFundMe. The response is stunning. In a brief time, the family’s goal is more than doubled. But Rashel ultimately passes away. Again, the online response is overwhelming and speaks to the spiritual potential of digital life.
The whole time, Andreen tells her story in a conversational yet very direct way. “The most engaging marketing is honest, not perfect, not slick,” says Andreen. In this way, I’m sure, life can be lived and things can emerge organically. I’ll tell you one thing, letting go and trusting one’s instinct is what has led to Rashel to live on through #ForRashel, an ongoing campaign in support of early detection.
Seattle Interactive Conference is an annual event celebrating the convergence of online technology, creativity, and emerging trends in one of the world’s most innovative cities. I will provide you with a look at this year’s conference, October 18–19, made up of my notes and illustrations. Let’s begin with this comics observation. All you really need to know is that this is a tech conference with lots of folks geeking out over various discussions of future trends in the market.
So our consultant ended up feeling a bit frustrated just tapping away on his laptop and not really tuning into the beauty of his own mind and heart. Well, maybe he’ll figure it out in due time. I’ll have more to say on some of the actual sessions taking place during this unique two-day event!
“Pike Up!” That’s the call to action to help secure a once-in-a-lifetime improvement to one of Seattle’s beloved landmarks, Pike Place Market. At this year’s Seattle Interactive Conference, an audience was treated to a presentation by two of Seattle’s leading agencies, Wexley School for Girls and Slalom Consulting, to discuss the campaign to complete the 40-year vision to connect the Market to Seattle’s waterfront. It’s quite a job ahead and Pike Up! is a campaign that taps into the excitement and significance of this project.
Briar Waterman, Starbucks Creative Director, Global Digital Marketing
Briar Waterman is Starbucks Creative Director, Global Digital Marketing, and he had some exciting news on how Starbucks is engaging its brand with consumers at the first day of the annual Seattle Interactive Conference, October 15-16. This is the first year that Starbucks takes its brand on a global campaign. At one point, Waterman displayed a recent collage of Starbucks locations from a promotion on Instagram. What he pointed out was that, even though the display featured some great locations, what it lacked was a key ingredient. It really needed to bring out the fact that people enjoy hanging out at Starbucks.
Jonathan Woods TIME.com Senior Editor, Photo & Interactive
What will it take for TIME magazine, the landmark newsmagazine, to survive for another one hundred years and beyond? Well, no one can say that TIME is not synonymous with quality journalism because it certainly is. It has a long history that led it to that level. One of the factors, no doubt, was its vigorous, even legendary, competition with Newsweek magazine. But it’s a whole new game today. One thing is clear and that is that nothing is clear. TIME is in the midst of a revamp. Of all the Seattle Interactive Conference sessions this year, the session on TIME and its future provides the biggest glimpse into a brave new world we are all interacting with.
TIME.com‘s Photo and Interactive Senior Editor, Jonathan Woods, led a discussion about this brave new world. Instead of being overwhelmed by the shock of the new, TIME appears to be standing tall about its legacy and looking forward with confidence. Woods came across as a man very much in charge, even if he is entering uncharted waters. To help steer the mighty vessel, TIME is working with Big Human, known for its work with startups; and Blink, a web and mobile solution for finding and managing freelance media professionals worldwide. Media professionals upload their location data on the Blink mobile app to a website that media companies use to search for talent to work on their stories. Managing Director Steve Spurgat was there to speak for Big Human. He used to be CEO of the now defunct VYou, a social media platform once used by Oprah’s Book Club.
Founder/CEO Matt Craig was there to speak for Blink. Blink is online with many active users on the site. People who are interested in joining the beta site can sign up here. The Blink app is available on iTunes and Google Play. Craig worked on Page One of the Wall Street Journal for five years before founding Blink.
Steve Spurgat Big Human Managing Director
Big Human’s Steve Spurgat set the tone for the discussion by bringing up The New York Time’s “Snow Fall,” a feature story about avalanches that employs innovative use of photos and interactive. The title of the story became its nickname when referring to its storytelling features. Spurgat’s reference to Snow Fall was a way of hinting at what TIME might do differently. “A show of hands for those who have seen Snow Fall,” said Spurgat. A majority of hands went up. “Alright, now how many of you remember anything you saw?” said Spurgat with a decided sneer to test the attendees. There was some nervous laughter from the audience, probably unsure of how to respond. Instantly, just to balance things out, Blink’s Matt Craig offered: “But Snow Fall did scratch a certain itch.” So, where do you go from there?
Of course Snow Fall seems to be an easy target because of the controversy related to naysayers, particularly Medium.com’s attempt to undercut it. You can read a good recap on all the fuss here. Essentially, someone at a startup can deny that Snow Fall is much of a big deal since they believe they can offer something similar. And so a process of kicking the original around ensues. Someone at another relatively new site pokes at it and someone else comments on it and so on. Hey, give yourself some time and go read the original Snow Fall here. What you’re looking at is an excellent in-depth feature, something TIME really can’t quarrel with over quality. You are free to read, and skim over, whatever you want, just like you would any special feature that has ever been created.
Matt Craig Blink Founder/CEO
It’s not like TIME doesn’t have some very cool features of its own. There is “Timelapse,” in partnership with Google, Landsat, and Carnegie Mellon University, that presents a 30-year look at global climate change through satellite images. View it here. Woods also cited a feature with an infographic by Jeffrey Kluger and Chris Wilson mapping out the best places to live in the U.S. according to your mood. Read it here. Woods was asked a number of questions that kept coming back to whether or not there was a formula to follow to maximize readership and to this, over and over again, Woods was clear that there was no formula. “I want the right amount for a story,” was Woods’s steadfast response. To this, Spurgat could only agree with, “A story is as long as it needs to be.”
Getting back to basics on compelling content, Woods pointed with pride to the newly launched Red Border Films at Time.com. This new documentary series debuted on August 15, 2013 with “One Dream,” to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. View it here. The first profile is of Bobby Henline, an injured Iraqi war veteran who is now a stand-up comedian, directed by Peter Van Agtmael. It will debut on Veteran’s Day, November 11, 2013.
Here are a couple of other interesting observations, considering that Big Human and Blink have TIME’s ear. Blink’s Craig referenced Vice.com as a leader in original web content. The VICE audience expects great video, photography and stories. At this point in the conversation the discussion had turned to long form vs. short form media and the issues surrounding user generated content. Craig believes UGC is useful in some instances but great brands will always need to produce high quality original content. VICE is a great example of a media outlet that does it well. Craig stated that he gets his news from a wide variety of sources with the most alternative source being Vice.com. And Big Human’s Spurgat wasn’t too keen on Medium.com’s tracking of how long it takes a reader to complete reading a post. “It’s documented that people don’t always read things to the very end,” said Spurgat. “News is very fragmented today,” he added. We do, however, come back to the fact that web content is free of the restrictions of print. Web content is free to be as long as it needs to be.
Snow Fall is both derided and admired in the same breathe but it is not the problem. As much as we want instant gratification, we appreciate a feature that provides thoughtful analysis and greater detail. Have we seen the last of Snow Fall? No, instead we’ll find our way out of a free fall. Journalists will continue to pursue a good story. Stories will continue to be told, short ones and long ones. And one thing is certain: we will continue to see more competitive, and excellent, journalism ahead, no matter what the medium.
Cal McAllister, Co-founder & CEO of Wexley School for Girls
With the Seattle Interactive Conference just closing up for another year, I wanted to share with you a very engaging and informative presentation I got to see today (more news to come later on), with a quick sketch of the presenter included. Seattle can be proud to say it is the home base for one of the great advertising agencies, Wexley School for Girls. SIC had the honor of having its Co-founder and CEO, Cal McAllister give a talk today.
The presentation by Cal McAllister, of Wexley School for Girls, was full of punchy lines like, “Social Media is like a weapons system. Social media is like an F-16. Once you acquire one, you have the power but you need to know how to operate it.” These thoughts were running through McAllister’s mind since Wexley is currently working on NATO’s efforts to use social media. Pretty heady stuff but McAllister certainly looked up to the challenge.
McAllister was going for an offbeat take on the 2013 SIC theme of transparency, talking about how we’re drowning in a clutter of facts, many of them fake facts, so transparency alone isn’t going to solve the problem. He skewered Jenny McCarthy for using her massive platform as a celebrity for spreading the idea that vaccines cause autism. He said that 98% of pediatricians don’t believe there is a connection so he’s going with that statistic. He provided similar examples of how facts get lost in the shuffle, like the recent viral video of an eagle lifting up a little boy hoax, and the little old lady who got a coffee burn from McDonald’s, which was a legitimate case but was exploited by the right as an example of a flimsy lawsuit.
Great take-away: People are proud of their decisions. Once they believe something, it is very difficult to get them to stop believing. When confronted with the facts, when given proof that they are wrong, they will shut down. So, despite all the proof of it being a hoax, people would rather believe that an eagle swooped down and picked up a little boy.
McAllister then went on to show how you win over customers: by giving them opportunities to participate. He took great pride in Wexley’s campaign to invigorate The Sounders brand. It was a three year process. First, you show the fans how to behave, like when to wave their scarves; then you bring back old traditions; and, finally, you allow the fans to own the game.
Another successful Wexley campaign was for Mothers Against Drunk Drivers. It was painting a message in a handicap parking lane at high schools that said that spot could be reserved for the next teen drunk driver. It is a controversial statement but it got the message across. And it specifically did not include the MADD brand since it actually alienates teens. “Teenagers already have one mad mother to deal with. They don’t need more,” said McAllister. That was perhaps the best line of the presentation, if not the whole SIC.
The last thought was sparked by a question on where Coca-Cola is headed with branding. McAllister thought it was great how Coke had partnered with Google on the Happiness campaign. “It’s just another great example of providing ‘added value’ for the customer,” said McAllister. Considering the theme of transparency, it is a curious place to stop. Can the giant of soft drinks, be associated with happiness? Well, that’s the magic of advertising. We’ll just have to see how NATO’s makeover works out. Can the military industrial complex really be associated with happiness? Oh, perhaps wrong campaign. One never knows for sure.
Seattle Interactive Conference, or SIC, is in town October 28, 29, and 30. My first impressions are that this is a very cool place to be for whatever your creative bent. Case in point, a presentation I just enjoyed put together by Jack Conte of Patreon.com. I include a quick sketch I did during the session. Conte has a great way with people. He makes you feel like he’s a friend with a really cool idea to share with you. And, well, that’s basically what he turned out to be. He is the founder of a new crowfunding platform for creators who release digital content and that could be just about anything, music, video, and even comics.
Patreon is unique. You can think of Kickstarter to get a frame of reference but then quickly move on from that. With Patreon, your patrons pay what they want to receive your content one piece at a time. If you are a musician, well, then it’s one song at a time. And so on. What’s really cool about this model is that creators and patrons find the right fit in a whole new way and everyone wins in the end. How do musicians and other digital content providers earn money today? Check out Patreon.com.
Be sure to check out the Seattle Interactive Conference. Visit them here.