Jessica Brillhart, Immersive Director, on VR and AR | Transcription

Transcription for the video titled "Jessica Brillhart, Immersive Director, on VR and AR".


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Starting Vrai (00:00)

So you started your company this year. And why? Great question. So I-- this actually ties into my past, actually. So I was at Google for eight years. I started as their first filmmaker with the Creative Lab. I moved on five years later on the Google VR team, which is now the Google AR VR team. I don't know. They might be different now. I don't know. So I became the principal filmmaker for VR at Google, which again, talk about titles. It's like the fanciest of titles. It was very cool. So I helped develop-- so JUMP, which was their VR live action, kind of capture ecosystem for live action, VR footage. And I was making stuff and working with the engineers. And the more that I was working there, I think I found it was very, very tough to be reactive. In the beginning, it was super easy, because it wasn't-- like VR was still pretty new, and no one really knew what we should be doing with it yet. And then once it started to solidify, it was much harder to turn the big ship towards the things that I thought were important. Namely, I thought that there was something-- there was some really interesting parallels between the machine learning team and the Google Brain team and also what was happening on the VR team. And just in terms of the mediums, how similar they were, both in how they've become more present in our lives, how they both kind of were like, everyone was really excited and, oh, no, it doesn't work. And then it was like, wait, we found this weird thing that actually makes it work great. So for VR, it was like cell phone technology. Actually, we have it in our pocket. We can make this stuff work. And with machine learning, I was like, right, logic is wrong. It's actually preventing us from doing the right thing and teaching these systems how to learn. And so suddenly, they both are on this trajectory. And from a creative standpoint, you could see some really interesting stuff coming from both teams. And I felt that there was a lot of ways that we could work together on stuff. I also felt that there were lots of interesting pockets of artistic pockets where we could create content. It wasn't going to be like with the big studios. It wasn't going to be like the big IPs. It was really going to be in these places that needed it, probably more than Hollywood. And thinking about ways that it could be functional and helpful for people. But also be artistic. You didn't have to be boring. It's not just functional. Yeah, precisely. Functions actually good, because films actually serve-- a function serves a purpose. Of course. And so VR could also do it. Any sort of immersive content can. And I had before also worked with-- I had worked on some stuff kind of envisioning what the future would be like when glass was around. Yeah. And it clearly worked because everyone now is very glass. So we're great. But for me, it was like, I'm really interested in this other layer of immersive stuff. But I also believe that it's not one technology or another technology. I believe it's all kind of going towards something. They're all going to work together. So a combination of that belief and wanting to be more reactive and honestly just working on the stuff that I felt was important to me to work on, that all sort of became more clear. I felt that once I had left Google, the best course of action for me was to actually create my own company. And so, VRay Pictures is the company we Vray for short and has all the letters in it. Yeah, meaning V-R-A-I. VR-A-I. So I didn't want all the letters in my name because I always thought that was a little weird for me. It exists in the ecosystem. And some people wear it really nicely. For me and my company, I was like, I don't know. I don't know if I want that. And then I was in Paris with my partner and he had said-- I had asked him, what's the word for true? And he had known I was looking for a name. So he immediately was like, hold on. And he took a pen and he wrote it down. He goes, that's what it is. And the word for true in French is Vray. So VR-A-I means true and actually means real, depending on how you use it. So at that point, you're like, OK, well, I cannot. And so this makes absolute sense. And so I started the company in January. And it really does, in a very odd, eerie, but wonderful way, reflect the stuff that I care about, which is how all these letters, all these-- you can pick it apart even and think it's visual arts. It's mixed reality. All these various things that we talk about will all come together, work together in really wonderful ways and actually lead to whatever this new immersive environment will be. And I think right now we're seeing each as these separate paths. And I think it's really not going to matter. I think you see the same thing happens in science. It's happening right now. We're like physicists and mathematicians and CS people are all learning Python. And it's converging. One thing, just through computers. So maybe your deep dream project is the most clear example. I think it is. I mean, that was really funny because that's-- so in Seattle, so the Jump Team, I think, is still in Seattle. I don't know. But so the engineers that are working on-- the computer vision people that are working on the Google live action VR rigs are planted in Seattle, the same office. And it used to be on the same floor as the Google Machine Learning team that was literally adjacent, like next to each other. Never really done that. Not intentionally. Kind of, well, they're both computer vision teams. So I think that was the reasoning behind. I don't know. But I would visit the Seattle team. And then I was fortunate enough to make friends with this particular machine learning team, AI team. It was run by this guy, Blazer, where he arc has. He was amazing. So him and some friends of mine who were working on this team were literally sitting two feet away from us. And I had gotten an email from Clay, actually, on the Google VR team saying, ARVR team or whatever, had emailed me and put me in touch with them, saying they're actually announcing deep dream. They really need a video person to help them out. And so they're asking me what I had. I originally just showed them stills of the stuff that I actually filmed in VR. And we started having this conversation around, well, I was trying to push on them the idea that, well, if you're able to dream up on top of the stills of these VR clips, then surely you could do it in such a way that we can actually experience it in VR. And it was a bit of a back and forth being like, well, the fidelity might not be that gray. It'll be low res. I don't know if it's going to be interesting. And then finally, they dug Fritz, who was working on the team at the time. And he actually gave it a shot, worked his magic. And we were like, oh, this is actually kind of compelling. We don't know what it is. We're just dreaming up on stuff. And it was really fun because I think there was no expectation. It didn't fit on a road map. It was literally just us working together to see what we can come up with. And we actually worked with Ross Goodwin on having his system, which was trained on Faulkner and Vonnegut separately, to actually write prose about what it saw. And then it would recite it on using this voice Myra, which is an Irish dialect speaking Apple voice, Apple Mac OS voice. Which made it really just unbearable. Because it was like-- And we both sort of like this is kind of interesting. But it sort of calls to mine less is more in a VR space. It's like once everything's kind of acid trippy, like hearing this Irish-American speaking, fabricated lady speaking Vonnegut interpretations to you, just isn't ideal. It's kind of hell on earth. So we sort of used it with caution. I mean, it makes sense when you like change out every variable. It just completely throws you for a loop. Yeah. Because it's all kind of close but sort of nonsensical. It is. I mean, I think what's great about what Ross does is that it actually does-- it is very poetic, but it gets dark very quickly. Because, well, Vonnegut-- Vonnegut's a little bit more upbeat, but Faulkner is like-- You know, like, OK, so I consider her a she, because I hear "myrel" all the time, or four times, which is a place. But she sort of says these phrases that are sometimes kind of like normal, normalized about the world, like, you know, a man with a hat on a hilltop. You know, why is he there? What is-- you know, she'll go off on that. And then she'll-- then she'll be like the darkness. It looms. It looms for me or something. It rolls just like this is weird. Yeah, I do. Again, it's like us-- I mean, what's interesting is that it's all pretty surface stuff. And the depth is stuff that we bring to it, which I really thought-- I think that part to me is very fascinating. Like, how we interpret it is really where the story, where the emotional foundation comes from. So this is actually like a big topic I wanted to jump into, which is like framing, right? So in cinema, obviously, it's a director, cinematographer working together to create the picture that transmits a story to you. Sure. But in VR, like, obviously, you have a certain amount of control. But how do you think about that at like the framing in the storytelling?

Discussion On Vr (Virtual Reality)

Story in film vs. VR (10:00)

Oh, so I don't think it's storytelling. And I think that's the main problem, is that people think, you know, I think story is extremely important to the medium. I think storytelling is kind of like-- it's sort of like you want to get to something that's important. So you take a pill to make you feel that way. Like, say like a sleeping-- I need to go to sleep. I need something to help me sleep. Somebody take a sleeping pill. I don't have a recommend that I'm not saying that's something you should do. It's just something that some people do. I think storytelling is the act of taking that pill. So it's like, yeah, you may take that pill. You might take-- you might exercise before you go to bed. It's a means to an end, but it itself is not the end. And so for film, storytelling was the way that you got to story. And a lot of mediums, the telling part was actually really important because you couldn't actually take those people and put them where you were thinking. And now you're in a medium where you can. So telling doesn't really work anymore. You don't need that. If you think of it as kinetic versus potential story. So kinetic is storytelling. It's the idea that actively I am trying to take you and put you over there. So it's this kind of active thing that's occurring. For VR, the way that I've been looking at it is it's more potential story. I'm crafting worlds that-- where when you go there, the story is something that you can decode. So it's like, how do these worlds transmit the story or represent the story so that no matter how you interact with that world, you're able to decipher or get to the core values of what that story is trying to transmit. It's a bit in the same line as an ASAP fable in a way. It's like Sloan said he wins the race. So that's what you're going for. It's not about the turtle or the bunny. It could be anything. It's about that's the core value of the story. That's what we want the takeaway to be. And so in my mind in VR or any immersive content, if you can get that piece, that truth transmitted to that person, it doesn't matter what kind of experience they have, they walk away with what was most important to you in the first place. And how do you think about that in the context of video games? Do you think that is just a transition to immersive content? Do you think it's there for certain games already?

Gaming (12:15)

I think certain games provide-- what's interesting about games for me is this idea of flow, which is-- it's very musical in nature. The best games are where they give you the capacity to explore at your leisure. Some of my favorite games have been something like "Mists." Actually love "Red Dead Redemption" a lot. Because yeah, OK, it's really stressful. There's this rail that we're putting you on. Maybe you just want to take a break and train some horses over there. And that's fine. And then you can duck back into the story when you want to. This idea that you can be in a completely explorable place. You can do all sorts of things that you want. But then there is this rail that you could go on and duck in and out of. I think that, to me, is very compelling. "Mists" had that same sort of rail as well. It is definitely a different kind of game. If it's like, OK, you do have this, and that's all you can do. And you can't move forward until you do that. Like a Super Mario Brothers is a great example. Any of the earlier games. Literally. Literally. Yeah. Yeah. It's a chroller. Sure. And I mean, I think that's something that we need to be aware of as creators in the space too. When we talk about games, we don't meet-- it's not a catch-all. Yeah. Different games serve different purposes. Pong's different than Super Mario Brothers, which is different than "Mists," which is different in some ways-- or a lot of ways from "Red Dead Redemption" too. "Red Dead Redemption" at least gives you elements that you're used to dealing with. It works similarly the way the world works. OK, that's a gun. That's an evil person. It's easy to decipher it. In "Mists," the whole point was that you had no idea what you were doing. You're pulling leather. The first thing you do is there's a book on the ground, and then you go, and then there's a lever. And you don't know what the lever freaking does. You pull it, and nothing happens. And you're like, is this going to be the rest of the game? And it is. And I think I don't really know what these things do. And many of those games, like pre-internet, were so hard. Now you just go on YouTube, and it takes two minutes to figure out what you're doing. Yeah, I know. Actually, one of my-- there was an old game from the '90s called "Amber Journeys Beyond," which is actually-- I've been an inspiration on a recent project. And it's really great because there's some-- well, it was just a really great game. It was sort of a "Mists-ish" copy made by two guys. I don't think they made anything after that. But they ended up-- we will-- you can't play it anymore, unless you have an emulator and a piece of hardware that will help you run it. But they have a-- there's a bunch of playthroughs on YouTube. And I actually sat there with a glass of wine and literally watched my-- I remember-- it was such a beautiful experience, actually. Where I'm like, OK, I actually love watching other people play these games. And the commentary is really beautiful, too. I think one of my recent-- my one of my recent favorite games is from Davey Readan, "The Beginner's Guide." It's wonderful because it literally sets it up and says, this is a 45-minute game. Because most of these games, you're like, I don't know if it's going to take up my life. But it's basically you're on rails. But it's him. And he kind of gives you-- he voiceovers in. It's about this other game creator who's created kind of these weird psychological, very basic games. So it's weird. It's like he builds this character that you never see. And this character is someone you explore through the pieces of games as his character is made. And Davey is taking you through it as if he knows this person. But then you start to question whether or not this narrator actually knows this person or not, or if this person gave Davey the permission to showcase his games like this. So suddenly you start to question everything as you're going through this kind of game-- it's I think it's really brilliant. I think any game that takes the format and then through the interactivity, through your agency kind of makes you feel these different things. I think that's a huge win for games, especially-- and I think that is where immersive needs to go-- Florence, which I think just won the Apple Design Award for like best designed game. This guy, Ken Wong, who was the designer on Monument Valley as well, started his own company in Melbourne. He's an amazing creator. And this game Florence is all about using-- you use your phone the way that you would normally use your phone. But the story you feel for the story based upon the way that you would feel for like conversations and interactions with your phone. So moments of frustration is like not hearing back from the person for like three minutes. Like that kind of thing. And-- The Clayton C, all those things. Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Like how fast you reveal things, like the whole idea of swiping, it's just very smart. And I think that's a thing. It's not-- we try to shove a lot of this stuff through preconceived notions and conventions where embracing how technology works now and using those limitations as a means of telling a story in some capacity or understanding a story in some capacity. I think that to me is really fascinating. And that's a-- Have you played the game? This is really embarrassing because I met the creator. I think it's called Black Box or something, the iPhone game, where it's all the puzzles. So for instance, one of the puzzles, you have to put your phone in a freezer. And the temperature has to hit a certain amount. And then you unlock it. That's brilliant. That's exactly-- I mean, it's stuff like that, where I'm like, that's just so-- because it makes you question your relationship with a device. Totally. And I think that's an interesting thing. Because that story is potentially as good as some of the films that you've seen. Of course. And again, it's not one to one, but it still gets you to the same place mentally and emotionally. Yeah. So when you left Google, did you have a project in mind? Or were you just going to client stuff? I wasn't sure what I was going to do. I just knew that I needed to go. I think that what I ended up doing first was I kind of got a lay of a land, sort of explored what other people were doing, talk to some folks, thought about the things that I wanted to do. I think for me, I needed a little bit of time to sort of get a sense of what was out there. It's difficult, because when you work for a company for that long, you're like, oh, OK. My problem was water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink, kind of, where it's like, oh, I have all this stuff. Yeah, yeah. But I can't do anything with it. And then one of my limitations was, like, beyond that, was I had seen where interactivity was going, I had a lot of ideas for that. I could see where augmented reality in VR could talk to each other, where machine learning techniques in VR could talk to each other, I couldn't do any of that, other than the stuff that I could kind of sneak through. I think in frustration, I made what I believe to be sort of like a VR gift type thing, which was the Weather Channel project that I did. That was my favorite one. I don't need to be down on you, because I know they're other really ambitious ones, but that was my favorite one. Yeah, it's most people's favorites, because they get it.

Conditions at Omaha - The Weather Channel in VR - (19:30)

It's like immediately apparent. And it's also hilarious. Yeah. And one of the things that people are always asking was, well, how do we make comedy in VR? And they try to bring comedians in. And I'm like, it doesn't have to be a literal thing. It doesn't have to be slap-sticky or like, here's, you know, frickin like Jerry Seinfeld telling you a joke. Like, it's literally just like, what is the human condition? Like, what have we created for ourselves in light of spaces and experiences that are just inherently funny? Yeah. And the Weather Channel just happens to be like watching the Weather Channel as one of those things. Oh, totally. It was very adult swim. It was like the little infomercials. Yeah, it was really great. And I think that to me, and I made that in a day. Yeah, that's not surprising. Yeah, yeah, no. But I mean, but considering how long it usually takes to make VR, it's insane. And I can show it to anyone on my phone. I don't care if they watch it on YouTube and low res or high res. Like, it's one of those things that you could just show anyone. And I love that stuff. And I still think that that stuff is very important as well. So it was all that stuff and just this idea that I felt that I-- yeah, again, being reactive, seeing how everything works together, creating a wide variety of stuff, I think I did want to-- but I also really wanted to create-- I had to work in a three-dough environment or like a 360 stereo environment, which for me was actually really great because it forced me to understand how something like just looking around was still very interactive. It wasn't-- because I think that how we actually experience a space and how those spaces engage with us, that is an important part of this medium. I don't know if I wouldn't necessarily come to that conclusion if I had made it immediately volumetric and sixth off. And you can speak well. So for me, it was important to have those limitations so that I could see within-- or I could explore within the medium just some of the basic building blocks of what made it so special. But that said, I really wanted to make volumetric sixth off. Whale calling VR experiences. I just wanted to do more. And I wanted to work with different technologies and different VR companies and really expand what I was doing. And I felt as someone who was in the space early enough and who had the fortune of sort of being around the medium and its sort of second resurgence. I felt that I had the opportunity at that moment to actually do some good. Yeah. So what's coming out next?

Jessica's upcoming projects (22:15)

So I was thinking about what I could talk about. And I feel like I've been told I need to be patient and probably not talk about anything yet. But I think I can say that one of the things that has been really amazing is the response to me going solo-ish was really-- was pretty good. I mean, it was like I have so many people coming up wanting to work with me. And pretty big names and IPs and so on. So the projects that I have, I can say that there are four projects. One is with a pretty big IP, which is a series, which we're in development with right now. We're still working out how that will work. But we're excited about it. And I feel like that's really interesting because it's something that explores the biopic and how we reimagine that sort of experience in VR. In a way that feels like a journey. It feels like you're going somewhere special. So that's sort of the crux of the series. That would be awesome because biopics are so bad, usually. The music ones are so disappointing every time. Well, the first one out of the gate will be a music one. Great. So that should be fun. Hopefully you blow the doors off of it. Yeah, yeah. Thank you. No, I think-- but it's difficult because I think music has a capacity to transcend and be emotionally valuable as well. And so I think that for me was an important part. Plus this particular person is a very epic cultural icon. So it's a wonderful-- it's been a very interesting experience getting to know who this person is on a deeper level, many levels. The second project with an architect who's pretty well known. And it's a combination of-- it's more exploratory kind of figuring out what we should be doing with his work. Third is a game, a fringe game, probably more in the weather channel sphere, which I'm very excited about because it's ridiculous. And I think-- but I feel like there would need to be a game that was more like-- kind of helped do what Pong did for folks where I wanted to have a game that was simple enough that people could all understand and play and would be also sort of an introduction to what immersive stuff was. Is that not Pokemon Go? Pokemon Go to me is still a bit complex for folks. I feel like it's-- I think it totally helped people get the hang of things. I'm thinking about what can be uniquely VR. Not taking an original IP like a Pokemon. Sure, yep. It's more like, can we create something that is, from the ground up, something that was built for this space? OK. Based upon thinking about the way that defaults are built. Thinking more in that retro grade basic geometry world. And not complex character world. But complexity comes with it longer conversation. And I think the fourth one is the fourth one. That was-- sorry, I'm trying to think. It's really hard to keep them straight. Oh, that's OK. And the fourth one-- the fourth one is actually an immersive audio project. Dot, dot, dot. Dot, dot. Next question. But also, but really quickly, I think that immersive audio is great. I think we talked about this before. I feel that there's-- as the visual fidelity changes all the time, and as someone who creates in the space, it's annoying because every time a headset comes out, you have to react sport. Specifically for live action, I think is probably a little bit easier for-- probably I'm going to hear back from people being anxious and not easier. And volume metric or six stuff. But the audio guys are like, we good. You know, just lean back. Like, yeah, I'll have re-expert it as whatever-- you need a 5.1 here. You need what kind of ambisonic, what kind of spatialized file format. And this is not too-- they are extremely talented. The people who are talented are amazing. Of course. People who know how to do it are incredible. It just feels like that stuff is so important in terms of selling you being in a space. And again, people were trying to think of it second. So I want to be part of the-- I want to help lead the charge. And it's first for me. Yeah, I totally agree with you. I think that's-- people don't realize that you could shoot this podcast on a Motorola razor from 10 years ago for video. And then use these mics. And that would be good enough. Audio is so much more important than HD anything. It's absolutely is. Yeah. And no one gives it any love. No, I mean, I'm thinking about the weather channel piece again. It's like, can he G really hit it out of the park? You know? Like, if that wasn't there-- I understood that in one second. I was like, yeah, I get it. So understood. Yeah. All right, let's go into all the Twitter questions. Sure. So first question. Sure. Andrew Peterman asks, how long until we'll be able to create 3D 360 video from cell phone hardware and some kind of software?

Andrew Peterman asks - How long until we'll be able to create 3D 360° video from cell phone hardware+amazing software? (27:25)

Ballpark, estimate. Oh, I mean, you can kind of do that now. Yeah. I think it's pretty good already. Yeah. It's a storytelling challenge or not, whatever. Whatever-- what's the word you want to use? No, it's storytelling. I mean, I can speak to what is the question. No, I mean, the question is, rather than storytelling, what would you prefer to say? Oh, oh, god. I don't know, world building. That's the one that I can think of. It's weird. Again, it's like the director question. We don't really know what to call it, so it can be anything. Close enough. OK, cool. Story crafting narrative. Narrative is good. Creating a narrative. I'm trying to think back to all the decks I've made in the past couple months, and I think there are a few where I've definitely used narrative, story, crafting experience, making experiences. I think time will tell. Yeah. Yeah, not the most important thing. Another-- No, it's awesome, Annox. It's like you just make stuff that's meaningful. Oh, no, totally. It's like the hardest part is any creative person. You're like, dude, I know you want to put me in a box, so here's the box, but I'm going to do whatever. Yeah, that's been-- I actually created-- this is-- I love this, because I haven't used this phrase in a while, but I came up with-- in my earlier days of working, I was trying to explain how I edited World Tour together. And the thing that I had called it was probabilistic experiential editing, which the acronym is P. And I remember when I was putting this together for a presentation, I noticed it, and I was like, either I can pretend that's not the acronym, or I have to call that shit out. And so I basically called it out. It was like, I know. But in the beginning of every medium, people were going to say some weird shit, and it may not last, but here you go. And yeah, people-- actually, the response was very positive, because I think sometimes people are so serious, like, well, this is what this is called. And it's like, well, it doesn't have to be-- it could be called anything. We can call it cheeseburgers, and it'd be like, a real matter. Yeah, and if you have the confidence, and you make cool stuff, no one's going to be like, oh, that's not wrong. Like, Jessica's wrong. Yeah. Dude, I make the cool stuff. Another VR future question Matt asks, where do you see VR in 10 years? I don't see it being called VR.

Matt asks - Where do you see VR in 10 years? (29:50)

OK. Sure. Like, I just don't see it. I think that it's all going to go to a different kind of place. I think-- yeah, I think it'll be called something else. Related, Michael Hodab asks, does VR or whatever you want to call it still have long-term mass adoption potential, or will the market shift to AR-- so magically, Apple glasses, stuff like that?

Michael Hodapp asks - Does VR still have long term mass adoption potential, or will the market shift to AR? (30:05)

No, I think that's already happened in a lot of ways. I think you could see that just in the shift of Google's James name. It was cardboard in Google, VR, then Google VR AR, then Google AR, VR. So they don't really-- people are still-- they're trying to be like, OK, what's going to be the most-- what's going to be the easiest thing for people to grok? Though there's an AR project that I'm working on-- or will hopefully be working on-- that is similar where it's-- everyone has phones in their pockets. Everyone can download apps. So there are these two things that are easy enough for people to grok, where it's like, OK, I get it. Totally. It's not like I have a new piece of hardware that I have to learn. I think that I still have a hard time finding compelling content on AR-- in the AR sphere as well. So I think, similarly to where VR is going to be in 10 years, I think that a lot of these technologies, which are by themselves, have weaknesses, weak spots, will when together kind of fulfill each other's gaps, fill each other's gaps. So you can imagine, OK, AR is great because it's the most accessible thing. You build a relationship with a particular app that leads you into the VR space. Because now you actually-- because with VR, it's like you kind of need people to care enough to want to do it. So if you have an AR experience that is compelling enough, that does speak to you on some emotional level and the fact that a VR experience can be there to help expand upon that, that's a simple off the top of my headway that those two could work together. Yeah. Is it compelling to you the notion that in pick a number of years, people will be in VR for a significant percentage of their day? I mean, people kind of are, aren't they?

Will people be in VR for a significant percentage of their time in the future? (32:00)

I mean, with computers and cell phones, we spend so much time on the internet. I mean, if you really wanted to-- You could say that. You could probably go to that level of, well, we spend so much time not here as it is. Yeah. So it's like, I mean, we've seen the effects of that in some way. It hasn't destroyed us, but it has sort of-- it's had ramifications to the way that we work, live, relationships and stuff. So I think I had a-- I think I told you that story about the hedgehogs and the plasma screens. Oh, yeah, yeah. So I went to the lounge at Heathrow, and I saw these plasma screens with these hedgehogs on them for some sort of AI system advertisement. And I'm thinking, like, Blade Runner called this in a very-- kind of semi-distopic way. Like, look, it's just everywhere, and it's all over the place. And I'm like, it still is. It just has hedgehogs on it. So it's probably not going to be anything that's going to just-- it's probably not-- we destroy humanity. Like, we do a great job doing that. Oh, yeah, we're on track. I think the technology itself is something that challenges the way that we exist, and will provide us with ways to have a conversation around that. I don't think it itself will be the cause of any sort of insane thing. I-- I'm actually not like-- I'm not negative about it. I think people are just interested in altering their perception. And you see it when people watch folks on Twitch. I think you see it with like, you know, deprivation tanks. And we try those. Yes. Really awesome. They are amazing. I mean, that, to me, that's what's so great about-- like, with people who are like, oh, when you go into VR, you need to do a billion things. I'm like, no, you don't do anything. Like, sometimes people just want to hang out. Oh, for sure. And just like chill for a second. And that's the thing I think that's very valuable for VR right now, at least, is the idea that you can focus. Yeah. And it does have that meditative quality that's really great. I also think that the potential for having at hospitals, having at places where people are there sitting anyway, and it's awful, like the idea that you can have someone in a VR experience and not feel so bad is a great idea. My dad, I gave my dad an Oculus Go recently. He loves it. My mom's been taking photos of him using it. He fell asleep in one, which was really entertaining. And to me, that's how I know it's going to be fine. Because it literally looks-- he's fine. It's just him being like, yeah, I was watching this thing, and I fell asleep. I don't know what he was watching it in an ass. This case was my project. But I think that there's something really sweet about that, where it's just another thing for us to experience the role. Yeah. Just falling asleep in front of your TV, reading a book or whatever. Yeah, I don't-- precisely. I do think that there's-- for example, I actually realized I needed glasses when I was starting to make VR because I couldn't rectify-- I couldn't-- the stereo disparity. You're getting nauseous? No, no, stereo disparity. So I couldn't actually-- it took me a while for me to see my left and right eye for close up-- Oh, OK. --text. Wouldn't match. So they'd still seem like they weren't working. I sent it to an engineer, and I said, is my text right? Because it doesn't seem to look right. And he looked at-- apparently looked at it and said, oh, you know, he was like, well, you know, the font's kind of weird. And I was like, what do you mean the-- does it work or not? And he was like, oh, yeah, no, it looks great. He's like, are you sure your eyes are OK? And I went to an eye doctor, and sure enough, I had a stigma thing. So now I'm-- Pudding. Yeah, it's weird. So I mean, even that kind of-- I feel like there's some interesting ways of how-- there are all sorts of things that will come to the surface from once people start to actually adopt and experience this stuff more. I do think from a VR standpoint, right now, people are sitting there with their VR headsets doing this kind of thing, just like watching. But all the headsets are going towards volumetric, like, you know, positional-- wireless. So I imagine there being a much more interactive, much more engaging, like you're not just sitting there, you're going to actually move around. Have you been to that-- I think it's in like Utah or Las Vegas, it's like some laser tag type thing where you have a VR headset on? Oh, it's the-- it's-- oh my god, why am I blanking on it? Yeah, they have a Star Wars experience, too. I'm going to get reamed for this. I don't remember the name of this company. But it's-- yeah, they basically do like kind of location-based entertainment. They have the Ghostbusters thing also that was here in the city. Yeah, they do-- I really feel bad about this. I want to say Valve, but that's not true at all. It's like all the game talk. I feel like they actually-- yeah, I think that stuff's really cool. I think it fits within-- again, it's like it's a different genre of VR for me, where I feel like that's a very-- what they've figured out-- you have to dedicate a space for that kind of thing. Because what you're doing is you're letting people seemingly move through a whole experience. And I do believe that taking that first step in a VR space for a lot of people is really-- it's a powerful thing to feel. I-- we were running some very, very basic-- if we took the 360 world tour film that I made, if we put it in a space and kind of created-- even if it was a rudimentary box with what the floor would look like and gave you space to move. I mean, I did that. And I almost-- it was very emotional for me. Because I remembered what it was like to be there, on a level that seeing it couldn't do anymore. Like, you would see it and be like, yeah, I was there. And then you moved. You're like, no, but I was really there. And that's where it's like, holy shit. Like, when we're able to actually capture our own personal moments like that, where we can relive them, that to me is like kind of-- Terrible? Perhaps, yeah. I mean, I've said it before, where it's like, OK, you know, part of the human experience is that we forget. Of course. So when you can't forget anymore, what happens? When you can't, like, where you're-- because I don't-- I believe in the sanctity of experience in the human experience. That's my own opinion on it. I don't think that we should have all the world's experiences accessible to people all the time. I think that's a terrible idea. And I don't like the way that that's been marketed as such. Like, I think that there are things that are poetic to forget and should be forgotten in some way. And I worry that my worry of this is that it goes in the opposite direction where everyone's like, remember everything. Right. Experience everything. Of course. Access to everything. Yeah, once we index all of our memories, it would be perfect. Totally. Completely discreet. I was always in a box. There's like a romance to the feeling. As long as there's hedgehogs on a plasma screen saying AI systems, and it's an-- like, as long as those exist in that kind of way, I think there's hope. Because it's like, that actually brings it to a place where it's like this stuff is being adopted, but in a way that's essentially harmless. It's like once you start thinking-- once you start getting to the bare bones of why people are trying to do this, what the end goal is for some of this stuff, that stuff gets a little weird. But I think right now, we're in a really nice-- we're in a reasonably nice place with some of this. Well, I think it's like VR AI whenever you-- or not VR AR. So it's bringing people joy at this point. So I don't think it's really seeded fear in ways that other technologies have. I think we were talking about this. It's only AI until it's cleaning your floors, and then it's a Roomba. And then it was just like my friends. Exactly. We have so much AI intelligence systems around us now. I speak to Google Home every day. I would speak to Siri occasionally. And it doesn't-- it's fine. Yeah. It doesn't even phase me at all to do that. But asked me five years ago if I would talk to a little speaker in my kitchen and ask at the set the timer for me for grilling, it would be like I wouldn't really understand what I was talking about. That would be like that's weird. Yeah.

Virginia Pigato asks - How can a traditional storyteller adapt to vr? (40:35)

Let's go into the craft. So Virginia Pigato asks, how can a traditional storyteller adapt to VR? And actually, I don't know this about you either. Were you making films before? Yeah. OK. I was a filmmaker, so a quick background on my life was that I studied film at NYU. OK. And at the same time, I was running across the street to the Crone Institute. Math, Math, Math, Math. I went to NYU as well. Oh, OK. So you know, Crone. So I was there, and I got a minor in computer applications, not computer science, because I got to Pearl, and I hated it. So I was like, no way in hell am I going to spend my time doing this. It makes me so much. Languages turn people off. I can't stand it. So I would go back and forth between these two schools. I didn't know about ITP. Never heard of it. Me neither. And if I had, I would have totally gone there. So it was this kind of-- so I went to both schools. I did that. I had a short-- I worked at Apple for a little bit. I worked at a place called U.V. Factory as their lead editor for a bit, and then I ended up at Google. And Google was-- it was always like that back and forth, like science, art, science, art, and then our technology film, I guess, were the two. And then Google had a position open for a filmmaker-- or film-- it was like film editor at first, but then turned into a filmmaker when I got there. So I started working there with the Creative Lab, which at the time was like 10 people. The one in Chelsea? Yeah, exactly. And now has become like a huge-- It's a very important part of Google, actually. They create magical things about the brand, and they tell a Google story about their products. And I was part of that. How do we use films? How do we be artful about these films? So it's not talking heads and engineers that look really nervous. So I ended up working with them for five years before I went to VR. And actually, the VR team-- the people that are working on the camera, I think, found that it would be better if they just tried to look internally to see if someone could use the rig, so they wouldn't have to rely on external stuff and be more cost effective to try to find me. Then, you know. So I remember they had emailed me. I actually kept the email because it was a huge turning point, because I was actually feeling kind of bored, to be honest. Like, I was-- Maybe film? Yeah, because it was a bit-- like, again, it's that idea that I wanted to do more, and I felt like I could do more. And then, when the VR-- I wasn't really interested in VR at all, to be honest. I just wasn't-- I didn't think it was for me, or I didn't really think about it at all. But then, a bunch of my friends started working in it. Like, Erin Koblen, Chris Milke, started with a verse at the time, which is now within. Sasha Unsled went to Oculus and started Story Studio. So there were all these people that I had known who were starting to get more involved with VR. But again, I wasn't thinking about it. And then, sure enough, I got invited to see this rig and experience the footage. And there was one clip that-- it was a test footage-- a clip that the engineers had filmed of just themselves hanging out in Seattle. And it was brilliant. Like, it was wonderful. Because I'm making films about these engineers. And it's really hard, you know-- I feel like I was mostly successful in doing it, but it was hard to get engineers to be-- Just relax. Yeah. And like, normal. Or just talk about what they love about this stuff. Because when they do, it totally makes sense. But I think they're used to like, well, I have to talk like this. And I'm not-- so I had to like-- I know what you're talking about. Yeah. No, I don't imagine you would. But then I think seeing that I was like, right, this is actually-- this is the truth of that. So to really quickly answer the question. Yeah, how do traditional storytellers adapt to VR? Right. So you abandon the telling. Yeah. As hard as that is. You think about what I do, actually, is I draw two Xs. And then brackets. I write down what I want to-- what the story that I want to tell. OK. And I use a whiteboard. I love whiteboards. I don't know if it's the Google thing, but I love whiteboards. Because it's like, it's non-precious. You can just like write and erase it. And it doesn't exist. So I write down, even if it's long-winded and crazy, I'll write down what I believe the story is. And then I'll look at it and start to hack away at it till I get to that truth statement. So I'll give us a torus in the hair. It's like the entirety of that narrative. And then it's like, you know, slow and steady runs the race might be the end result. So I reduce. I kind of feel you're sort of sculpting at that point. You're sort of like, here's my-- the story I would tell is this big block of clay. Within that block of clay is the actual meaningful bit. Yeah. So I mean, that's like the Michelangelo quote, right? It's like, I see it in the marble, and then I like bring it out. It's like literally what you're saying. OK. Well, then I think that's a aim for that. And it's also thinking about, you know, as a-- once you get to that truth, then it's really about holding-- it's like your north star. And it's about, for me, after that, once you get to that, you have to also think about the flow of the experience, thinking about the cadence, how people come into spaces, how they relate to other objects, how they relate to other people, thinking about the various elements that you want to bring into it. So it's layered thing. Is there a-- like, thinking about the tech as well, like, it's not film in the sense that, OK, you edited in Final Cut or Premiere or whatever, you export it, you put it on FTP and you send it to somebody, right? It's like, the process is very much in flux. So a lot of the things you have to consider, or who's my audience, where is this going to go, which headset, what kind of limitations are there for the headset, are they creative limitations, are they annoying limitations? And then you really have to understand, like, you know, how those limitations play into the truth that you're trying to transfer over. And again, thinking, how is that truth constantly represented in this experience? How do I make sure that, regardless of where someone is engaged with either what I believe is front, back, wherever, like, how is it, even at its worst, still able to transfer that over to somebody? So yeah, it's a lot of, like, really the preemptive stuff. It's like, kind of figuring out, you know, what are-- what are the things I call it? Like, what is the superpower for the person in the experience, like, in a game? Oh, man. OK. You know what I mean? Like, in a game where, like, OK, I can jump, I can, like, throw a fireball if I have one. I can go this way, but not that way. So being, giving people the time to understand that first and foremost is also important. But understanding what those things are and how that evolves over time is part of the narrative, too. And could, like, I don't know if it's, like, the companion cube in Portal, where you're given an object that's meant to help you and does help you. But then it's incinerated, like, three layers in, because the computer, like, wants you to feel awful. Yeah. And you do. And it works. And so it's that kind of, like, when you're given this gift to do something incredible, and then, you know, halfway through, it's taken away from you. I don't know what-- I don't want to spoil red dead redemption, but, like, so sorry. Maybe we should cut this up. It's pretty old at this point, right? OK. So there's the second one coming up. So it's like-- OK. But, you know, you're playing this character John Marcicin, and you get to the end, and you realize that you can farm. Like, you get your wife back and your kid back, and you've been trying to help the FBI as this outlaw for the entire game. You beat your kind of enemy, former colleague, and then they let you go. And you get your wife back and your kid back, you can farm. And then the FBI comes back in a rampage and kills you. And you can't win. There's no-- and you're just like, holy shit, like, what happened? And then you die. That's it. And that's life. And that's life. And there's nothing you can do about it. And then, for the last little bit, you play your son. Oh, OK. And then you-- and you play the son. And then your son is now taking revenge on his father's death. And it turns out, in a way, the whole red dead redemption is about the son-- Redeeming. Not redeeming his father. Not the father redeeming whatever else, which is always a little bit, you know, like, I guess, like, getting back to that as gang for having abandoned him, I don't know. But the real redemption's with the son. And that's when you're like, wow, OK. That's when you're like-- because you're suddenly like terrified. You're like, I did everything that I could. And you did. Yeah. And you still failed. You still failed. Right. Because life, that's sometimes life. And that's how you set up a second game. That's how you set up a second game. All right, let's go rapid fire through these questions.

Can Olcer asks - What key but non-obvious thing is missing for VR to become mainstream? (49:50)

So Ken Alser asks, what key but non-obvious thing is missing from VR to become mainstream? People not just focusing on entertainment and games. I think that a lot of what I've been doing has-- I mean, granted, one of the pieces I'm making is entertainment, but thinking about education, thinking about various other professions that could use it, infrastructure, architecture, the other project I'm working on, thinking about, I don't know, where this stuff could actually be useful? Totally. Doing those things artfully. And I think that we kind of just try to focus on doing this one thing. And it forgets, but we could just find-- be inspired by other places where I've had people come up to me saying, is VR important to us? And sometimes I'm like, I actually help them, I work through the stuff with them, and I say, actually no. It's not useful. It might be useful in the future, but I think right now, it would be weird if you did it. Yeah, well, I think this is a-- as technologies expand in popularity so quickly now, they just become hammers. And people are looking for nails, like blockchain. Yeah. Oh, we have a blockchain. Why? Why? Why do you have that? No, it's for sure. It's like, this was driven by AI. You're like, I don't think-- A, I don't think it was. You're like, why would you do that? It's just no reason. Yeah, it's like kind of-- I think that that's-- it's more figuring out where you can have-- where that stuff, that technology, myself included, where we could have the most impact and still be creative and still explore. And I think people who really do want this from other sectors are also really open-minded, at least the people I've been working with, to explore those, how it could be really interesting and wonderful for people. Yeah, yeah, totally. All right, next question.

Matt MacVey asks - What are some of the most exciting or scariest parts of social VR and what is the storytelling potential of social VR? (51:45)

Matt McAvay asks, what are some of the most exciting or scariest parts of social VR? And what is the storytelling potential of social VR? Also, what is social VR? Social VR is what it means a lot of different things. That's another really kind of cool thing. Well, OK, so it's social could mean like it's a way for your friends or followers to-- basically, it's about the idea of sharing the experience with another person. That's ultimately what it means. Got you, OK. So it could be like either you're represented by avatars in the space and there's multiple people. Or it's multiple people be able to do the same experience at the same time. It could mean all those things at the same time too. I did old VR. I think that's what it's-- old space, sorry, old space VR. And for the first time, I think a month ago, I just was curious. I just hadn't been able to do it for a while. And so I did it using the Oculus Go. I was changing my avatar because you're a robot. And then you can be like three or four other things. And meanwhile, this couple comes along and they start talking to me. And I am looking over at them as they're talking to me. And I'm still changing my avatar. And I kind of give them a look and I look away. And for me, because you're thinking, OK, it's a game. And they're just talking to have-- but then you realize they're actual people behind that. And I just probably look like someone who just gave them the cold shoulder like, oh, it's you. And just like, look. Because I don't even know how to talk. I'm still a freaking robot. I don't know how to do this. And I look in the distance and there's another robot. And that robot's looking at a fire. And it's harding the fire because you can basically throw emoticons at things. So it's like, heart, heart, heart, heart. When someone's throwing a stick. And all I could think of was, this is beautiful. This is a beautiful thing. Because everyone's just like, I'm just going to try out a bunch of stuff. But this is probably where chat rooms were for AOL back in the day, where you're like, this is great. We're all one big happy family learning from each other. But then there's also then the creeper comes through and destroys everything for everyone. So I think that the fear is that people-- there are creepers out there. There's been a lot of talk about women being mistreated in that space as well. I think the same patterns of what we've experienced before in digital space is probably going to be the same problems we would potentially deal with. Now. And again, it's more affecting because it's trying to emulate real life to some extent. So these experiences are a bit more-- they stick to you. Kind of visceral. Yeah. So we have to be very careful about that sort of thing. I mean, it's one of the reasons why I think games with guns are-- I mean, it's hard because I think that VR experiences should not be following in the same footsteps of games in that regard. Because holding a gun to someone's head is very different than holding a controller so that that character can hold a gun to someone's head. It's like once you actually put a gun in the hands of a kid in a space, it starts to get-- there's heavy responsibility there. And I think that's where we need to be very careful and very responsive in how we create these things. Man. Well, let's end on a happy note. Yeah, please. So Tony Casara asks probably the most pertinent question.

Personal Question

Tony Cassara asks - What kind of dog do you have? (55:15)

What kind of dog do you have? This is from your Twitter bio, I think. Right? You have a mention? Oh, what kind of dog? Yeah. I have a German Shepherd mix. I adopted him when he was five months. His name is Fisher. Right on. He's great. I actually-- he hates VR. You put it on him? No. When I'm in VR, he gets very upset. He's just like, where'd you go? He's kind of like, but what about me? And I think for him, it's like-- he's sort of used to it, but he does this whole-- heals like lay down in the middle of the floor near where I'm doing it and kind of huff. Like, I'm here. Yeah. But yeah, he's cool. One of my favorite-- talking about memories and so on, like that. I've actually-- the benefit of having been able to work with the jump rig so early on was that I was able to take a lot of the prototypes. And I took one home. Oh, cool. Yeah. And I filmed my family and my house kind of where later part of my life where I grew up and were actually where parents moved after various other stints, other places. And there's a shot of me playing with my dog. And like just us running around. You know, right now it's like, yeah, whatever, that's silly. But I imagine myself, years from now, looking back and being very happy seeing that. And it's happened to me too that I've had-- one of my producers passed away, actually, the person who worked on World Tour with me passed away like a few years ago. And one of the things that I had to grapple with was like, do I give his parents this VR footage? Is that OK? And we figured out a way to do that, where he had a friend of his actually was working at John. And so his John friend was also there, kind of, and what they thought. But it's that question too, where it's like, it's so wonderful to have these experiences, like to be able to remember some of the things that matter to us a lot. And I think even though it's what I'm trying to do is trying to combine these three different technologies or more, it's also about what's the conversation all this stuff will have with reality and how we live our lives. So I think I'm really excited to kind of keep exploring that stuff too. Me too. Well, thanks for making time. Yeah, thanks for having me on this podcast. Yeah, cool. And thanks for the questions too. It was really good. The dog one too. One of the best. One of the best questions.

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