My UgoTrade.com Interview (Augmented Hollywood)

Picture 3I was interviewed a couple weeks back by Tish Shute for her UgoTrade.com blog. Tish is a very strong supporter and voice for our burgeoning Augmented Reality Industry. She has been doing a series of feature interviews lately with all the major companies in the AR space. If you are new to AR, I highly recommend diving into UgoTrade for a truly inside perspective on things.

As for my interview, we spoke about AR from a bit of a Hollywood angle. Since I have been in a lot of studio meetings lately for Ogmento, touting our mobile Augmented Reality services, I shared a bit of insight on things from that perspective.

Here is an excerpt:

Brian Selzer: Hollywood creatives caught the AR bug before they knew what AR was. Look at science fiction movies and video games to see AR everywhere. Terminator, The Matrix, Minority Report, Iron Man.. the list goes on. Look at any video game with an integrated heads-up display. It’s clear Hollywood loves AR. It’s only been in the past few months though that the light bulb has been lit and Hollywood is seeing that the software and hardware are here today to deliver these types of AR experiences in real life (to a lesser extent of course, but the path is getting clear). So yes, the buzz is here and it’s strong. With that, we all have to be prepared for the good, the bad and the ugly as AR goes mainstream.

It certainly goes to show how young this industry is when Ogmento and Total Immersion are currently the only AR companies based in Los Angeles. It’s very exciting to be the only company right now demonstrating a natural feature tracking (markerless) iPhone experience in Hollywood. We are in talks to bring some very big brand and properties to the mobile AR space. The goal is to deliver experiences that create added engagement and value to the consumer.

For much more, check out – Games, Goggles, and Going Hollywood…How AR is Changing the Entertainment Landscape: Talking with Brian Selzer, Ogmento

My Wired.com Interview

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Wired.com interviewed me the other day on the subject of Augmented Reality.

Here is the article, which is currently the featured story on the site. – “If You’re Not Seeing Data, You’re Not Seeing.”

Being a huge Wired fan since the inception of the magazine it was a thrill to be directly contacted by them for my perspective on the dawn of the AR industry. I was asked specifically about the product mix focus for Ogmento, so I hinted at the fact that we are in talks to create mobile marketing campaigns around some major movies and toy lines.

I was slightly miss-quoted on the comment “In 2010 every blockbuster movie is going to have a mobile AR campaign tied to it.” I am not in the position to speak for “every” big movie marketing campaign, but I did share that all of the major movie studios we have met with love the possibilities of mobile AR. It is certain we will see a lot happening in the movie marketing space by end of year and into next.

The day I met Michael Jackson

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I just finished watching the Michael Jackson memorial on television, and I decided as soon as it was over that I wanted to write about the day I met Michael Jackson.

I have told this story to many friends and family members, but I never actually wrote it down. I might as well do it right here, right now, as Michael is on my mind, and the memory of my encounter with him will only fade over time.

It was in 1983 when I met Michael Jackson. He was on top of the world as “The King of Pop.” His album “Thriller” was tearing up the charts. I think he was on his third or fourth #1 song from that album, and everybody in the world seemed to own it. I experienced this frenzy of album sales first hand, as I was working at a record store at the time. It was there, at the record store that Michael Jackson came strolling into my world.

Licorice Pizza was in the Sherman Oaks Galleria, located in the San Fernando Valley. This is the same record store that was used as a location in the movie “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.” The name of the store referred to the vinyl records we sold in those days. We also sold a lot of cassette tapes.

The day Michael walked into my store was a very slow day. It was as if he knew when the mall would have the least amount of people, and decided that was the best day to do a bit of music shopping. I could not tell you what day or time it was exactly, but it was likely mid-week, while most people are at work.

I was managing the store and working the cash register, which was near the front entrance of the store and looked out into the mall. There was nobody in the store other than myself and a co-worker, who was in the backroom. When I first spotted Michael I did not recognize him. And this is why…

I saw a man approaching the store in a Halloween mask. The mask was semi-translucent. I could almost see his face behind the mask, but not quite. The mask had sort of a white colored tint to it, but was mostly clear. The mask was shaped like a human face, as if its purpose was to simply distort the face of the wearer. The only marking on the mask was a black painted mustache. It was very odd to say the least… mainly, because it was nowhere near Halloween time.

I could tell the man behind the mask was African American. He was dressed extremely casual, and even his clothing was sort of a non-costume costume. He was wearing jeans and tennis shoes, and a red plaid button up shirt, with a t-shirt under that. He almost looked like a farmer. It was not a style that would have been considered fashionable at the time. It just seemed strange.

Today, if a man walked into a retail shop in July wearing a Halloween mask, most people would think they were about to be robbed. This thought did not occur to me though. One reason was that a young boy accompanied the masked man. Yes, I said it… Michael’s companion was a young boy, who looking back had an appearance similar to Macaulay Culkin. The boy was blonde, with pale skin, and he was dressed like Michaels twin (only instead of a red plaid shirt, he was wearing green plaid). This boy was not Macaulay though, as I think this was even earlier than their friendship.

So, there I see an African American man wearing a Halloween mask, dressed like a farmer, with his young blonde haired friend who was dressed the same (but with no mask). They walked right up to me when the man behind the mask spoke — “Hello, can you help me to find some Stevie Wonder tapes?”

As soon as I heard the voice, I knew it was Michael. It was high-pitched, rather quiet and gentle. The face behind the mask came into focus more. The hair. The mannerisms. It was him. Talk about a Thriller! Michael Jackson was standing right in front of me. I could not help but try to make out his features more from behind the translucent mask. I was stunned to say the least.

Over the years, we had lots of musicians come through that Licorice Pizza. I remember meeting members of REO Speedwagon, ABC, Bananarama, Spandau Ballet, Mr. Mister, and even Billy Idol.. but nobody comes close to Michael Jackson.

I could tell by the mask he wore and his body language that he really did not want people to know it was him (Duh!). He was trying not to attract attention. Yes, he was wearing a Halloween mask in July! Hello?! Still, his strategy was working. He and his pal came in alone, and nobody else was in the store with us. I felt it was my duty not to freak out, but to simply help him find the music he was looking for.

So I took Michael over to the Stevie Wonder tapes against the wall, and left him to browse with his friend. Micheal and his friend were squated down going through the tapes together, and I can only imagine Michael was giving the boy a bit of a musical education on Stevie Wonder. Two minutes later they were back at the register with me placing every single Stevie Wonder cassette we had in stock on the counter to be purchased. Obviously he was a fan.

I rang up the purchase, and Michael took out a credit card to pay. Sure enough, right there printed on the Master Card it said “Michael J. Jackson.” I knew it! The King of Pop was in my store. So what do you think I said next to Michael? I said, “Mr. Jackson, may I see your drivers license or a picture ID?” Checking ID was standard credit card protocol, and the man was wearing a mask after all.

He took out his driver’s license and handed it over. Yep, it was Michael alright. There, the Michael Jackson we all know and love (the face on his Thriller album) was smiling back at me. When I gave the ID back to him, I looked up and the real Michael Jackson was smiling too. In that moment, we both knew I was just doing my job by asking for his ID, and his smile was sort of saying “we are cool, right?”

As I finished the transaction, I then felt comfortable enough, or compelled perhaps to murmur “Huge fan, Michael.” Short, and to the point. He said “Thank you!” That was our conversation. Lame, but remarkable.

Now, I wish I could say that I had kept the conversation going, and that I had asked him to autograph an album, but that’s not how it played out. As he was signing his credit card receipt, my co-worker came out from the back room. Having another person walking towards us changed the dynamic right away. I was almost fearful for Michael that his secret would be discovered, and then all hell would break loose. There were a few random people walking past the front entrance of the store, and I felt the right thing to do was let the man go in peace.

Michael left the store with his bag of Stevie Wonder tapes, and I watched him as he continued through the mall and out of sight. He passed by some people who turned their heads, but not because it was Michael, because it was some man wearing a Halloween mask. Michael’s secret was safe.

I remember saying rather casually to my co-worker, “You just missed Michael Jackson. Yeah, he just bought up all our Stevie Wonder tapes. We better order more. Yeah, he was wearing a mask. Yeah, I’m certain it was him.”

Sure, it would be nice to have an autographed “Thriller” album made out to Michael’s pal Brian. I’m sure he would have signed one for me had I asked. There was something so odd about the whole experience though. At the time, I felt that the best way to show him I was a fan was to just play it cool, and treat him like any other customer. In my mind the fact that he knew I knew, and I calmly and quietly told him I was a fan, but did not make a fuss or draw attention to him was the right way to go.

For all his strangeness, I can only say that his kind spirit shined through from behind that mask. When he spoke, the tone of his voice was rather shy and like a child.

It was bizarre. It was a thrill. It was a day I will never forget.

RIP Michael.

My 3D Facial Avatar

While at GDC I had my face scanned by EyeBCom, for a realistic 3D facial avatar. The scan turned out really nice, although I hate to admit this because I look very serious and a tad goofy.

I also met with the gang over at BigStage and had my picture scanned into their system. I will update this post once I get access to that demo. Once scanned into their system BigStage offers a bunch of movie clips which you can integrate your face into, turning yourself into the star. This final product is a bit like what JibJab and Gizmoz are doing now, but with 3D tech you can take things much further than just the floating head effect typically seen.

These 3D facial scans have obvious User-Generated Content (UGC) implications, allowing people to easily upload their photos online and put themselves into video game and animation experiences. BigStage currently asks for 3 pictures to be taken (a bit much) and a standard webcam camera will not work (resolution too low), so the barrier to entrance is still a bit high. Still, things are changing quickly and soon it will be very easy to star in any online content you want using these technologies.

As we get ready to launch instafilms.com, this is certainly a viable extension of our business, and should prove to be a lot of fun once integrated. Why just direct your own videos and animation, when you can star in them too?

Happy Moo Year! 2009, Year of the Ox

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According to the Chinese calendar, the Ox (or Cow) is an animal that brings prosperity through hard work. In these uncertain economic times, it seems a bit of hard work is what will be needed to turn things around

I am very fortunate to enjoy my career as a digital media executive, and look forward to the work ahead! I can’t help but be optimistic and excited about the coming year and all that is in store. I look forward to the launch of instafilms.com and the continued growth of mashade.com. These two UGC sites rooted in the video game industry have enourmous potential!

I have new project being incubated right now too, and they are super exicting! I look forward to fleshing out the business plan, finding the right people to collaborate with in 2009, and getting things moving! Target launch 2010 (it’s a big project)!

I have a renewed interest in mobile media, having taken a bit of a break for the past two years. The iPhone and the apps store have made mobile much more interesting to me again. I am also really fascinated by augmented reality as it applies to mobile. I think 2009 will the year I jump back into developing content / applications for mobile devices agiain. Mobile play’s a large roll in my next pet project, so it’s time to roll up the sleeves again.

Happy 2008! The Year of Creative Energy

Have you ever compared your current New Year resolutions with those of the past and found them to be the same? I have… on too many occasions! Mine typically revolve around things like exercise, eating right, advancing my career, spending more time with friends and family, etc.

This year my New Year resolution has a slightly different spin… to fill myself with creative energy; stay focused on what I want in life, and have the unswerving intention of doing it! This year I am appreciating where I have been and applying lessons learned to the adventure ahead. I have numerous exciting projects and goals to accomplish this year, and I can’t wait to get started.

I wish all my friends, family and colleagues a very happy New Year! May your creative energy flow strong, making 2008 the best year yet!