This weekend the New York Times shipped a special surprise out to its subscribers: a little piece of the future. Specially a Google Cardboard viewer, which lets people turn their (sufficiently powered) smartphone into a VR viewing device.
If you’re one of the people who got a viewer this weekend—or perhaps, like me, you bought one of the View-Master branded plastic versions for kicks—you might be wondering just what you can do with it.
That’s where this little overview comes in.
The NY Times VR app features a few smartly produced 360 video documentaries, and it’s that format of virtual reality content which is starting to really take off. It turns out that being able to “teleport” into a far off location can be immensely compelling, and filmmakers have begun to develop enough of the grammar of the form to tell stories.
Below you’ll find reviews of some of the apps that are available for Cardboard viewers on Apple’s iPhone platform. Almost all of the ones discussed below can be found in the Google Play store as well—and the Android platform actually has a lot more versatility when it comes to Cardboard apps. (Google is the one who is pushing this form, after all.)
All of the following apps are free, and I recommend using with nothing short of an iPhone 6.
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The Security and Exchange Commission has come to terms with the reality of equity crowdfunding–aka small dollar investing–and set out a whopping 685 page rule set. Which is almost as long as the last RPG I bought off Kickstarter. Only these rules are designed to make you money.
That’s the idea at any rate.
Last week we talked with Ryan Feit of SeedInvest about what he was looking for from the rules. A quick check in with him on Friday found him giving the new set a “thumbs up.” Make no mistake: the rise of equity crowdfunding has a chance to make a significant change in the way that venture capital is raised in these here United States. It’s exciting–for reasons good and bad–and with the risks of investing come the chance that the playing field of venture capital might just get a tiny bit more leveled out. Maybe. (It’s worth the shot, anyway.)
VentureBeat has run down the top things you might want to know about the rules… but we are, as always, interested in how this is going to impact the creative fields. Here’s the short answer: it shouldn’t affect individual creative projects but it might come in handy when starting a studio or a production company. Why?
Because anyone who thinks they’re going to make a quick buck off of investing in a single creative project–like an indie film–is out of their minds.
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The Security and Exchange Commission is due to finalize the rules in Title III of the JOBS Act this Friday, a long awaited event that will change the dynamics of equity crowdfunding.
How exactly it will change them is a cause for both hope and consternation amongst crowdfunding observers. The equity rules could shift the way that the bulk of tech and business related crowdfunding projects are structured, and open up whole new avenues for small dollar investors to get involved in a start-up scene that has until now legally been barred to them.
(What it will do to creative crowdfunding is a whole other argument we won’t breach at the moment.)
One of the companies that has been advocating the SEC on how to structure the rules is SeedInvest. We talked with its CEO Ryan Feit, about what he’s looking for—and hoping to avoid—in this week’s announcement. (more…)
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Twitch–pretty much the undisputed king of Internet video game streaming no matter what YouTube wants to have happen–has begun to spread its wings into other categories. Today they launched Twitch Creative, which features artists live streaming their creative process, and a whole bunch of Bob Ross painting videos for your ASMR needs. (Bree Bouwer of Tubefilter has a good breakdown of the features.)
Here’s the funny thing about this: Twitch got its start as an outshoot of Justin.TV, the first livestreaming/life logging site that began with one guy streaming (pretty much) everything he was doing online. It gathered a lot of mainstream press attention and launched a few other live streaming celebrities–like iJustine–but Justin.TV as a platform under that name never took off the way Facebook or Twitter did. There just wasn’t enough bandwidth on the one hand and the lack of focus in terms of content didn’t help.
Yet there was a core group of gamers on Justin.tv, and that part of the site was spun off and branded as Twitch.tv.
Twitch proved to be way more popular on its own than Justin.tv ever was. Twitch exploded thanks to the rise of MOBA-style games like League of Legends. The rest is known: rising popularity, Twitch Plays Pokemon becomes a media phenomenon, and Amazon comes knocking with moneyhats for the founders. Justin.tv is transformed into Twitch Interactive and made to disappear like a magic trick.
So to find Twitch opening up a landing page for Creative streamers is, in a sense, to see Twitch return to its own roots. A long twisty road dotted with some happy little trees.
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The honeymoon between video games and the broader entertainment industry that is taking place in the Virtual Reality suite will continue next year in the form of VRDC–the Virtual Reality Developers Conference–which is going to be held alongside the venerable Games Developers Conference.
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Imagine this: you and your cleverest friends have been locked in a room. To get out you’ll need to solve a series of inventive puzzles. This isn’t a nightmare scenario. People actually pay to be put into one of these rooms. They are called Escape Rooms, and they have been popping up in major cities around the country. Pioneered by entrepreneurs, these rooms are becoming a growing business, with an unusual business model. (more…)
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Lance Weiler makes interesting stuff.
If you follow the seam where entertainment and tech intersect than you’ve probably heard of Weiler. At the Sundance Film Festival in 2011 he experimented with location based storytelling with an experience called Pandemic. I was lucky enough to be there and participate: it was pretty damn cool.
While feature film plans based on Pandemic didn’t come together, Weiler has been leading a do-it-yourself tech and entertainment charge. First came the WorkBook Project, a website and event series that aimed at getting creative folks to approach emerging technologies and platforms with a DIY ethic.
That has since morphed into Learn Do Share, which is based out of Columbia University. There Weiler holds the title of Director of Experiential Learning & Applied Creativity and is building up the University’s Digital Storytelling Lab. Under the auspices of Columbia he is continuing his approach of prototyping narrative experiences that blend traditional techniques with the latest in technology.
The current experiment is called Sherlock Holmes and the Internet of Things. The high level pitch is that teams of makers answer a request for prototypes and then come together and plug internet enabled devices into connected crime scenes to create original Holmesian style mysteries with a 21st century twist. (more…)
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The Live Arts Exchange festival is an annual showcase of experimental performance art and theatre in Los Angeles.
There’s a reason why Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire remains an essential part of the American theatrical canon. It’s not because of the iconic 1951 Elia Kazan film that made Marlon Brando the archetypical actor’s actor of the 20th Century. Nor is it merely the eminently quotable, lyrical dialogue which flows throughout the work.
The reason for Streetcar’s central position in the canon is illuminated in director Zoe Aja Moore’s production at the live arts exchange festival. Moore is the experimental theatre provocateur who constructed last year’s Dedicated To A True Lover (and therefore probably nobody) , which was in part a de-construction of Rainer Werner Fassbinders Whity. Equal parts equally baffling and delightful, True Lover at first set me against it with an obtuse narrative flow, only to win me over after it was clear that Moore was building a theatrical grammar up in front us in real time. For better or worse, this production of Streetcar is a lot more straightforward than that, making it more accessible if not quite as ambitious from a structural standpoint.
Moore is attracted—in both True Lover and Streetcar—to playing with the iconography of film in order to illuminate the themes underlying the text. Here that impulse takes the form of Mitchell (Ryan Masson) briefly watching the film version of Streetcar at the top of the action, just long enough to illustrate the journey Blanche DuBois (Andrea LeBlanc) takes on the namesake streetcar to the apartment her sister Stella (Cristina Fernandez) shares with husband Stanley Kuwoski (Jesse Saler).
Moore stages the action in the round, bringing much of the staging in close to the audience. This physical intimacy can make some people uncomfortable, especially during kinetic sequences that border on—or crossover into—violence. My companion flinched more than once when an actor ran past. Whether you find this to be a feature or a bug depends entirely on the degree of immersion that you seek in your live performances.
Speaking of. There’s a nod here as well to the popularity of immersive theatre, with a few audience members getting tapped to come onstage during Stanley’s card game. (I got to go up, and I think I might have freaked out Saler a little with my uncanny card catching skills.) The production, however, doesn’t go fully immersive. All in all this is a more restrained, emotionally focused production that True Lover was. We might start with Mitch in front of a video and with Blanche carrying around a mattress on her back but the stage abstractions are present more as emotional shorthand than as a driving force in the production.
It’s a risk, one that could hobble the heart of the story by drawing the audience out without sending them fully into a post-modern headspace. Instead I found Moore’s use of abstraction effective. The balance of physical intimacy and kinetic abstraction here creates a tense line. By the end of the production I was left somewhat shaken, in that kind of not-quite cathartic stun that an effective drama leaves me in.
The sum total of the production—abstractions and the toe-dip dose of participation included—all adds up to reveal, rather than overwhelm, the power of the text. The beating heart of Streetcar are these gloriously messed up characters, and Moore’s production shines a sharp light on each of these souls. While the language belongs to an earlier age, the events that transpire could be found inside any number of apartment blocks not far from where you are now.
That’s not only an argument for Streetcar being in the American canon, but for a canon existing at all.
A Streetcar Named Desire, directed by Zoe Aja Moore, plays though October 25th at the Bootleg (2220 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90057) as part of the Live Arts Exchange Festival.
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IndieCade, the annual International Festival of Independent Games held in Culver City each October, has announced the official selections for this year’s festival. Touching down in downtown Culver from Oct.23-25, this year’s festival features a mix of returning favorites, award winners, and intriguing new offerings across a plethora of genres.
Remember: IndieCade isn’t just about video games. There are “big games” which involve full physical participation, board games, and virtual reality experiments right alongside more “traditional” computer games. Whatever “traditional computer games” means these days. No one really knows. Isn’t that wonderful.
VR heads would be wise to show up and check out the selections on offer, which were curated in part by Brent Bushnell of Two Bit Circus and immersive journalist Nonny de la Peña. (Now that’s a couple of people who know VR.) If you’re lucky you’ll get your hands on experiences like the Proto Award winning I Expect You To Die and Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes.
Or maybe you’ll discover the next great award winning VR experience.
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Last night’s second annual Proto Awards—which are given out to honor innovation in Virtual Reality—was quite the show.
If you want a full list of winners you can head to the site for The Proto Awards. What you’re about to read are just my subjective impression of the affair: from the churros on the tables to the comedy bits on stage that didn’t always land true.
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