My Conversation with James Cameron

I don’t make it a habit of sharing personal conversations on my blog, but when the individual you are exchanging ideas with happens to be James Cameron, it’s very difficult not to share (okay brag) a little.

I was invited to a private Avatar screening on the Fox Studio lot, presented by James Cameron and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). The screening showed about an hours worth of the film, and focused on the strong environmental message throughout. James Cameron spoke after the film on the amazing reception the movie has made with environmentally conscious people. He discussed his passion for nature, technology, and much more (Have you seen his 3D undersea documentaries?). The irony that Avatar uses state-of-the-art “technology” to tell a story about “getting back to nature” does not get past him. It is this topic — “using technology to better the planet” that I was most interested in speaking with Mr. Cameron about.

The screening was followed by a reception, where I got to meet and speak with Mr. Cameron for about 10 minutes. We spoke primarily about Augmented Reality, which played a large role in the making and marketing of Avatar.

Coke, Mattel, and McDonald’s used Augmented Reality to integrate the Avatar brand into their cans, toys and happy meals. James Cameron also used AR technology in the filming of Avatar, to pre-visualize his actors within the CG scenes live, and in real-time. For those familiar with motion capture animation technology. Mr. Cameron pushed this further… creating a system that allowed him to observe on a monitor how the actors’ virtual counterparts interacted with the movie’s digital world in a real time environment. He was able to adjust and direct the scenes as if shooting live action, but in a computer generated world.

Mr. Cameron and I started to speak about the power of entertainment and games to motivate people to action towards bettering the world, and this is where things really got interesting. It became clear immediately that this was our shared passion… to not only entertain and engage people… but to motivate people towards good. I shared a bit about my past projects like Superdudes, and the notion of “games with goals” really resonated with Mr. Cameron.

It’s fairly clear that a movie like Avatar is a success because it delivers on many levels… beyond box office numbers, it entertains, and it gets people to think… and maybe even act! I would not be surprised if all the talk about the 3D technology and the enormous box office of Avatar are soon overshadowed by the message and impact of the movie itself on our society.

Needless to say it was a great honor to be able to talk about things like augmented reality, technology, movies, games, and the environment with James Cameron. It is my hope that the work we do at Ogmento can make a similar impact with people the way Avatar did… delivering content that immerses people into a new world… entertains, engages, challenges…and as a bonus perhaps motivates people to take action and do their part in making the world a better place.

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

wired_logo

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 Legacy of Tron and Syd

There are a just a handful of movies that truly influenced me in life and are simply part of my DNA. Tron is one of those movies.

The visual impact of Tron and its computer-generated worlds drove me to take computer graphic classes, and ultimately end up working in the fields of comic books, video games, digital media and virtual worlds.

Now, over 25 years later, I’m thrilled to be watching this new footage from Tron: Legacy. The look-and-feel seems nostalgic and retro, yet modern and updated at the same time.

I can’t post about Tron without giving a bit shout out to Syd Mead for being such a rock star conceptual artist. Many of my all time favorite movies have his signature on them (Tron, Blade Runner, Aliens, 2001…).

Here is a nice video on the art and life of Syd Mead! A true visionary who I had the privilage of meeting at last years Comic Con.

Augmented Reality Comic Con

I just returned from Comic Con (my 15th year), where I was showing people our iPhone Augmented Reality demo (ogmento.com). I am happy to report that there is fantastic buzz on our application with lots of interest from the entertainment, gaming and publishing sectors. It’s clear many are ready now to take the AR plunge!

While I was walking the convention floor with our mobile AR demo, I was pleased to discover 2009 to be the first year AR was showing up at the convention.

Focus Features had an AR demo using a webcam for the movie “9” produced by Tim Burton. The poster for the movie is just a giant QR code, which will unlock the movie trailer. The AR demo had kids holding a postcard with a marker on the back in front of the webcam, and a static animated figure appeared.

Sony’s District 9 was also being promoted at Comic Con, and they have an AR exprience online promoting that movie too.

The most interesting official AR presentation was by Mattel, which introduced toys based on the movie “Avatar.” The toy line is being released with an augmented reality counterpart, as each toy comes with a 3D tag (i-Tag) which can be held under a webcam leading to an animated 3D vehicles coming alive on your computer. These vehicles can do battle as if you were playing a video game. Total Immersion developed this AR experience for Mattel, and they certainly are the reigning kings of the webcam-based experiences. The animations and audio were really nice, and the overall experience is a great bonus feature enhancement to the toy line.

I think this was the first entertainment convention where AR made a big splash. More and more people are now being introduced to Augmented Reality, and 2010 is looking to be a banner year as movie studios, toy companies and publishers begin to embrace the technology.