Riot Games’ Whalen Rozelle On How Traditional Sports Is Helping ESports

A lot has changed since Riot Games first set out to develop League of Legends as a spectator sport. The independent studio, which is now owned by Tencent Holdings, experimented with every aspect of turning a video game into a properly-run international sports league. And Riot continues to tweak things even now as mainstream media outlets cover League Championship Series (LCS) and other eSports leagues on television and online, while non-endemic advertisers begin to tap into the huge online global audiences that follow their favorite teams and players.

The industry is now seeing traditional sports owners from Andy Miller to Mark Cuban, as well as former professional athletes such as Shaquille O’Neal and Rick Fox and current pro athletes such as Alex Rodriguez and Jimmy Rollins, invest in eSports teams. Whalen Rozelle, director of eSports at Riot Games, believes all of this mainstream attention is good for the entire eSports ecosystem—but it’s not changing the way Riot caters to its devoted fan base. Rozelle talks about the growing eSports business in this exclusive interview.

What are your thoughts on Andy Miller, who in addition to being a co-owner of the Sacramento Kings along with Shaq, now owns League of Legends and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Team NRG? What does that say about eSports that we now have traditional sports owners migrating to owning eSports teams?

It is an affirmation, and a bit of legitimacy and acknowledgement of the success that some of the games have had, whether it’s League of Legends and the foundation that we’ve built with LCS and the regional leagues around the world or CS:GO and the fact that they’ve been very successful with the majors that they’ve had. It is a result of multiple years of education on our part and other publishers’ parts to let people know that this is not a fad, this is not something that’s going away. There is a large generation of sports fans, a new breed of sports fans whose “sports” are the games that they love to play. While there are some potential pitfalls of having so much mainstream media attention at once, in general, it’s a positive thing and will be good for the ecosystem that we’ve built.

How do you see having traditional sports athletes like Shaq, Alex Rodriquez, and Jimmy Rollins involved in eSports impacting that broader audience that still doesn’t understand eSports?

It’s helping because it’s not necessarily for the existing eSports fans. While existing eSports fans are excited to see figures that they recognize from the mainstream lauding the sport that they love, it’s the people who don’t know about eSports that they reach.

I think that even a better example is someone like Rick Fox, who is able to speak to both audiences as an owner of Echo Fox. He’s been able to articulate both to eSports fans why he’s so passionate about it, but also to the mainstream about why, given his sporting background experience, that eSports called to him as much as a traditional team sport like basketball did. Rick is different than Shaq and A-Rod, who are investors. I do think that for them it’s more affirmation and legitimacy and less that they’ll be necessarily seen as an insider and be able to explain what things are going on. But it’s still a positive overall trend and something we’re excited to see.

One of the reasons A-Rod was brought in according to Andy Miller, was to talk to pro gamers about dealing with the level of pressure in competition.

That’s what catches a lot of the traditional athletes off guard initially. Once they do some of their due diligence they realize that these pros are practicing as a team for 10 to 12 hours a day during their off days, and the level of the commitment that these LCS pros have to getting better and gelling with the team is a very close parallel to what you see in traditional sports. They have rowdy fans around them and they love to see their favorite players and team striving to be the best, and it pulls at the same heart strings as traditional sports. It’s something that calls to the same emotions and is the reason why we think that eSports is something that’s here today because in essence it’s the exact same thing as an official sport. We’re just playing video games.

How does having media companies like Yahoo and ESPN jumping on the eSports bandwagon impact the industry?

That’s actually less of a cause and more of an effect of what’s happening. By having ESPN and Yahoo covering this, that is a reflection of the fact that people are now educated on the value and the eyeballs and the momentum behind League of Legends eSports and other eSports out there. It’s certainly going to help because when we talk about bringing in non-endemic sponsors, and those teams being able to secure new revenue streams, it’s only going to help when they’re able to go on and see League of Legends and eSports be all over the front page. Ultimately, that’s a really positive thing.

What has been the key to the success League of Legends has had in eSports?

We can boil it down to three core principles: focusing on consistency, on creating a cohesive experience and also creating a sport with a broadcast experience that’s high quality. Those are the three core colors of what has led us to make the decisions that we’ve made for LCS in Season 2, when we moved from a sporadic tournament model with a lot of third parties to one exclusive consistent league where pros and teams are playing every week so fans can experience their favorite players.

Consistency has been important in having regularly scheduled matches in each region that fans know they can tune into just like they know every Sunday they can watch football in the United States. In terms of the cohesive experience, the key fundamental was about lowering the barriers to entry, getting rid of some of the paywalls and some of the other policies that turned off eSports fans in the past. It’s about making it easier for fans to approach the game and the sport by creating great videos with storytelling around our pros and trying to create the emotional connections that tie fans to players. And finally on the high quality experience—it was really about ensuring that we created the experience that matched the passion of eSports fans. We didn’t create that passion, but we were able to recognize it and realize that these sports fans deserve something that rivals traditional sports. Through doing appropriate recruiting and bringing in people who not only had high craft skills but understood that authenticity and  empathy and being true to a core that made eSports great, we’re able to make these investments and put a high quality experience on the “field” week in and week out.

What are your thoughts on the future of eSports?

We want to always challenge ourselves to be better week-over-week, month-over-month, year-over-year. We’ve learned a lot from traditional sports and we’ve taken a lot of examples from them. Some have worked really well, but some haven’t. We’ve learned from it in either way, but we also think that we should continue to challenge ourselves and continue to innovate, and never settle for what we’re doing now.

Steve Case Discusses The Role Of VR In ‘The Third Wave’

Steve Case, an AOL founder and now currently the top executive at Revolution Ventures, has a new book called The Third Wave. In it, he explores the Third Wave of the Internet, and how entrepreneurs from around the globe will transform everything from health, education, transportation, energy, and food using this technology.

Case was instrumental in laying the foundation for the First Wave of the Internet, which became mainstream (in part) thanks to America Online (AOL). The Second Wave saw companies like Google and Facebook build on top of the Internet to create search and social networking capabilities, while apps like Snapchat and Instagram leverage the smartphone revolution.

The Third Wave promises to change our lives beyond social and communication. And both virtual reality and augmented reality will be part of this latest paradigm shift. Case talks to [a]listdaily about emerging technologies, and the globalization of entrepreneurship, in this exclusive interview.

stevecase - CopyWhat similarities do you see with companies laying the groundwork for virtual reality social interactions to the early days of the Internet?

We first looked at VR probably 30 years ago. VR is an example of something that we will see more of in the Third Wave, which was an interesting initial technology. It just took some time to be refined. The progress we’re seeing now is significant, but I’m sure there will still be a number of years ahead before it really gets mainstream adoption. VR is an example of something that we saw in that First Wave, where things generally took a while to get to the point where they really were ready for prime time .

We did a partnership at AOL in 1986 with George Lucas’ Lucasfilm Corporation to create the first graphical multiplayer online game called Habitat. It was at the time for a Commodore 64 computer with 300-bit modem. It was pretty basic and Lucasfilm had the tech for graphics. Even back then you could see the potential for the idea, but it’s taken some time to make those ideas a reality in a way that lots of people can access them.

What role do you see VR playing in the short term now that we are seeing huge companies like Facebook and Google investing a lot of money in this technology?

It’s significant because there’s now a critical mass of companies, whether it be Facebook or Samsung or others, that are doing a number of different things in a significant kind of way toward really tipping the scale and introducing this technology to a large audience. It’s also great to see one of the themes in the Third Wave is that interesting tech companies are emerging in places that would surprise people. For example, Magic Leap is in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It shows that entrepreneurship is regionalizing and that’s a positive.

Samsung has over 1 million Gear VRs and Google over 5 million Cardboards out there. What role do you see mobile VR playing in this new ecosystem?

With Samsung, my guess is it will take a few fits and starts in terms of tweaking the products, figuring out the right way to get the price points in order, and the right way to create the platforms with a broad range of developers and their ecosystems before something gets broad adoption. But clearly what’s happened in the last year would suggest that after three decades of talking about VR, this upcoming decade will see a shift from it being a concept to a reality, from being just a vision to being something that really is being executed. My guess is some of that will be applications that are consumer related, and some of those will be more enterprise related.

We’re also already seeing at the business level, augmented or mixed reality being used by companies today with devices like Microsoft HoloLens and Epson Movario. What role do you see that technology playing in the Third Wave and the future of the Internet?

It’s going to be extremely important, and [AR] has the potential to be even more important than the VR side of things, particularly in some of the institutional enterprise applications in healthcare for example, or a lot of different places where initial pilots are being tested out. It could have a very significant impact. The areas that are ripe for significant disruption in the Third Wave are healthcare, education, and transportation. So exactly how they come to market, exactly which ones are successful, exactly how they continue to evolve, time will tell, but I have no doubt that they will be important.


Magic Leap is based in Florida. What are the benefits of having startups and entrepreneurs create things outside of the Silicon Valley bubble, which is a bit removed from the real world?

Yeah, I think that’s fair, and to be candid, I’m right now sitting in Silicon Valley, having spent the day at Google because they have an initiative called Google for Entrepreneurs that supports entrepreneurs in cities around the country like Raleigh-Durham, Minneapolis, and Chicago. I was a judge at their Google Demo Days, trying to expose entrepreneurs from these emerging tech cities to investors in the Silicon Valley area. I did a talk at Google headquarters, so I have great respect for Silicon Valley. I continue to be impressed by the pace of innovation, and the fearless culture of the willingness to invest in what some people think are crazy ideas that turn out to be great, change-the-world ideas. I’m actually bullish on Silicon Valley, but at the same time, I think there is not enough recognition that there are great entrepreneurs building great companies all across the country, and indeed all across the world.

Part of my argument with this book—and my Rise of the Rest initiative that we’ve been doing for the last several years through bus tours around the country to a couple dozen cities—is to shine a spotlight on the great entrepreneurs building great things, and trying to drive more capital towards them. My guess is it will not just lift up some of these communities and drive more job creation, economic growth, and general civic vitality, but also will be the source of a lot of innovation. People who are closest to the problem are most likely to come up with the right solution.

Are there examples of this in companies you’ve invested in?

We’ve invested in a couple of companies doing some interesting things with solar in rural villages in Africa. They’re basically addressing the fact that there is no electricity grid in much of Africa, and that’s not something that people sitting in Silicon Valley are aware of or have a personal understanding of. In the Third Wave, some of the innovation is in agriculture technology—AgTech is real common in Silicon Valley—but I’ll bet a lot of innovation comes in places like Louisville, which has a farming culture, or St. Louis where Monsanto is based—the largest AgTech company in the world.

How will this impact the future of startups?

People will realize that innovation and expertise are already coming from more broadly dispersed partnerships with some of the incumbents in the Third Wave. Many of those incumbents are not in California, New York, or Massachusetts, even though last year 75 percent of venture capital went to California, New York, and Massachusetts. It will result in more insight to create more interesting companies that have more impact in terms of different products and services that can improve our lives and will, in the process, lift up more communities and drive more job creation. That’s not to say that ten years from now Silicon Valley won’t still be great. In fact, it probably will continue to be the leader of the pack. But you’ll see a broadening of, and a diffusion of, innovation both regionally within the United States and globally around the world.

NetEase Talks About Developing ‘Twilight Pioneers’ For Daydream VR

The internet technology company NetEase has found great success in China developing PC and mobile games, and operating some of the world’s most popular online games in partnership with Blizzard. It also recently signed a five-year deal with Microsoft, making it the exclusive distributor of a special Chinese edition of Minecraft. With that success, the company is looking to expand both globally and technologically to further grow its audience, which is one of the reasons it became one of the first developers to sign on with Google and its recently revealed Daydream VR platform.

Its debut VR game is called Twilight Pioneers—an action fantasy role-playing game that is expected to release in November, coinciding with the launch of Daydream. Daydream itself is a mobile Android-based VR platform developed by Google to support both a headset viewer and a motion controller. It will be included in the next version of Android (currently called Android N), with supporting devices ready to launch later this year.

Simon Zhu, senior director for NetEase Games, talks to [a]listdaily about being one of Daydream’s first developers, working with VR, and using the technology to expand NetEase’s presence across global markets.

Can you give us an idea of what Twilight Pioneers will be about?

It is a very big universe in the far future; a fantasy world where heroes team up to prevent an evil force’s plan to destroy the world.

What convinced NetEase to begin VR development and become one of the first Daydream partners?

A few years ago, we had some experiences with an early VR device and immediately knew that it would be the future for many things, especially entertainment and gaming. We are very pleased to be one of the first few developers to get to work on Daydream platform.

In what ways will VR help NetEase expand its global presence?

Players always look for the best content on the best platforms and NetEase is committed to providing top quality content for the platforms that players will love. We make games for passionate gamers, that why we do it. And in return, we hope that players around the world will see us as a preferred brand.

NetEase has already had great success in China. Do you think a mobile VR game like Twilight Pioneers has the potential to appeal to both Eastern and Western markets?

Yes, we are working to carefully craft the story and art to delight players worldwide.

How crucial do you think Daydream is to accelerating adoption of VR?

Considering Google’s resources and its technology, Daydream could be the biggest driving force in VR. As a developer, we have confidence in the overall market trend of both VR and Daydream as a key platform.

With Daydream months away from launching, what is the most important thing to keep in mind while developing Twilight Pioneers?

Always keep in mind that this is VR, a new platform with a new user interaction, and we need to think through every detail to make sure that it is a VR-native experience and not something copied from a 2D screen mobile game.


YouTube Presenting E3 Coverage With Event Hubs

E3 may be officially partnered up with Twitch for its big show next month, but that doesn’t mean YouTube can’t get in on the action.

For the second year in a row, YouTube Gaming will play an integral part in streaming content from the convention, and is preparing for it by launching event hubs, including one specifically for E3.

These hubs will be home to YouTube shows that are specific to events like E3, so users can simply visit a hub and get all their coverage in one place.

YouTube has already promised to cover a number of events online, starting with both EA and Bethesda’s press conferences on June 12th. From there, it’ll host a 12-hour livestream on June 13th, co-sponsored by Samsung, in which a number of “Let’s Play” walkthroughs, reveals and “surprise guests” are expected. The show will be hosted by The Game Awards producer and former GameTrailers host, Geoff Keighley.

“We wanted to build coverage of E3 that blends together TV production values with the passion and fandom of the top influencers,” noted Keighley, speaking with GamesBeat. “It feels like we’re connecting together multiple generations of gamers, and YouTube really puts an unparalleled amount of promotion behind the game industry during E3. We’re not just talking to hardcore gamers–we’re reaching into the mainstream, too.”

It’s unknown if YouTube Gaming will have a presence at the show itself, or the public E3 Live event that was announced earlier this week. For now, it appears the focus is on the pre-E3 presentations.

Keighley was also quick to note the absence of certain companies from the show floor, including Electronic Arts, which is hosting its own EA Play event at the same time. “Even if they don’t have booths on the show floor, I know EA and Activision’s games will be well represented in and around the show,” said Keighley. “At the end of the day, E3–at least in the eyes of consumers–is really anchored by the press conferences, and all of those are still taking place as part of our global livestream.”

Twitch will have its own fair share of live coverage happening at the event, and various companies have broadcast partners lined up for its press conferences. Microsoft, for instance, will livestream its showcase through online sites and its consoles, as well as Spike TV.

Nintendo Building Steady Hype For The ‘Legend of Zelda’

Nintendo certainly knows how to build up its games with blockbuster hype, and has proven it with two releases last year: Splatoon and Super Mario Maker. Both games have gone on to sell millions of copies on the Wii U console, and now it’s The Legend of Zelda‘s turn.

The newest chapter in the ongoing adventure series, which first debuted in 1985 on the original NES, was first revealed during Nintendo’s E3 Digital Event two years ago with game footage that showed the game’s scope and vision.

Nintendo has since taken its time with unveiling new details about the game. In fact, it stayed mum for several months before showcasing some early gameplay footage during The Game Awards 2014, where producers Shigeru Miyamoto and Eiji Aonuma discussed what players could expect.

This year, Nintendo is going all-in with The Legend of Zelda, as it announced the game, which will release for both the Wii U and the upcoming NX console next year, will be the sole focus of its booth at the E3 show next month. The company has already promised to transform its showfloor space into an “immerse fans in the world of the groundbreaking new Legend of Zelda game for the Wii U console.”  This is a surprising move, especially considering the other games that the company has lined up for the fall, including a new Paper Mario game for Wii U and a sequel to Yo-Kai Watch for 3DS. But it also indicates just how serious the company is with its forthcoming adventure.

Furthermore, the company also updated its official E3 site, featuring animated images from the new Legend of Zelda game. The site teases how Nintendo will “transform its booth at this year’s E3 to immerse fans” and notes how the livestream will include gameplay footage, developer interviews, and a look behind-the-scenes of the game. Viewers can interact with the site by scrolling or moving the mouse cursor the edges of the screen to tilt it slightly.

Screen Shot 2016-05-25 at 2.34.15 PM

Nintendo has already promised to host various Treehouse specials over the course of the show, with new Zelda gameplay to be revealed to those that can’t attend, set to kick off on Tuesday, June 24th, at 9 AM PDT. In addition, it has also announced a promotion where fans can visit the Nintendo World store in New York on June 11th for a chance to play the game before anyone else.

The Legend of Zelda‘s promotion has been a slow-going so far, but it is building up excitement, and it’s a strategy that has proven effective in the past–and not just Nintendo. For instance, Sony spent the last year or so slowly but surely revealing Naughty Dog’s Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. When the final product released earlier this month for PlayStation 4, it sold tremendously, with 2.7 million units bought within its first week.

The Legend of Zelda could see a very similar result, and its dual-platform release in mid-2017 may prove formidable in terms of Nintendo’s financial success. Plus, it gives the company its “killer app” to help launch its new NX console, while at the same time providing the Wii U with a proper send-off title, although the company has stated that the system won’t be discontinued right away.

Mountain Dew Dives Into ESports With Drone Racing

Whether it’s motocross or skateboarding, Mountain Dew has a history of backing extreme and action sports. The soda brand is now diving deep into drone racing in a new sponsorship with DR1 Racing.

The DR1 Invitational will make its television debut this August on the Discovery Channel and Science Channel, making it the first drone race to air on national broadcast TV. It will also be paired with a Twitch stream that will produce weekly content. Over the next month, five digital episodes will also dive promote the event and the 12 pilots that will be racing.

In addition to their partnership with DR1Racing, Mountain Dew also launched a creative TV commercial dubbed “drone hunting” that’s meant to take inspiration from the world of sport, tech and innovation. The ad was filmed in the forests of Casablanca, Chile.

What can fans and spectators expect from the real thing? Pilots are slated to face-off in a gauntlet of environmental and man-made obstacles as they fly their drones at speeds of more than 80 miles per hour. The inaugural race will take place at the Sepulveda Dam in Los Angeles this summer on a course designed by MultiGP and LMNO. Spectators can watch from above.

Mountain_Dew__Drone_Hunting_Do_The_Dew_16Mountain Dew’s partnership with DR1 Racing is another big step for the burgeoning discipline of drone racing and its cross-pollination with eSports. The International Drone Racing Association signed a multi-year, international media distribution deal with ESPN last month, and in 2015, Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross invested $1 million into the Drone Racing League.

Brad Foxhoven, founder of DR1 Racing and producer of the DR1 Invitational, told [a]listdaily that drone racing’s biggest differentiator from competing leagues is their focus on the pilots.

“This gives us a lot more time to get to know them, see them fly, and have them compete against one another in a format that showcases their talent and skills. Fans want to see pilots like Ummagawd, BanniUK, and A-Nub compete against each other, and this type of race guarantees that,” Foxhoven said. “Fans can certainly expect to see a lot of flying with some of their favorite pilots.”

Mountain Dew secured a sponsorship with pilot Tommy “Ummagawd” Tibajia, making him the first drone racer to sign a deal with a brand.

Manos Spanos, Mountain Dew’s senior director of global brand marketing, joined [a]listdaily to discuss how drones are now a part of the “Do the Dew” global marketing campaign, and how caffeine and content tie in with their other recent interactive activations.

Mountain Dew’s partnership with DR1 Racing is another big step for the burgeoning discipline of drone racing and its cross-pollination with eSports. The International Drone Racing Association signed a multi-year, international media distribution deal with ESPN last month, and in 2015, Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross invested $1 million into the Drone Racing League.

Brad Foxhoven, founder of DR1 Racing and producer of the DR1 Invitational, told [a]listdaily that drone hunting’s biggest differentiator from competing leagues is their focus on the pilots.

“This gives us a lot more time to get to know them, see them fly, and have them compete against one another in a format that showcases their talent and skills. Fans want to see pilots like Ummagawd, BanniUK, and A-Nub compete against each other, and this type of race guarantees that,” Foxhoven said. “Fans can certainly expect to see a lot of flying with some of their favorite pilots.”

Mountain Dew secured a sponsorship with pilot Tommy “Ummagawd” Tibajia, making him the the first drone racer to sign a deal with a brand.

Manos Spanos, Mountain Dew’s senior director of global brand marketing, joined [a]listdaily to discuss how drones are now a part of the “Do the Dew” global marketing campaign, and how caffeine and content tie-in with their other recent interactive activations.


What prompted Mountain Dew to jump on the drone racing wagon? Why is it a good fit for the brand?

Mountain Dew has always been a brand that progresses culture, whether it be progressing action sports through Dew Tour or being among the first brands to take on virtual reality, so being at the forefront of this burgeoning sport is perfect for Dew. We wanted to get in early and help to progress and shape the sport as it explodes onto the scene globally. The demographic that enjoys drone racing closely aligns with our brand—people who want to instigate and have a damn good time.

How do you explain what drone hunting is to someone who’s never heard of it? How do you sell them on the idea of this new culture?

The ‘drone hunting’ TV creative is part of our global ‘Do the Dew’ campaign that hinges on the belief ‘it doesn’t exist until you do it.’ We hope Dew Nation—from the U.S. to Thailand, from Brazil to Iceland—sees this exciting new creative as a global rallying cry to dream up new experiences and have a damn good time doing it. As Dew Nation grows around the world, so does the opportunity to create something exciting that never existed before.

Why was it important to secure Twitch as a partner? 

Drone racing has a close connection to the e-gaming world through the first-person view and remote-controlled drones. It only made sense that we would partner with Twitch—the world’s leading social video platform and community for gamers—to expand our reach and allow fans to view the live stream as well as a multitude of additional drone racing content through the DR1 Twitch channel.

How will the gaming and eSports demographic help drone racing grow? 

Drone racing is very unique in that it bridges the worlds of technology, gaming and sport to appeal to a multitude of people. Having the backing of Twitch and the gaming community will only help the sport grow, as we know it is a very socially active community that is at the edge of discovery and instigating new trends.

Mountain Dew is using drones in the “Do the Dew” global campaign. What are some other ways you’re leveraging sports in marketing initiatives?

Because Dew Nation is an eclectic group with varied interests, we leverage several sports platforms, from our history in action sports and NASCAR to newer partners like the NBA, all to create a deeper connection and provide experiences to our fans that offer a damn good time. We have a rich history in action sports through Dew Tour, and are working with our partner The Enthusiast Network to innovate and progress the sport through new courses and formats. We also are serving up content to our Dew Tour fans through the new website

Our longstanding relationship with NASCAR and Dale Earnhardt Jr. enables us to reach passionate racing fans, and this year we’ve extended our reach through partnerships with Kasey Kahne and Chase Elliott. We’re working with them in the more traditional sense through our TV commercial for DEWcision 2016, but also engaging them in new ways through VR. It’s all about getting our fans closer to the experiences and people they love.

We are wrapping up year one of an exciting new partnership with the NBA where we are celebrating basketball culture and the intersection of sport, technology and art. Through a unique Google Tilt Brush activation at the NBA All-Star Game that allowed fans to create basketball-inspired art in VR, to an art installation called ‘Courtside Collection’ at the recently launched 3-on-3 basketball tournament—Dew NBA 3X—Mountain Dew is committed to bringing a damn good time to our fans through their varied interests.

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan

Google And Levi’s Team Up For Connected Jean Jackets

Designed specifically for device-savvy bicycle commuters, Levi’s Commuter Trucker jacket is the first wearable to utilize Google’s Project Jacquard technology. Woven with conductive threads, the denim jacket features a detachable, electronic tag that houses all of its electronics and connects to a user’s Android device via Bluetooth.

With a wave of the hand, a user will be able to perform tasks such as access Google Maps, play music, or ignore your boss’ phone calls, as seen in the latest promotional video.

The Levi’s Commuter line of clothing and accessories is specifically geared for those who get around with a bicycle—with features such as reflective elements, temperature control and even a higher back on their pants to avoid cracks. (And we don’t mean on the pavement.) The Commuter x Jacquard jacket will be the first piece of wearable technology in the company’s 143-year history. The partnership with Google was announced last year, but it wasn’t until the Google I/O keynote that details emerged—partly because Levi’s didn’t know what they were going to do yet.

commuter jacket

“Last year we left it quite open [what the product might be]; it could have been jeans or smart pants,” Ivan Poupyrev, technical program lead at Google’s Advanced Technology and Products told Forbes. “But what we’ve now got is a functional and fashionable garment in the Commuter Jacket, where technology is serving a very clear purpose.”

Levi’s Is Only The Beginning

Jacquard’s conductive fibers are compatible with any industrial loom, and the technology was designed with creativity in mind. Clothing is just the beginning, opening up such possibilities as an interactive carpet, stuffed animals or anything covered in fabric. “Everyday objects such as clothes and furniture can be transformed into interactive surfaces,” Google says on the official Project Jacquard website.

Levi’s is Google’s first Jacquard partner, but the platform will be open to third-party designers and app developers—just like Google’s smartwatch line Android Wear. Any designer of textile-based products will be able to incorporate the technology into their products without the need to be a tech expert. Intel made a similar partnership for The Met Gala this year, creating a gown that interacted in real-time with Twitter reactions.

The Levi’s Commuter x Jacquard jacket will be available in Spring 2017.

Sacramento Kings Owner Andy Miller Explains Why ESports Is NBA’s Future

Andy Miller is the latest traditional sportsman to invest in eSports. He and fellow Sacramento Kings co-owner Mark Mastrov even brought along co-owners Shaquille O’Neal, Alex Rodriguez, and Jimmy Rollins to help Team NRG compete in League of Legends and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.

Miller, who previously served as vice president of mobile advertising for Apple, has gone all-in with eSports. With his background in technology and sports (he also is co-owner of the Modesto Nuts minor league baseball team), professional video gaming blends both of his specialties.

He discusses the future opportunities eSports opens up, and how pro gaming may influence traditional sports in the [a]listdaily exclusive.

andy miller
Andy Miller

We’re starting to see an explosion on the college level eSports, even seeing some schools giving scholarships for them. On the other side, like the NBA’s D League, you have amateur leagues like League of Legends has set up with Coca-Cola. What role do you see those two avenues playing as the eSports ecosystem grows?

I think that’s huge. If you don’t play Little League Baseball, you’re probably not going to be a Major League Baseball fan. It’s a known fact. So the fact that we have so many people playing, whether they’re getting a college scholarship to play, whether they’re playing on their own, whether they’ve got their own group of five guys that they get together, that’s how you grow a giant fan base over the years. And this is the sport that people are playing—and it’s not just kids. Our fan base is probably a lot older than I think most marketers think.

How do you go about choosing which games you’re going to focus on?

We wanted League of Legends right off the bat. I researched it and loved the energy. And you can’t deny the size of the audience. It’s massive. We play in front of so many people every week, whether on our own streaming with our guys or on the weekend at Twitch. And then you stack those numbers up against the NBA and NHL and other sports and it’s worth it. So that was a no-brainer for us. We also added a CS:GO team, which is probably the second biggest eSport, where it has a massive following and a huge amount of people playing.

What are your thoughts on mobile eSports, where Vainglory and Hearthstone have proven the model works?

I think it’s natural. Someone asked would the future be an eSports television network. I think it’s amazing that Turner’s going to have a live prime time program, but the reality is it doesn’t really matter anymore. Television is yesterday. If you’re playing the game on your mobile device, you’re probably going to be watching it on that device as well because that device is going to be capable of broadcasting the matches. That’s key; that you spread out across all different devices, all different platforms, and all different games. That’s been our goal. We want to take it slowly enough that we don’t overextend ourselves, but we would like to be a brand where people recognize NRG like they recognize Manchester United or the Yankees, where it stands for something. And that whatever the sport is, we have our positive message.

There are small eSports arenas building up in Irvine and Austin. What role do you feel that will play, or will traditional NBA and NHL type stadiums be the future home for eSports as it grows?

I think it’s going to be both. There’s no doubt that we’re going to see traditional stadiums; NBA’s the best fit. You have an arena like Golen 1 Center and we should be having a home base there for whatever this eSport is. That’s where you see the interest from the Warriors and the Kings ownerships and other folks getting into this space.

But these smaller venues are just as important. Right now, it’s movie theaters. People don’t have access physically to the players. They have unprecedented access digitally, socially to the players in eSports, but physically they don’t. So they never really get to see GBM, one of our most popular players, play. When we go to the mall in LA they literally get a bunch of people stopping them for autographs. They’ve got to stop wearing their shirts. But in other professional sports, the players are visibly accessible, physically accessible, but not really digitally, so eSports is kind of on its head.

It’s also different that these guys are practicing with their chats on and livestreaming. It’s like you can talk to Shaq while he’s practicing for the game. You can ask [eSports pros] what champion they’re going to play this weekend, why did they do this—and they respond, and they stay up all night doing it. That’s an unprecedented level of accessibility, but that’s what this generation expects. And that’s why they don’t connect as well to some of the other [traditional] sports athletes.

What impact do you see kids growing up with eSports having on the NBA and other sports 10 or 20 years down the road?

That’s a good question. It’s a big initiative for every league to get younger. Social media has been fantastic. The NBA is the clear leader in social, digital, and technology across the board. Major League Baseball Advanced Media is wonderful, but I think as far as being early on social and understanding it, and the players totally grabbing onto it and running with it has made the NBA the hippest sport. These players know how to interact with their fans. They have their own brands, and it’s wonderful. It’s wonderful for us to have big stars in every city. It’s not just the big cities anymore, so it’s a big deal.

NRG co-owners Shaq, Alex Rodriguez, and Jimmy Rollins have huge social media followings. The eSports audience is all about social media. How do you see these two connecting?

Shaq does all of his own social media. He’s posting NRG stuff on Twitter and Instagram and everywhere. Having guys like Jimmy Rollins and Alex Rodriguez, who have been in the league for so long, is great. Our guys were beyond ‘over the moon’ for Shaquille to be involved because they love him and they think he’s hilarious. It’s wonderful to have that attention, but they’re very interested in having Jimmy and A-Rod come to see them when they go play the Angels or the Dodgers, to talk to them about how they handled the pressure and how they were able to thrive under it. There’s a lot of pressure in eSports just like there’s a lot of pressure in traditional sports.

Reggie Watts Will Perform Live Comedy Act In Virtual Reality

Funnyman Reggie Watts is combining his passion for music, comedy and virtual reality with an unprecedented show that will give fans an opportunity to livestream his stand-up act in VR through AltspaceVR’s social platform.

Set to take place on May 26 at 8 p.m., Watts and his ubiquitous afro will be performing in the flesh from AltspaceVR’s studio in San Francisco. Bay Area denizens interested in attending in person can sign up here, or livestream the hijinks through YouTube in 2D.


“I’ve always been a fan of virtual reality, or at least the idea of creating another reality with technology that’s relatively believable,” Watts told the Voices of VR podcast. “I got into VR because I like being immersed into other realities, and having the ability to create those realities.”

Watts experimented with VR in the short-form 360 comedy Waves, a project that made the circuits at Sundance and Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year

The comedian’s shenanigans will be made possible Thursday through Perception Neuron’s motion capture technology.

[a]listdaily caught up with Susy Ferrer, Noitom’s public relations director, to discuss how they’re ushering in technology that mirrors the one used in Hollywood.

How did the collaboration between Reggie Watts come about? Why is a stand-up comedy show a great way to promote Perception Neuron and the motion capture technology system?

We work often with AltspaceVR and they have been using our system for some time and are familiar with it. When the opportunity came up to do a live-in-VR show with Reggie, Perception Neuron was their go-to product to track Reggie’s movement within the VR environment that AltspaceVR will provide. Perception Neuron is a very flexible and versatile system and there are many people who have found a multitude of creative ways of working with it. The chance for Perception Neuron to be used in such a unique show featuring one of the most exciting comedy talents of today is a terrific way to get some exposure in the entertainment realm (as we typically attract people who work in gaming and virtual reality). Plus, we just thought it was a very cool concept and we can’t wait to see what Reggie does.

What kind of an experience can viewers expect?

The cool thing about a show like this is that you can be anywhere and experience it. Since the show will take place in a virtual environment, audiences can log-in from anywhere in the world and enjoy. They can expect to feel they’re sharing the same space as Reggie and seeing him perform right before their eyes just as in a regular venue, except that it will all be virtual. Also, anyone who has ever seen one of Reggie’s improvisational performances knows to always expect the unexpected. 


How do you explain Perception Neuron for the first time to those who are unfamiliar with it?

Have you ever seen Planet of the Apes? Lord of the Rings? Avatar? All of these movies—and many more—use motion capture technology to create the life-like movements of the animated creatures and characters in the story. Hollywood uses very expensive systems in which the actor wears a special suit with trackers that connect to cameras in order to record the movement, and later transfer it into the CGI or animation creating a realistic, human-like effect. Perception Neuron offers a similar technology except that the system works with a tiny IMU (inertial measurement unit) that is housed within a ‘Neuron’ and the IMU is able to capture and record the body’s movement without the use of dozens of cameras, or even a cumbersome suit. The Neurons are placed on a series of straps that are then put on various parts of the body (arms, legs, head, torso, hands) and the movement is then easily captured and can then be transferred to an animation, special effects, video games, used for analysis, training and many other uses. Perception Neuron is the most adaptive, versatile and affordable system of its kind. Where the Hollywood motion capture systems run well into the hundreds of thousands, Perception Neuron can be purchased for $1,500 or under, making it accessible for anyone with an interest in motion capture. Though Perception Neuron may not readily compare to the costly Hollywood systems, it is a robust and highly accurate system that produces professional results right out of the box.

How is Perception Neuron different from any other virtual reality experience on the market?

Perception Neuron is the most affordable and adaptable system of its kind in the world. We have made it possible for any gamer, small studio, school, researcher or hobbyist to use motion capture in their projects. Our versatility also means that we can be used with a variety of platforms from Maya Motion Builder, to Reallusion, Unreal Engine, Unity, and more.

Perception Neuron is under the Noitom umbrella, which features other experiences like Project Alice. What is the vision company founders Dr. Haoyang Liu and CEO and Dr. Tristan Dai have implemented?

It’s always been to make motion capture [technology] accessible to anyone, anywhere, and to eventually seeing it used in some way in every home. They and their team of engineers remain committed to making motion capture a universal technology.

Where is the future of motion capture technology and application development headed? What can consumers expect from Noitom moving forward?

As VR continues to expand, and as video games become more elaborate, we will see much more of a need for motion capture technology. Beyond that, we also see a need for this technology in the fields of medicine, sports, government projects, corporate training … there are many foreseeable uses for motion capture. As we now continue to focus more on the consumer market, people can expect to see more innovative products that can help them in their creative and professional endeavors. We will begin rolling out new products later this year, including a motion capture glove that can be used in virtual reality.

What are some of the ways brands can use VR activations in their integrated marketing campaigns?

VR is the next big movement in technology, and now that companies like Oculus and Samsung are developing consumer products, we can see it becoming more and more a part of everyday life. Soon Facebook will be adopting VR in their social network and people will now have the chance to experience things they could have only imagined right from their living room. This will give brands the opportunity to get really creative with immersive marketing campaigns that can take audiences right into the action of what they want to share.

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan

How Facebook Live Is Exploding With Brands and Social

Although some marketers believe that YouTube and Snapchat are the best means for advertising with certain brands, Facebook Live has become a more substantial option. Over the past few months, it has attracted millions of users, and more programming is regularly showing up, including those from influencers, creators and brands.

Accessibility remains one of Facebook Live’s strongest traits, as the company has been adding a number of features to enhance video experiences across the board, as well as support for everything from “puppycams” to DJI drones, enabling even greater (and more inventive) videos to be posted and shared. With the debut of Continuous Live Video, users can now add persistent streams that cover everything from nature feeds to other lifestyle-based videos with no interruption in streaming.

Facebook Live has also become a phenomenon with the simplest of videos. For instance, “Chewbacca Mom,” a woman who wore a roaring Star Wars mask following a recent shopping run, has managed to gain 140 million views over the course of five days, smashing previous Facebook Live records. In fact, she has become such a big phenomenon that James Corden invited her on to be interviewed on The Late Late Show, where she wore the mask around The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams, as well as getting an invite to speak with Chewbacca himself, Peter Mayhew.

Brands have begun adopting to Facebook Live as it would other video mediums, namely YouTube. For instance, Dunkin Donuts’ behind-the-scenes tour of its Test Kitchen turned out to be a big hit with fans, making them hungry for the chain’s delicious desserts.

A number of companies have taken advantage of the Facebook Live format. iHeart Radio utilized it to set up a live Facebook Q & A with singer Max Schneider, as well as Bebe Rexha taking part in a red carpet session for the iHeart Radio Music Awards.

However, it has also become a place for unconventional partners. The Metropolitan Museum of Art recently hosted a special Facebook Q & A with curator-in-charge Andrew Bolton, alongside Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, along with a pre-tour of its new exhibition, revolving around the ancient Hellenistic city of Pergamon.

Other brands have also experimented with Facebook Live, and there’s room for expansion, especially with live reveals from events like E3 or other trade shows. Some brands are still getting the hang of things, but more have come to realize just how effective formats like Live broadcasting can be. As a result, more companies are showing a preference to Facebook video, thanks to its ease of use and its built-in audience, which consists of millions of users.

So what’s next for Facebook Live? Evolution, of course. More users are starting to get more into its format, creating unique or fun videos (like the “Chewbacca Mom” clip) or taking advantage of its live format to showcase special events. This includes sports activities, as the Spanish Football League recently announced that it will broadcast its very first European soccer game on the channel, with a face-off between the At.Madrid Féminas and the Athletic Club. Obviously, that doesn’t mean every sports league is going to run to Facebook, but having the option to broadcast a live event is bound to be appealing to some partners.

Facebook Live is here to stay, and it’s making quite an impact against YouTube with its accessibility, features, and, most importantly, audience reach. That should make it a viable option for both brands and influencers for years to come.