Zeality is a new social engagement and delivery platform for 360-degree video content. The company is already working with brands such as the San Francisco 49ers, Visa, RYOT News, and Reebok to leverage this new medium. Zeality is also open to content creators and producers interested in telling 360-degree stories and monetizing their content. The platform is currently available for iOS and Android virtual reality devices, including Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear VR.
The company has been formed with a team of veterans from Silicon Valley, Hollywood and the ad business. And its advisory board is filled with executives from these three industries, as well. Zeality co-founder and CEO Dipak M. Patel explains how his company can help brands navigate the new 360-degree waters in this exclusive interview.
What separates Zeality from Wistia 360, Facebook 360, YouTube 360, and other platforms?
We see content and media becoming increasingly instrumental in the way we teach, entertain and discover. As a result, user experiences need to evolve, with relevant content being presented in a more intelligent way. Over time, we’re looking to differentiate how a user experiences 360 content, not just deliver it to them. We have a lot coming down the road, however what’s available now is the ability for creators to gate access to their content with customized access levels. For example, for episodic content, let’s say a user can’t access Episode 2 unless they watch Episode 1, and they can’t watch Episode 3 unless they recommend four friends. We can, and will, work with partners to customize how their fans and audiences activate content.
How are you working with early clients like Visa, the San Francisco 49ers, RYOT News, and Reebok with 360-degree video content?
Beyond simply hosting and delivering content, we’re playing an active role in programming our experience and marketing partner content to specific communities. Our goal is to work with our partners to develop marketing campaigns for their content to drive activation, as we want to help create awareness for campaigns versus just being a big bucket in the sky. For example, we have worked with Visa, RYOT, and the San Francisco 49ers to develop social campaigns to drive their fans and audiences to their respective channels on Zeality.
What kind of engagement do you see for 360-degree content versus traditional video?
Zeality only carries 360-degree content, but in comparing 360-degree versus traditional video, we’ve observed both amazement and frustration when users consume 360-degree content. The amazement comes from the fact that it’s new and cool, and then users start genuinely wondering how it’s done. It quickly becomes frustrating because consumers have been trained to be “directed,” versus going on self-guided tours of videos. We see this new type of content disrupting the art of storytelling and the mode of consuming. Both need to learn from each other, and it’s going to take time for 360-degree video to become interesting enough to hold the attention of consumers versus traditional video.
Will your platform support PC and PlayStation VR headsets beyond the Android and iOS mobile VR?
We’re big fans of 360-degree video, VR, and AR. And yes, our roadmap will eventually support a variety of HMDs (head-mounted displays). We feel there’s a lot of work still left to do in creating awareness for 360-degree experiences and how to create them, so one of our directives is to increase education and discovery, and also help build a strong community of content creators.
Most people are still viewing 360-degree content on tablets and 2D devices. How do you see that evolving over time?
When my 7-year-old daughter was 2, she would walk up to our television and try to swipe as if it were an iPad. Now my 2-year-old son holds my phone and moves it around as if every video is a window to another place. Without a doubt, I do see this evolving over time. I think adoption will occur over generations and be influenced by technology innovation. This is why we’re so focused on the art of storytelling and engagement in this new medium.
What are the opportunities in 360-degree video today?
We think there is a tremendous opportunity for 360-degree video today. Education, entertainment, sports media, travel, social impact, and news to start, but more categories will most certainly appear. These are all opportunities to explore the medium as an art form and build a deeper relationship between the stories and communities. And of course, some folks will focus on videos of cats, or the current version of them.
What are the challenges, especially with editing this content?
There are two new elements to the workflow: data management/syncing and stitching. This adds a tremendous burden on quick turnaround projects not only from a time and cost perspective, but also a go-to-market perspective. Luckily, there are a handful of companies—Nokia, Orah, and Sphericam are a few great examples—that are solving these issues by consolidating features in new cameras. I believe that over time, possibly as early as the next few months, these tools will get better.
How is your company bridging the gap between Silicon Valley and Hollywood?
I believe that we’re experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime disruption, and we have an opportunity to create a whole new type of company. Many would agree that over the years, Silicon Valley and Hollywood have been at odds with each other, essentially because one values technology and innovation while the other values content and creativity. Furthermore, the fundamental investment vehicles and ecosystems that support both are completely different. For example, Silicon Valley invests in stock and increasing the value of that stock. Hollywood invests in rights and distribution, and creates companies to capture revenue from licensing and other means. For Zeality, we want to bring these forces together to create the ultimate collaboration between creative/content and tech/innovation in terms of culture, product development and go-to-market.
How will the new wave of both professional and consumer 360 cameras impact this ecosystem?
The new wave of professional and consumer 360-degree cameras are going to have an incredible impact on the ecosystem, but ultimately, the medium requires the storytellers to start from the ground up. They’re not filming in a frame and they have to re-imagine the role of the protagonist in these stories. From a professional storytelling perspective, I’m a big fan of what Sphericam, Orah, and Nokia are doing. For the more user-generated stuff, I think you’re going to see a larger variety of options out there, but regardless of what sort of equipment they use, it will be great to see what sort of content is created when the creator is unencumbered by existing film-making norms. Whatever happens, it’s great to have all these options available to aspiring and professional content creators.