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

Serious Gaming

Recently, there has been a lot of attention focused on the notion of “Serious Games.” I could not be more pleased, as this is an area of great interest to me, and one I intend to explore much more of in the coming years.

I am excited at the notion that gaming can have a powerful impact on society, by tapping into social networking, educating players to important issue, and perhaps motivating them to take action in the real world. This idea has been gaining in popularity, but I think the break-out game is nowhere in sight! The game that will truly change the world for the better on a global scale! It’s possible!

A bit of background…

My experience with Superdudes has had a lasting impact on me. Back in 2002, I had the privilege of collaborating with some amazing people who took their role as “real-life-superheroes” to heart. Together we created a social network gaming portal, which had a higher-purpose — to change the world!
Superdudes had modest success, with over 1 million sign-ups in just under two years. The site was acquired by Intermix Networks and than later by Fox Interactive as part of the MySpace deal. Today, the site is still active with loyal members despite no updates to it since 2005. The magic that site produced is undeniable, and will live on in one form or another.

Fast forward to today…

The Serious Games Initiative is focused on uses for games in exploring management and leadership challenges facing the public sector. Part of its overall charter is to help forge productive links between the electronic game industry and projects involving the use of games in education, training, health, and public policy. This is a good thing!

There are also companies like Persuasive Games who are focused on games for persuasion, instruction, and activism. The hope to influence players to “…take action through gameplay” and understand that “games communicate differently than other media; they not only deliver messages, but also simulate experiences. While often thought to be just a leisure activity, games can also become rhetorical tools.”

Games like World Without Oil and Darfur is Dying are early success stories on what is certain to become a growing trend in Social Activist Gaming.

I’ll be tracking and repoting on these types of projects in the future.

It’s time to get serious about having fun!