Citi Exec Discusses The Promise Of Virtual Reality Today

When pop rock band DNCE performs live at Rockefeller Plaza today as part of the Citi Concert Series on NBC’s Today morning show, fans will be able to experience the music live at home via Google Cardboard VR headsets. In addition to the livestreamed performance, IM360 is working with Citi to deliver exclusive 360-degree video content featuring DNCE for VR fans to engage with.

This VR experience is part of a larger effort through the Citi Concert Series on Today to bring fans access beyond attendance. The series, which kicked off in October 2015 as part of a new multi-year deal between Citi and NBC, provides year-round opportunities for millions of viewers to connect with their favorite musicians through a multitude of platforms and puts fans at the center of the experience.

Jennifer Breithaupt, managing director of media, advertising and global entertainment at Citi, said through Citi’s entertainment program Private Pass, which offers credit and debit card members access to thousands of events annually, is consistently striving to bring fans closer to the artists they love.

“As technology evolves—especially in the VR space—it’s allowing us to push the boundaries of the very meaning of access beyond attendance,” Breithaupt told [a]listdaily. With virtual reality poised for significant growth, Breithaupt said Citi wanted to get ahead and see how it could test the technology to bring the concert experience to consumers at home.

“VR could be an ideal vehicle to deliver on one of our key objectives of providing ‘access beyond attendance,’” Breithaupt said. “Through our partnership with NBC and our sponsorship of the Citi Concert Series on Today, we found a lot of synergy and opportunity to work with a fun and willing band and had the right platform to distribute and share the experience with the masses.”

In what’s becoming a crowded 360-degree livestreaming space, Breithaupt said NBC and Citi explored various vendors and felt that IM360’s capabilities were the best fit for this project. Citi is distributing 7,000 DNCE-branded Google Cardboard headsets to Citi card members and NBC fan pass subscribers in advance of the concert. They’ll also be providing 3,000 headsets to attendees at Rockefeller Plaza on the day of the performance.

DNCE will perform three songs on the Citi Concert Series on Today that will be livestreamed on and mobile phones. For iPhone users, they can watch the stream on the IM360 app. In addition, the concert will be aired on NBC’s Today show for anyone to watch. The online stream is also accessible and viewable in 360 without the Google Cardboard headset.

“360 viewing is not quite as immersive, but still allows users to look around and see the show from different angles,” Breithaupt said. “Follow-up content will be available on, similar to all other concerts we have done in the past.”

DNCE’s “Mind Blown” is featured in the new ad campaign for Citi’s Double Cash credit card. Breithaupt said the branding for this 360-degree content is part of a more holistic campaign for this product. “With more hyper-connected consumers interacting with brands via digital and social channels, it’s imperative that any unified campaign include a full spectrum of media channels,” Breithaupt said. “With VR, we’re able to further engage consumers in an innovative, exciting, and exhilarating channel.”

Forrester predicts that demand for VR headsets will reach 52 million units by 2020. Breithaupt said that as VR begins to have more mainstream appeal, this aligns more and more with Citi’s target audience. “With this content, we are connecting to the message of the Double Cash campaign of ‘meaning what we say,'” Breithaupt said. “With a VR stream and headset experience, we are saying ‘everyone is in the front row’ and we mean it. By giving fans a ‘front row’ seat to the DNCE show in Rockefeller Plaza, it’s an experience that, we hope, will create brand affinity and loyalty and heighten perception of Citi as a brand that means what we say.”

Outside of this VR activation, the credit card company recently launched a new ad campaign for Citi Double Cash that Breithaupt said positions the card as straightforward, honest and means what it says: double means double.

“Through this campaign that encompasses out-of-home, digital and social, we are showing that choosing a credit card doesn’t need to be a complicated experience; with Citi Double Cash, our card means what it says and enables card members to earn cash back twice on every purchase,” Breithaupt said.

Breithaupt believes VR technology will continue to become more accessible to more consumers, and ultimately offer more ways for the consumer to engage with the content.

“Maybe they’ll be able to click over to buy a band’s merchandise (with their Citi card of course) while they’re in the experience, similar to being at a show and being able to purchase related items,” Breithaupt said.

Ford Is Furthering Its Footprint In VR With A Storytelling App

Ford launched a virtual reality app that shares stories related to the brand, specifically around the new Ford GT race car that competed at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June.

Available for US-based iOS and Android users, the app aims at delivering a storytelling platform for consumers and bringing the sights and sounds for fans to experience Ford’s latest innovations like never before.

Lisa Schoder, Ford’s digital marketing manager, joined [a]listdaily to detail why they’re making VR stories for consumers.


The 50th anniversary of the GT40’s 1-2-3 victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans is definitely a reason to celebrate, while also allowing a unique narrative. Why was now the right time for the VR app, and why did you specifically go with a mobile strategy?

We wanted to create a new entry point for consumers to experience Ford innovations and our compelling stories. As VR continues to reshape the way people interact with brands and engage in storytelling, we felt the time was right to bring to life this new platform in FordVR. The all-new Ford GT is the pinnacle of product innovation at Ford, so we believed it was the perfect story to kick off our VR content offerings. In terms of mobile, smartphones allow a consumer to experience VR content with a headset or cardboard as well as without, using 360-degree video instead. We believed this would give our fans the most options to experience our stories, making it as easy as possible. 

The Ford Focus RS RX and Hoonigan Racing’s Ken Block will be featured in a separate VR installation this September. How will you be further marketing and measuring the success of this VR app activation?

We’re so excited for this next story. Our key performance indicator is content consumption. We want to make it as easy as possible for our fans and consumers to access, discover and share this content. Our marketing strategy involves a multi-channel distribution plan, including but not limited to: partnerships, social, earned media and influencer outreach.

What are the opportunities and challenge a campaign like this presents?

VR certainly presents a unique opportunity to connect people with the Ford brand in a completely immersive way. A key challenge with VR is restraint. We’ve established guidelines for the types of Ford stories to tell using this medium since it’s not appropriate in every case. 

Why do you want consumers to engage with the Ford brand moving forward on mobile?

Smartphones have become the wearable device that everyone uses and time spent on mobile is rising at a dramatic pace while traditional channels decline. Ford recognizes this shift in consumer behavior and embraces the creative opportunity that mobile marketing presents.


How do you plan on using immersive experiences for Ford Smart Mobility? What’s the message you’re trying to convey? 

FordVR will not be about simply telling Ford Performance stories. We’re looking forward to bringing to life stories about other important topics such as Ford Smart Mobility, bringing global issues to the forefront for people who may not be affected personally. Ford is transitioning from an auto company to an auto and a mobility company, and we’re looking forward to taking consumers on the journey with us.

How is Ford further using augmented and virtual reality technology in its digital marketing campaigns on other fronts?

Ford is no stranger to using VR technology. For years, we have embraced VR as a tool in our product development and manufacturing research. Now, VR has emerged as an exciting consumer-facing medium to bring stories to life. We’re also looking at how we can expand VR to dealerships and events as well. 

How do you see the future of VR storytelling developing?

As more brands and publishers jump into VR content creation, the medium will mature. Ford looks forward to continually innovating in this space.

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan

Nintendo President Reggie Fils-Aimé Discusses Nintendo NX

Nintendo is riding high right now, thanks to the overwhelming success of Niantic’s Pokémon GO, a mobile game that has breathed new life into the franchise with a mainstream audience. With its incredibly successful launch, and Legendary Pictures developing a new Pokémon feature film, things will only continue to grow with the franchise.

Pokémon fever aside, Nintendo is focused on readying the world for its next console, which was a no-show at last June’s E3. Fils-Aimé told [a]listdaily that it was because the convention’s timing did not match with Nintendo’s NX launch strategy. Instead, the company decided to focus almost exclusively on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild with a massive E3 booth.

After connecting with the mass market on Wii, Nintendo has lagged in a distant third place with Wii U in the current console landscape. But those who look further back will find that Nintendo had also failed to find a large audience with its GameCube before going back to the drawing board with the Wii.

Reggie Fils-Aimé discusses the company’s strategy as it prepares to unleash the Nintendo NX in spring 2017, and discusses the new marketing opportunities for the brand and its many franchises, in this exclusive interview with [a]listdaily from the Nintendo booth at E3 2016.

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How are you seeing things evolving in the console space with Sony and Microsoft launching new consoles this year and Nintendo NX coming out in 2017?

Nintendo has a quite appropriate reputation of doing its own thing, so whatever Microsoft and Sony decide to do, that’s for them to manage. From a Nintendo perspective, we are focused first on making sure that the consumer understands [The Legend of ZeldaBreath of the Wild and some of the other games that we’ve highlighted here at the show, Pokémon Sun and Moon, Pokémon GO, Ever Oasis and Mario Party Star Rush. There was a lot of content that we wanted to showcase at E3. We’ve done that. Now, we’re going to start moving forward communicating more and more about NX as appropriate. For us, it’s all about the right communication at the right time. We believe we’ve got some games that are going to continue to drive our momentum this holiday, and we believe we’ve got a strong concept for NX that we’ll unveil in the future.

Many thought Nintendo was in dire straits after GameCube failed to find an audience, and then Wii exploded. Are there lessons learned from Wii U that are being applied to NX?

Every time we launch a new platform, every time we launch a critical new game, we always learn. We always do our breakdown of what worked, what didn’t, and certainly we’ve done that with Wii U, and we continue to believe that the innovation of the second screen was a worthwhile concept. The games that we’ve launched on the Wii U are hugely compelling: Splatoon, Super Mario Maker, Smash Bros., Bayonetta 2, the Super Mario game, The Legend of Zelda. Arguably, if you line up all of the single platform games for Wii U and the other two platforms, we have by far the most unique games that are highly rated by consumers and highly rated by the media. So those things worked.

One of the things that we have to do better when we launch the NX—we have to do a better job communicating the positioning for the product. We have to do a better job helping people to understand its uniqueness and what that means for the game playing experience. And we have to do a better job from a software planning standpoint to have that continuous beat of great new games that are motivating more and more people to pick up the hardware and more and more people to pick up the software. Those are the critical lessons. And as I verbalize them, they’re really traditional lessons within the industry. You have to make sure people understand the concept, you have to make sure you’ve got a great library of games, and when you do that, you tend to do well.

What are some of the lessons learned from launching mobile apps?

We’ve seen that we can capture people’s attention in the mobile space. Certainly, we’ve seen that we can create an application that’s fun, distinctive, and that has all of that Nintendo charm. And certainly, we’ve seen a huge amount of consumer participation with the app, especially the WiiPhoto app. Wii photos are showing up all over the place. We’ll apply those lessons to the Fire Emblem game and the Animal Crossing games that are launching. In addition to those two, there are another two that will be launching between now and the end of our fiscal year. So we’ve got a strong pipeline of mobile activity that we’re going to continue to bring out into the marketplace.

What impact do you see smartphones playing as a feeder system into these franchises as you launch original mobile games?

Our overall mission is to make consumers smile through our intellectual property. There are four key pillars underneath that mission. One is our dedicated video game business. The second is mobile. The third is licensed merchandise, and the fourth is other entertainment best shown today by our partnership with Universal Studios. All of those we’re going to leverage to drive appeal for the IP. And as we do that, we’re going to monetize those in a variety of different ways. We believe that as a wide swath of consumers have an experience with Fire Emblem on mobile for example, that it’s going to lead them to purchase the full Fire Emblem experience that today is on our handheld. That’s the proposition and we think it’s a very sound strategy.

What’s the strategy when it comes to picking and choosing what to merchandise?

First, we want to be with the right partners. Vans is a great example, a fantastic partner. [Second] we want to be in the right places, meaning what are the retail outlets that these products are going to show up in? Third, we want to be the right intellectual property. We want to do this in a way that is a growing, sustaining type of volume—not hits and misses. From that standpoint, we’re looking at a wide range of categories. Wearables certainly are huge. Collectibles are a big opportunity. The relationship we have with companies like Hasbro and Mattel, bringing our intellectual property to some of their game elements like the Mario-themed Uno set of cards that we’re bringing back. There’s a lot of activity that we’re doing in the space. But the main thing is that we want this to be an upward trajectory growth business, not a cyclical business.

There’s a Froot Loops commercial where parents put their kids to bed and then play Super Mario Bros. What opportunities is this multi-generational gamer family opening up for things like merchandising and theme parks?

It’s opening up huge opportunities for us, and not only in theme parks, not only in licensed merchandise, but it’s opening a branding and marketing opportunity for our mainline games as well. We just launched a new ad, which is a millennial mom talking to her son around different things that he should do in his video game experience. Mom is telling the boy not to leave those coins behind playing Super Mario and which arrow to use to defeat Ganon in Ocarina of Time. It’s reinforcing that millennial parents grew up playing our content, and there’s a huge opportunity to pass on that love to their kids. We’ve gotten tremendous feedback from that ad, and it looks like it’s driving our business—both hardware and software. So there’s a lot of opportunities, especially for Nintendo to speak to millennial parents who grew up playing our product and now have an opportunity to pass on that love to their kids.

Is that going to be an advantage when it comes to launching a new console like the NX?

I surely hope so. Nintendo has been in this video game business over 30 years. We have a rich legacy of wonderful IP. Those are strengths that we have that our competitors don’t, and so leveraging those strengths as we drive our business forward is going to be critically important.

New theme parks are opening up all over the world. What opportunities does this create for Nintendo characters through Universal Studios?

It’s a huge opportunity. What has been really gratifying for me is that the teams between Universal and Nintendo are working tremendously well together. The Universal team not only has a wealth of experience in creating these immersive amusement interactive situations, but they also have a great affinity for our IP. What this promises for the guest at the Universal Studios theme parks is something that’s really magical.

We’re starting to see a difference in the way theme park people create attractions because they know now everyone comes in with smartphones. What does that open up for Nintendo, now that you have mobile games and apps?

You hit the nail on the head. These theme park designers are considering that so many of their patrons have a smart device. They’re thinking about what that means to the overall experience. I’m not going to share anything in this interview, but certainly the Universal team is aware of it. Certainly it is something that they are considering as they work with us to create this theme park experience.

Last year Nintendo had a big eSports presence, and we’ve seen eSports continue to grow. What role does Nintendo play in eSports today?

ESports is a big and vibrant community. We view it as a community. We’re fortunate that we have one of the most acknowledged eSports games in Smash Bros. We’re also fortunate that various eSports leagues have experimented with Splatoon and that looks promising. They’ve experimented with Mario Kart, which could be fun for the younger consumer tier within the eSports area. So we’ve got the content to leverage into this area. It’s something that we’ve continued to look at, and it’s something that we believe can be a great way to reach out to our consumers.

Turn It Up: Facebook Is Testing Autoplay Videos With Sound

An estimated eight billion videos are viewed on Facebook every day, making the platform a prime target for marketing. Earlier this year, however, it was reported that 85 percent of Facebook videos are watched without sound—calling into question whether users actually, you know, watch them.

Facebook counts a video “viewed” after three seconds of play time. However, since videos auto play within a user’s feed, accurately reporting who was consuming content versus looking away from the monitor for at least three seconds has been a challenge. Further adding to the speculation, mobile Facebook videos only have to be at 50 percent on the screen before it begins to play on its own.

Marketers have learned to cater video content to Facebook’s current format, either creating videos that can be easily enjoyed with the sound turned off or capturing a user’s attention so that they want to turn sound on. However, Facebook is exploring the idea of turning the sound on by default.

Facebook rolled out a series of tests across Australian accounts on Tuesday, specifically for mobile devices. In one version of the test, sound plays immediately as the video begins, if you have sound enabled on your device. Another group is able to turn sound on during the test session using an icon that will sit to the bottom right of videos. Both groups see a pop-up message informing them about how to use the controls, and sound will only play if the smartphone’s volume is up. If you don’t want to annoy your workmates, sound can also be turned to “always off” in Facebook settings.

“We’re running a small test in News Feed where people can choose whether they want to watch videos with sound on from the start,” Facebook told Mashable Australia. “For people in this test who do not want sound to play, they can switch it off in Settings or directly on the video itself. This is one of several tests we’re running as we work to improve the video experience for people on Facebook.”

If Facebook can offer detailed metrics about viewer sound preferences, marketers can plan accordingly. At this point in time, the test is just that—a test, and whether or not Facebook adopts a new sound policy for videos remains to be seen.

Why Lenovo Is Making Portable, Powerful, Gaming PCs

The world of PC gaming is steadily changing, leaving the confines of desks with large computer systems behind. Almost half of PC gamers are playing at locations other than a desk. PC maker, Lenovo, recognizes that this shift is coming at the same time virtual reality technology is set to take off. In response, the company revealed two new gaming systems—the IdeaCentre Y710 Cube and AIO (All-In-One) Y910—at Gamescom this year. Both computers are designed with high portability in mind but don’t sacrifice performance. In fact, they come in versions that can power high-end VR headsets such as the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, making portable solutions for virtual reality experiences possible.

Lenovo’s Y710 Cube is a small-form system that has a built-in carrying handle, can be hooked up to 4K display, and is the first PC to support Microsoft’s new Xbox Wireless platform, which can support up to 8 wireless devices (such as Xbox One controllers) at once without additional adapters. Meanwhile, the AIO Y910 includes a 27-inch QHD monitor, two 5W Harman Kardon speakers with 7.1-channel Dolby Audio, and a depth-sensing Intel RealSense 3D Camera, so gamers can interact using hand gestures and facial expressions.

Will Fu, director of gaming business at Lenovo’s PC and smart device business group, spoke to [a]listdaily about how the two compact, yet powerful, gaming systems cater to the changing PC gaming audience.

According to Lenovo’s 2015 global research study, based on 1800 respondents in Germany, the US and mainland China, about 47 percent of PC gamers are playing beyond the confines of a desk. About 53 percent still game at a desk, so it’s still the most popular location, but 28 percent prefer to play from the couch. “With almost a third of gamers heading to the living room to game, we felt the IdeaCentre Y710 Cube (that supports up to eight Xbox One controllers simultaneously) was a great alternative to traditional mid-tower gaming PCs for gaming sessions with friends,” Fu said.


When asked how else the PC gaming audience has changed, Fu responded: “PCs are increasingly relevant today, driven by societal and technological trends including the emergence of video game streaming, virtual reality and augmented reality as a means of enhancing and expanding interactive entertainment. Despite intense competition in PC gaming, we see strong opportunity to innovate in the gaming sector now.

“From the desk to couch, to even in bed, each player has distinct preferences in how and where they game. So we built the IdeaCentre Y710 Cube and IdeaCentre AIO Y910 as unique form factors that save on space for home, yet are portable enough to be carried to the office or a friend’s house. These are great gaming PCs for serious players who want top-of-the-line performance without sacrificing design, space or portability.”

With the emphasis on portability, we asked how the two systems fit in with Lenovo’s high-end gaming notebooks. “The all-in-one portable desktop can form and fit conveniently in places where a bulkier PC can’t,” said Fu. “Built entirely within a 27-inch Quad High Definition (2560×1440) borderless display, it cuts down on the sprawling hardware and cables that clutter traditional towers—without cutting down on game performance. However, having a PC with a streamlined, space-saving chassis can be a huge asset when moving your rig between rooms or transporting it. This need led us to craft many of our newest PCs—including the IdeaCentre Y700, IdeaCentre Y710 Cube with a comfortable carrying handle, IdeaCentre AIO Y910 and IdeaPad Y910—for quick and easy mobility and setup anywhere around the house and beyond.”

How do the systems fit in with Lenovo’s less portable gaming PCs? “We’re committed to providing gamers with the best performance in unique, space-saving form factors,” Fu explained. “Our two new systems also have a distinctive designer look and the capacity to take a player effortlessly from workday to gameplay, all on one device.

“For example, the new easy-to-carry, VR-ready IdeaCentre Y710 Cube PC lets you take your highest settings virtually anywhere, from the living room to the bedroom. The slim, compact, VR-ready IdeaCentre AIO Y910 desktop gives demanding players the most powerful gaming experiences in a size that fits nearly any battle station. Meanwhile, our premium VR-ready IdeaCentre Y900 and Y700 desktops also offer a wide range of choice in a sleek, edgy design for busy gamers who demand hassle-free performance with Windows 10 and powerful Intel processors, but want the option to upgrade in the future.”


Fu also discussed the significance of having the Y710 be the first gaming PC to support the Xbox Wireless platform. “When we set out to create the IdeaCentre Y710 Cube, we really wanted to push the limits of what people expect a gaming PC to be. One of the biggest opportunities we saw was with console gamers. By leveraging the new Xbox Wireless platform, we offer console gamers the chance to seamlessly transfer from a console gaming experience to high-performance PC gaming experience while keeping console control over their gameplay.”

However, Lenovo isn’t the only one to recognize the changing needs of PC gamers. Other PC makers are “future-proofing” their gaming systems with adapters such as the Alienware Graphics Amplifier and the Razer Core, which both allow full-sized graphics cards such as the powerful Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 to be installed onto compact computers as secondary video cards. When asked whether Lenovo considered a similar direction, Fu said: “In our mission to create the most immersive gaming experiences, we certainly don’t rule out exploring future-proofing features too.”

With Lenovo offering more portable solutions for virtual reality, we asked Fu his thoughts on how the technology would impact PC gaming. “I believe VR has massive potential to make an impact on PC gaming, as gamers continue to seek more real and authentic experiences,” he said. “More developers are beginning to create better looking and more sophisticated games, which is why we’re seeing VR getting off the ground. As a result of this, PC hardware has to get ready for substantive VR gaming too. That’s why Lenovo is working to bring these intense and authentic experiences to gamers with our latest IdeaCentre Y710 Cube and IdeaCentre AIO Y910.

“The biggest challenge VR needs to overcome right now is accessibility. Although a lot of PCs can play today’s top gaming releases, they’re not necessarily able to handle the next generation of VR entertainment. We’re working to change that in partnership with Oculus to design, test, and optimize our top-of-the-line Y series gaming PCs to meet the technical standards Oculus recommends. This helps ensure that gamers can experience VR’s greatest capabilities at the high quality they demand.”

Sony Music Entertainment Japan Is Embracing Virtual Reality

Sony Music Entertainment Japan is entering the virtual reality fray this fall through a partnership with Littlstar Japan, the new off-shoot of Disney-backed Littlstar. Shigeki Tanaka, senior vice president of Sony Music Entertainment Japan, said the iOS and Android applications will launch in mid-September.

“We have witnessed for several months Littlstar’s enthusiasm to create a vibrant marketplace for VR content and continuously raising the bar for premium VR entertainment,” Tanaka told [a]listdaily. “Littlstar has had outstanding results in building its network in the US with an increasing number of top brands and content owners. As such, we think it is a good opportunity to now combine SMEJ’s strong content expertise with Littlstar to jointly bring high-quality VR experiences throughout Asia.”

Tony Mugavero, founder and CEO of Littlstar, said that Littlstar Japan will launch in cooperation with SMEJ.

“We will collaborate on editorializing and featuring content, working with advertisers and content partners, promotion on social media, press and marketing,” Mugavero said.

Mugavero said Japan and Asia are truly embracing VR. He added that Japan is technically savvy, creative and refined in their approach to music, art, food, communications and more.

“Music is deeply engrained in the culture, and as a new medium emerges, the right dynamics are already in place to be a great catalyst for connecting musicians to fans through VR,” Mugavero said. “As with every region, device makers are tight-lipped about sales numbers, but it’s clear that Japan, China, Korea and others are going all-in.”

Tanaka said both mobile headsets, as well as full-fledged headsets are getting popular in Japan.

“We built our partnership so as to attract more creators, as well as offer a polished way for Japanese consumer to discover exciting VR experiences,” Tanaka said.

Littlstar is a global launch partner for PlayStation VR. Sony Music Entertainment Japan will be able to target the Asian market with new and existing artists through VR content. Mugavero said US and other markets will be able to access this content as long as licensing agreements allow.

“Leveraging on the 43-plus million PlayStation 4s already active and enjoyed worldwide, PlayStation VR will provide an easy and turn-key solution for consumers to enjoy VR content,” Tanaka said. “While the natural first step is to cater primarily to the gaming community, we see this as a stepping stone towards the broader future or VR entertainment.”

The Littlstar platform also connects musicians and content makers across mobile devices, multiple VR headsets, mobile devices, Smart TV like the Sony Bravia and Apple TV.

Tanaka said he’s already seeing many up-and-coming artists, young creators and talented entrepreneurs starting to create unique VR content in Japan, even though the market is still in its early days and the distribution platforms are still nascent.

“In our observation, this is a very similar pattern to the mid-1990s when PlayStation was first introduced,” Tanaka said. “Our sincere wish for SMEJ, Sony and the whole industry is that we will collaboratively create a positive ecosystem in which both established and ‘indie’ content creators can express their creativity and deliver immersive storytelling thanks to strong technology and distribution enablers.”

Tanaka said this VR initiative is still “a work-in-progress.” What consumers experience most of the time today is “fixed-viewpoint” 360-degree video VR, which he believes is a good starting point to get accustomed to wearing a headset.

“In the longer run, the natural evolution is to have computer-generated content smoothly blended with cinematic video,” Tanaka said. “As real-time rendering engines steadily improve, fully computer-generated content will enable a ‘free-viewpoint’ experience where consumers are no longer passive ‘viewers,’ but active participants able to roam freely in those worlds.”

Tanaka believes gaming is the most promising genre in the short-term for VR, but as the installed base of headsets grows and its users’ demographics widens, more and more artists will see VR as a new dimension for music videos.

“Given the creative opportunities offered by this medium, new genres and innovative entertainment modalities will steadily appear as the next wave for VR,” Tanaka said. CEO Explains Why ESports Could Be The Killer App For VR just closed a $6.2 million seed round of equity funding, which will help the company expand its virtual reality eSports technology beyond top PC games League of Legends, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Dota 2.

The company has launched the open beta of its eSports entertainment platform, which supports both 360-degree video and in-game virtual reality. The technology is currently available through a free Android and iOS app for any devices supporting Panorama-360 video for mobile, as well as Google Cardboard. technology uses multiple virtual camera arrays to record video games in VR, including games that don’t currently support VR. The software development kit and game connector modules enable non-VR games to become VR-capable during playback, and using player and game metadata in VR environments.

The company’s Auto Content generation technology crawls, indexes and records over a dozen live professional tournaments and players at any given time, building up a database of top matches, players and tournaments along with unique game metadata. Hot Spot algorithms identify exciting moments from these matches and tournaments, and automatically create highlight reels, replays and top plays, such as CS:GO headshots or League of Legends multi-kills. The Special Effects algorithm then applies slow motion, zoom-in effects and dynamically places virtual cameras to capture the action from multiple angles. The company currently generates and publishes these 360-degree game highlights within 12 to 24 hours after the completion of a match.

Mitch Liu, founder and CEO of, explains why eSports could be the killer app the virtual reality industry needs in this exclusive interview.

How are you working with Valve and Riot Games on bringing their games to VR?

We integrate with Valve and Riot Games through their APIs and server platforms, and we hope to work even more closely as we continue to scale our platform and user base. Our goal is to work with the top eSports game developers and publishers in addition to the emerging PC, console and mobile game developers.

Valve launched its Dota 2 VR Hub recently. Will your tech connect to that? And how does it work differently than what people recently experienced at The International?

We see Dota 2 VR Hub as a huge leap forward in VR and we certainly share the same vision. We have a lot of plans in the upcoming months, and we’re working with some broad-reaching partners in the space.

We’ve seen ESL explore 360-degree video content. How do you see the future overlap for fans to watch 360-video and 360 in-game footage within VR?

We’re super excited about the possibility to combine a live 360 audience feed with our in-game rendered 360 cinematic experience. In the future, we envision the ability to teleport an eSports spectator from anywhere around the world into the 3D game world for experiencing the excitement of physically being at the event at the same time.

Wargaming was demo-ing in-game 360-degree footage at their World of Tanks finals this year. How easy is it for companies to use your technology? And what’s the advantage over using their own tech?

We’ve developed an end-to-end platform for eSports broadcasting in 360 VR. Third-party game developers and publishers can easily integrate utilizing our game connector APIs to any existing game, and leverage our patented 360 3D virtual camera array technology running on our Cloud-GPU farm to render the entire game world in fully immersive 360 VR video. We also built out a unique infrastructure to stream both 360 video-on-demand and live video worldwide at scale. Developers can spend a lot of time and money to develop their own platform and infrastructure, or work with us and be up and running immediately.

All of the initial games are PC. How does your tech work with console or mobile eSports games?

Our plan is to initially focus on the 140 million-plus players of the top eSports games today, namely Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, League of Legends and Dota 2. This enables us to build the destination platform for all things eSports, 360 and VR. We will be launching support for all console and mobile games subsequently.

What’s your business model for

Currently, is free and all content is freely accessible via our apps. In the future, we will consider advertising, subscription, sponsorship and other revenue models.

What impact do you see new devices like Google Daydream and Sony PlayStation VR opening up for VR eSports?

We’re very excited about Daydream and PSVR. As a platform, our goal is to deliver the best eSports 360-video experience to spectators globally, supporting a broad range of games and more importantly across all VR devices. We think that eSports video content may be the killer app for mobile VR devices, perhaps even more engaging than games, and this opens up a larger market for the more casual or occasional eSports audience. On the PlayStation end, we see a huge overlap of console core gamers and early adopters of VR, and they naturally gravitate towards watching eSports as much as they like to play.

You’re focused on the larger mobile audience today, but what role do you see console and PC headsets playing for you in the future? will be launching its VR apps for Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and PSVR in the upcoming months, and will be supporting the most popular VR headsets in the market. Our vision is to become the destination site for all things eSports, 360 and VR, and to transform the spectating experience.

How are you employing the $6.2 million seed funding?

We plan to invest aggressively in technology R&D, platform user acquisition and to work with strategic partners.

What type of overlap in interest are you seeing with eSports fans for 360-degree video or in-game content?

According to a NewZoo research report, between 24-52 percent of all eSports viewers in the US plan to buy a VR headset in the next 6 months. From our experience, we see a huge overlap of eSports fans and interest in experiencing these games immersed within the 3D world, and from different perspectives, not necessarily just from the player’s point-of-view.

The VR audience is small today. When do you see the demand catching up with the technology and price points? launches today will full support for Panorama-360 video using a mobile device’s gyroscope to watch the 360-video, without the need for a headset. We see 2016 and 2017 as big inflection points for VR technology adoption, and we’re already beginning to see that growth in markets like China.

Separating Virtual From Reality: How ODG Is Pioneering AR

Osterhout Design Group (ODG) has been revolutionizing wearable technologies for the consumer market since the turn of the century. The San Francisco-based incubator, founded by Ralph Osterhout, who first started making props for James Bond films, is now bringing science fiction to life by pioneering the next generation of mobile augmented-reality smart glasses.

ODG carried the momentum of debuting their flagship product—the R-7 Smartglasses—at CES in 2015 by partnering with NASA to bring AR glasses into space, as well as with brands like MINI of the BMW Group to showcase the manufacturer’s cars.

The first half of 2016 has been just as fruitful for ODG. In June, they collaborated with OTOY, a Los Angeles-based cloud rendering company, to develop mobile products and holographic experiences for virtual cinema. In May, they partnered with NuEyes to offer people suffering from macular degeneration, glaucoma, retinitis pigmentosa, and other vision-robbing conditions with a chance at renewed eyesight, and the company’s Project Horizon, which provides mobile, theater-like see-through display, won best-in-show for AR at Augmented World Expo.

Nima Shams, ODG’s vice president of head-worn products, joined [a]listdaily to discuss how they’re reaching consumers with augmented reality.

Prince William demos ODG's R-7 smart glasses at the Founders Forum in London earlier this year.
Prince William demos ODG’s R-7 Smartglasses at the Founders Forum in London earlier this year.

How has AR evolved to where we are now? Where do you think the space is headed in the future?

Whatever your belief is around Google Glass and Oculus, both of those companies actually brought attention to the AR market. Even though we were quiet at the time, just shipping product for government, heavy industry and enterprise sectors, we weren’t announcing to the world what we were doing because it wasn’t ready enough for the world to know. About two years ago was the first time ODG came out and told people about our journey and experience. AR has been around for a long time. The phone-form factor is not the right form factor for AR. You’re not going to walk around holding a device in your hand. It just needs to be natural. True AR needs to blur where the digital world and real world interact. Once you can blur that line, people really can’t tell the difference, and that’s when it becomes magical. We think AR will actually be the next step in the evolution of mobile computing.

How can brands use AR activations to reach consumers?

AR can be made just like everything else—well, and not very well. You get stuff flying out, and being distracting, or you can be helpful. If I go to a movie theater and I look at a poster, the preview of the movie can start playing. Or, we have a company in our group right now that if you grab a cereal box and look at it, it gives you all of the nutritional facts. It tells you how much sugar it has, what allergies people should know about. It just enhances people’s lives and by doing that, it allows you to interact with that product. If I’m on the other side and I’m selling that product, it allows deeper storytelling. Now people don’t just see the object, but have almost like a personal assistant that can show them content or information.

With ODG, what are some of the brands that you’ve worked with and can discuss?

Our partnerships span everywhere from heavy industry to consumer-centric type of devices. We’re seeing a few consumer verticals emerging in in-flight entertainment. You might be in a fancy jet, but you have this old screen that was maybe the best thing in 1980 when the plane was first built. You wear AR glasses, and you have that information in front of your eyes at cinema quality, and it’s private. We have a few companies, like NuEyes, who’s trying to help people with visual impairments. It’s very powerful.

What do you think is the best way to use AR?

My goal at ODG is to fuse what’s reality, and what’s virtual. AR has a lot of nuances—there’s mixed reality, light fields, assisted reality—all of these terms are basically simplified to advanced computing on the head, and visualize the world and bringing that digital content that exists into your world. It’s a disruptive new technology. We never knew healthcare would be so huge. We have surgeons who’re performing procedures and wearing our glasses and it improves their ability to perform a surgery because they visualize and augment all of the vital information around the operating table. They don’t have to look around the room to look at vital monitors anymore.


How are you separating yourself from the peripherals competition?

ODG stands on three major pillars. The first one is cinema-quality optics. It’s the equivalent of being in a movie theater. You don’t see pixilation, or shuttering effects. It’s high resolution and independently driven to each side. The second is full integration. Our product doesn’t need an external device; there’s no cable, and it’s all built in. There’s a Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 processor inside; it has 64 gigabytes of internal memory, 4 gigabytes of pop, wi-fi, GNSS—so any technology that’s in your phone, is in our device. And it’s under five ounces. The third one is extreme mobility. You could use this product outdoors and in bright sunlight; you could use it indoors at a show with bright screens.

How are you enabling developers?

We’re investing very heavily in the developer side because the hardware is the barrier into entry. Additionally, it’s the software and the content that makes it magical. If you have a huge reticle of OS developer programs which subsidize the glasses for developers, we have an SDK for them to use on our product. And because it’s Android, most developers feel very comfortable with the product.

What are some of the use-case scenarios for AR to attract consumers?

It’s not only AR, it’s mobile computing, variable computing, headwear computing. What I mean by that is, AR is fantastic, however I could do email, I could watch YouTube on this device. It could guide me to where I want to go. The challenge with the phone is the screen can’t get any larger than it is now. It’s not sunlight readable, it’s not body-position independent—you have to hold the device. With glasses, you wear them one time and it’s just persistent. They enhance your surroundings.

How do you think AR can be used toward gaming?

I’m a big gamer myself and the difference is you don’t need a screen now. You don’t need a set location. Your world becomes your screen to play a first person shooter. You can augment your friends looking at any creature you want. You can scan the room you’re in and interact with it, and run around in it. There’s no longer the concept of ‘hey, I’m going to be in this screen.’ Your world becomes your reality; it becomes the canvas in which you game. I’m very excited on the future of AR.

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan

Op-Ed: The Power Of Video Marketing For Games

Marketing, when you get down to the core of it, is all about communication: Getting the right message to the right people at the right time to create the desired effect. That’s part of why marketing has changed so much in the last few decades. It’s not that the fundamental concepts and strategies of marketing have changed much, it’s that the technologies available have changed—which has changed the most effective tactics. It’s easy to see how this has affected the powerful marketing tool we call video.

Video has become the best way to capture attention and deliver a message to millennials. The numbers tell the story: According to Syndacast, 74 percent of all Internet traffic in 2017 will be video. Studies show that using the word “video” in the subject line of an email can increase open rates by 19 percent and click-through rates by 65 percent. Including video on a landing page can increase conversion by 80 percent. Meanwhile, on YouTube, mobile video consumption has risen 100 percent every year. (More stats on video marketing here.)

The Benefits Of Video Marketing

There are plenty of reasons why video is an increasingly popular marketing tool, and many of them start with the fact that more people are watching more video all the time. Facebook announced last year that its video viewership doubled from 4 billion views per day to 8 billion views per day in just seven months. That’s continuing, and therefore it should be no surprise that Facebook is adding more video infrastructure. Google isn’t letting YouTube go idle, either, as YouTube’s growth and diversification into more forms of video continues.

That’s also the reason why video has a direct impact on search results—rich media like video is favored by search algorithms. It’s not a coincidence that you’re seeing more videos pop up in your Google search results. The obvious corollary is that you should be posting more video if you want to show up higher in search results.

Video isn’t just easier to find, it’s also great for sharing—users are more likely to share and re-share video than other forms of content. Video also helps convince people as well as attract them—96 percent of consumers find videos helpful when making purchase decisions online. That gets even better when you consider that 58 percent of consumers find the companies producing videos to be more trustworthy.

In short, video is about the best way to communicate with customers, and it’s a medium that marketers should be thinking about first when it’s time to craft a strategy. Sure, text is indispensable for many things, and images are powerful in a variety of ways—but these days, video is king.

Video Marketing For Games

The range of possibilities for video in-game marketing is enormous. The standard video offering for any game is, of course, the game trailer. That may sound simple, but the game trailer has been elevated to a fine art over the years. The very best game trailers are things of beauty in themselves, and garner millions of views. That’s only the beginning, because game trailers have spawned many other types of video based around games. There are gameplay videos showing sometimes lengthy examples, strategy videos showing visually-specific tactics that you can use in a game, and walk-throughs of different game areas to show you how to proceed.

The most impressive game videos are being produced by game companies like Blizzard and Riot Games to showcase characters in their games. These videos are brief but intense, usually with top-notch animation and an engaging look at part of the game. These videos function on several levels, increasing interest in a character (which may be a purchasable item) as well as adding to interest in the game.

There’s plenty of other ways to use video to increase interest and engagement in a game—there are “Making Of” documentaries, interviews with game designers, vlogs made during the development process, chats with artists or actors, unboxing videos (particularly for deluxe editions) and even straight-up product ads.

That’s not enough touching the enormously popular streaming videos that have built Twitch into a behemoth of 100 million-plus streams per month. Watching other people play games, especially if they do it with great skill or in an entertaining manner, is incredibly popular.

If you really want to get creative, break out of the common video types. Try a live-action game trailer instead of in-game footage. Create a stunt involving themes from your game, perhaps with cosplayers or some clever props in a public place. Do some man-on-the-street interviews in the zany style of late-night comedy to get some reactions to your game. Do you have a connection to a visually fascinating locale, or are you friends with a celebrity, or can you get some help from a comedian? Exploit the resources you have available, and pour into your video the same level of creativity and energy that your team has poured into their game.

Some things should always be kept in mind no matter how creative you get. First, no matter what you do, make sure that you’re doing it with high quality. Don’t have cheesy costumes and stiff acting unless that’s exactly the style you want. Set your budget and do your best to stick to it, but get the very best video you can with the resources you have. Second, don’t stoop to conquer—that is, don’t be insulting, or mean, or excessively nasty. Don’t attack the competition—instead, spend time showcasing what’s great about your game. And above all, don’t do something illegal in your video—gains in page views aren’t worth legal problems.

The possibilities for video are unlimited, which can make it hard to figure out where and how to start with creating a video. There’s plenty of inspiration to be found online, as the following examples show (with more to be found here). Be creative with your video production and there’s no limit to how far your video can travel.



Demi Lovato Season 3: Episode Sings Praises Of Influencer Marketing

Currently hosting an estimated 3 million weekly active users, Episode is a mobile platform for interactive stories told through mobile devices. One such series includes a strategic partnership with musician, Demi Lovato titled Path to Fame—a story that puts users in the spotlight as a musician on a quest for stardom. Along the way, users must balance friends, family and fame with guidance from Lovato, herself. The first two installments of the series earned a combined $13 million in revenue, 225 million episodes viewed and 20 million unique viewers.

The third installment, Path to Fame: Confidently Me, is available now through Episode and continues the musician’s journey when a record label gives them their own tour. Demi Lovato is currently on her US Future Now tour, so the timing of this third Episode installment has proved timely. “The tour plays a significant role in this story,” Jameel Khalfan, head of IP partnerships at Episode told [a]listdaily. “While creating this story, we worked closely with Demi to learn more about what her life on tour is like. We tried to capture all the ups and downs of that and work them into the plot.”

Episode prides itself in storytelling, so writing Confidently Me was more than repeating previous seasons. “The focus for Episode has always strong narrative,” Khalfan explained. “In everything we do, we want to be sure that we’re delivering the best possible stories to our audience. We did some new things for our audience like making the first two seasons free for fans so they got excited about season three.”

demi lovato confidently me

So, what’s it like to really work with Demi Lovato? Khalfan says that the partnership has been a positive learning experience. “We have learned a ton since we started working with Demi,” he said. “For example, it’s really important to our audience that they have a choice in the story—what they wear, who they date, how they react and are able to connect with their character in Episode. There are some constants too—it’s as true now as it was a year ago that the story should have as much Demi as possible.”

To market the new story, Episode takes full advantage of Lovato’s fan base. “Demi is a huge star with tons of fans, so partnering with her has been a great way to introduce Episode to more people,” Khalfan explained. Perhaps the most powerful marketing comes from word of mouth, however, as users share stories with their friends. Harnessing the power of consumer-to-consumer marketing, Episode started a new influencer program called “Episode Tastemakers.”

“We work with fans of Episode and help them spread the word about Demi and Episode in general,” said Khalfan. “They’ve been really terrific about making cool things like Let’s Play videos and memes to share with fans. We’re so excited to be working more with the Episode audience, they’re the best community in the world.”