Virtual Reality To Take Over Sundance

The Sundance Film Festival is usually known for showing high-profile projects before public release, giving critics and fans the opportunity to indulge in new experiences well before their release. Now, though, it appears to be opening a door to a new medium with its forthcoming festival – virtual reality.

According to PSFK, the event, which will take place in Utah next month, will introduce a number of new pieces based around virtual reality. As part of a new category called New Frontier, the virtual reality set-ups will be placed with nine different films, each presenting their own innovative take on VR-based adaptation. The line-up, which includes these and other films, can be found here.

Through a press release Shari Frillot, Sundance Film Festival senior programmer and curator for the New Frontier exhibit, stated, “The content creators in the 2015 edition of New Frontier radically challenge the very notion of storytelling. Working with virtual reality and new gaming technologies, these artists, filmmakers, journalists, media scientists, game designers and creative technologists present a peek at the dawn of a bold new cinematic world, through an unprecedented exploration of the most basic state of being.”

Although last year’s Sundance festival had its share of virtual reality-based showcases based on Oculus’ Rift technology, “(this) is the year that we’re really going to get wired into this hardware in a major way,” said Frillot. She feels that virtual reality is “really relevant” to audiences these days, and “really has the potential to shift the (filmmaking) terrain quite a bit in a very significant and deep way.”

One of the examples of how this tech is being used involves Francois Quevillon’s Derive, which provides an interactive installation based on audience members’ body positions and motions. With it, they can “explore 3-D reconstructions of urban and natural spaces that are transformed according to live environmental data, including meteorological and astronomical phenomena.”

Another example, 1979 Revolution Game by Navid Khonsari and Vassiliki Khonsari, will show first-person perspective as players follow a rebel through the Iranian Revolution.

Another project that’s likely to turn a few heads is Rose Troche’s Perspective: Chapter I: The Party, audience members will “be” at a college party, where they’ll get to experience a young man and a woman as they “meet *and) drink, and misinterpreted signals turn into things that cannot be undone.” Needless to say, it won’t be for everyone, but involvement in VR technology will certainly drive the point home even further.

“Last year people were putting on the DK1 [Oculus Rift headset] and the first thing filmmakers are looking for is image quality, and that’s where filmmakers wondered, ‘This is really cool, but what about what it looks like ‘” Frilot said. “But now the technology has ramped up to a stage where it’ll be wholly embraced by filmmakers.”

Niantic Labs Teams With James Frey On Transmedia Project

With controversial author James Frey turning heads with his first of a series of three new books in the Endgame series, which came out this past October, Google’s Niantic Labs are looking to do the same thing, as the company is making progress on its tie-in Endgame mobile release.

The team is looking to release the game before the second book in the Endgame series comes out, according to VentureBeat. The game will have a lot in common with the geo-location-based title Ingress, as it will take place inside an alternate reality using real-world locales for fights with 12 unique factions, all of whom will be battling for control.

So how will this tie in with the Endgame books? Players will be able to create factions based on its Ancient Societies, which combat one another in the hopes of being the last remaining surviving one before the pending apocalypse.

What’s interesting about the game, though, is that it can actually change the events that occur within the books, based upon the actions of players and factions. Frey and co-author Nils Johnson-Shelton have worked very closely on the stories so that they’ll interact with the second and third books. This is according to Niantic Labs’ Jim Stewartson, talking with GamesBeat. “The plotlines of the game, movie and novel will merge into one story,” he said, also mentioning the Fox-based film trilogy that’s currently in the works.

As a result, this project will create one of the biggest “transmedia” projects around, one that interlaces events from a game release with those from both the books and the films. “Google has the online gaming rights to this franchise, and Niantic is extending this intellectual property into mobile,” said Stewartson.

In addition, an interesting promotion involves the books, where players have to solve a puzzle that’s actually embedded within the pages. The first person to do so will win $500,000 in actual gold, which is currently on display at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada.

“We’ve been building a story that turns the novel into an alternate reality game, and, by next year, becomes a mobile game,” said Stewartson. “To me, this is the most exciting thing I’ve ever done.”

Considering the popularity of Ingress – with over seven million players since its release – Endgame is likely to be a much more complex project, involving 12 factions fighting for the sake of survival. “At its core, Endgame will have the same core DNA as a geolocation game like Ingress,” said Stewartson. “But it also has player versus player action, and that is a very different mechanic. The interesting thing is that the real players will be incorporated into subsequent novels. That might be the first time that has ever happened.”

The year of Endgame is upon us. Players should probably be ready to make the next move.

Nintendo Eyes Unusual Screen

Nintendo is no stranger to innovating with its game systems. The 3DS handheld provides glasses-free 3D (though the feature hasn’t seen much use); the Wii introduced effective motion-based gaming to the masses; and the Wii U utilizes a tablet-like GamePad that works in conjunction with a system. Now Nintendo could very well take gaming to a new level with an unusual screen technology..

Polygon has reported that the video game giant is looking into purchasing “free-form” LCD-based screens from Sharp for use with a future device (possibly a new console), based on a previous report from the Japan Times. This technology allows displays in unusual shapes beyond the usual rectanges we’ve come to expect from smartphone and television screens. With that technology, the displays could be used in a number of unique places, including car dashboards, as the illustration from Sharp shows.

The technology was introduced earlier this year, and since that time has been making waves, despite not having a specific release date for the market. With Nintendo’s involvement, we may see Sharp’s free-form display technology come to market in a consumer device sometime next year.

Nintendo hasn’t confirmed any plans yet, although it’s certainly been on the move with the introduction of new gadgets this year that would be in line with what Sharp is putting together. The company revealed a modified version of its 3DS handheld back in August with a second analog stick, more refined 3D movement (based on the location of the player) and a stronger processor. Nintendo also discussed a sleep monitoring device in October, a part of its new “Quality of Life” initiative.

More confirmation is likely to come next year, perhaps even as soon as the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where Sharp is likely to be in attendance. For now, though, one can’t help but wonder what Nintendo could do with technology like this – and how effectively it would work for a Mario game. It’s not obvious how a non-rectangular display could affect game play, though it could help make a device more ergonomic or at least more unusual in its form factor.

Facebook’s ‘Rooms’ App Is A Lesson In App Launch Strategy

Upon the launch of Facebook’s ‘Rooms’ app, we were quick to highlight how beneficial the app could be for brands to utilize… if it were to take off. The app is basically Facebook’s mobile answer to Reddit, which as we know is exceptionally popular among the Internet’s many factions.

However, according to a new report from Re/code, the app isn’t taking off as much as previous apps from Facebook have, at least yet. Facebook has been giving a good go of it lately with diversifying their app offerings, like making a Snapchat knock-off, Slingshot, and making an elegant Flipboard-like news reader with Paper. Both of these apps had a good start because they were “the new Facebook app,” and both fizzled from immediate view.

In spite of how much emphasis Facebook puts on accruing user numbers, the same is not true of Rooms, apparently, as they are setting their sites much lower. Josh Miller, Rooms’ product manager isn’t exactly concerned.

“It’s exactly what we expected,” said Miller in a statement to Re/code. Miller says they are hoping to have just 100 “really active Rooms” by the app’s one-year mark.

Perhaps the issue with Rooms then is how it has been promoted. Ostensibly, you’ve heard of the app through publications like [a]listdaily or another tech publication, and unsurprisingly, that demographic is exactly who flocked to the app.

“Like 90 percent if not more of the people who downloaded the app in the first week or so probably did so because they read a story in a tech publication about Facebook’s new app,” he said. “As a result, though, a lot of them peaced out.”

In spite of this, Miller alludes to Facebook taking the wait-and-see strategy with community-building.

“Because we’re at Facebook, people will question [our strategy] if we’re not blowing up after two months,” Miller said. “I have to constantly remind myself that we can’t rush communities, we have to be patient.”



Smiletime Could Be The Future Of Broadcast Content

Could the future of broadcast content look something like a Skype call? Former Hulu head of content acquisition Alex Kruglov thinks so.

Kruglov is the founder of Smiletime, a startup seeking to create a “social, multi-camera, interactive, live experience” — “S.M.I.L.E.” for short — to drive original shows as we know them towards the crossroads of broadcast and social.

Smiletime operates through a sort of broadcast called a “Smilecast”, where two or more people appear on a videoconference-esque screen and interact with one another. On-screen graphics and text allow audiences to interact with a broadcast through polls and messaging, providing for an experience far more participatory in theory than television or popular online streaming services like YouTube and Hulu.

Critics are quick to point out Smilecast’s similarity to Google Hangouts, among others; Kruglov, anticipating a “wait-I’ve-seen-this-before” reaction, says he doesn’t want Smilecast adherents to be overwhelmed by technology so new and unfamiliar, they refuse to latch onto it.

Kruglov says a batch of features decidedly closer to the innovative side of things will come along once consumers have familiarized themselves with Smilecast.

“We’re really thinking of Smilecasts as a place for broadcasters to innovate, and for viewers to connect,” Kruglov said in an interview with Re/code.

Kruglov is fond of reminding skeptics that early television was the domain of radio plays, as broadcasters didn’t yet know how to craft a message to fit the new medium. Indeed, in the age of Snapchat billionaires, it would appear that anything — including television and online streaming as we know them being supplanted by videoconference-based technology — is possible.

Meet Vessel, Your YouTube-Hulu Hybrid

Jason Kilar, former CEO of popular video-streaming service Hulu, is making headlines in the industry again today with the unveiling of a new platform he is describing as “Hulu for the YouTube generation”.

The new platform, named Vessel, aims to function as a sleek, dedicated service for online content creators with established audiences and bodies of work. A subscription fee of $2.99 a month will grant users access to new videos not yet available for free on YouTube three days in advance, termed an “early-access window” by Kilar and co-founder Richard Tom.

Vessel might take a page or three from Hulu’s book as far as design goes, but that’s where the similarities end. Hulu focuses on content sourced from broadcast television and other “traditional” outlets; Vessel places a premium on the kind of web-focused content creators who are quickly becoming their generation’s foremost celebrities.

Vessel looks to bring relevant content creators aboard with a unique approach to advertising and promotion. 15- and 30-second “pre-roll” ads commonly found on YouTube and Hulu will be replaced with less-distracting 15-second spots and interactive ads programmed to appear while users browse content, while creators themselves will be promoted with immersive “motion posters” showcasing their content as well as social functionalities allowing fans to “like” and comment on their work.

Monetization, that tricky concept dogging many a startup, is something Kilar hopes to leverage over YouTube. Kilar’s own estimations find content creators earning roughly $2.20 per thousand impressions on the free-to-access, ad-supported site; he thinks Vessel’s subscription model will allow those same creators to earn upwards of $50 per thousand impressions. Kilar believes fans of content creators will pay to watch them on their own “channels” bundled into packages not unlike those found through cable television.

Will fans of content creators actually buy into what Vessel is selling, though Kilar, a man with experience proving skeptics wrong from his time with Hulu, certainly thinks so. Even if fans don’t chomp at the bit to watch the next PewDiePie or Brittani Taylor video three days in advance, he says, Vessel’s eye-catching ads and superior interface will pave the way for enhanced monetization anyway. Though it might seem easy to dismiss Pilar’s new venture as a pie-in-the-sky fantasy, his past track record would suggest we wait and see.

CREATIVE: Top Trailers Of The Week: December 17

Grand Theft Auto V – Online Heists Trailer



With reissues and HD Masters being all the rage these days, Devil May Cry becomes the next prior gen title to be given the current gen treatment. Not only will players get DMC in 1080p at 60 frames, but the disc comes chock full of new game modes and all of the DLC ever released for the game. Oh yeah, and it’s only $39.99. If you were a fan of the original or have been looking for an excuse to give it a spin, this is the time.

Middle Earth: Shadows of Mordor – Lord of the Hunt DLC


Middle Earth: Shadows of Mordor has been widely lauded (it’s already winning Game of the Year awards) for its excellent Nemesis system: an ever-evolving hierarchy of Orc War Chiefs and Officers with unique strengths and weaknesses for you to cut your way through. When you took out the top dog, another would get promoted in his place, and they remember who you are and what you’ve done to them and their fallen comrades.

Warner Bros. is hanging on to the classic rule “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” With their newest DLC instalment; Lord of the Hunt introduces a new set of War Chiefs for you to stalk and take down. Have at you, dirty orcs!