NBCUniversal Set to Launch Universal Kids Network This Fall

On September 9, NBCUniversal will unveil the rebranding of its Sprout cable property into a new network, Universal Kids, to be overseen by Sprout exec Deirdre Brennan. The network will feature family-friendly content from DreamWorks Animation, Illumination Entertainment and Universal theme park attractions. Whereas Sprout targets preschool children, Universal Kids will broaden its reach to children 2 through 11 years old. The first series is “Top Chef Junior,” a version of Bravo’s cooking competition show. Continue reading NBCUniversal Set to Launch Universal Kids Network This Fall

NAB 2017: Panasonic Establishes New North America Division

Just before NAB 2017, Panasonic opened a new company, Panasonic Media Entertainment Company, to specialize in the sports and entertainment sectors in North America. The company will be based in Newark, New Jersey, in Panasonic North America’s headquarters, with facilities in Denver, Los Angeles, Orlando and the greater Dallas area. The new company will also work closely with Panasonic Corporation’s new Connected Solutions Company, which will serve six industries, one of them media and entertainment. Continue reading NAB 2017: Panasonic Establishes New North America Division

Startup to Introduce Holographic TV Technology at NAB 2017

Startup Light Field Labs, founded by three former Lytro engineers, is working on creating holographic displays via light field technology. The goal is to create a TV set that can project a 3D hologram into the living room, with the further-off goal of enabling the user to touch it. Although that might sound like science fiction, the company founders stand behind their idea, and state the company will be able to ship a few displays to developers in 2018. Commercial production will be in operation by 2019 or 2020. Continue reading Startup to Introduce Holographic TV Technology at NAB 2017

Disney Tests Prototype, Pursues Patent for Soft-Bodied Robot

Disney recently submitted a patent application for “a robot that will move and physically interact like an animated character.” The prototype sketch with the application shows a round body similar to the soft-robot character in Disney’s 2014 “Big Hero 6.” Before soft-body robots can be employed at Disney theme parks, the company will have to deal with the issue of robotic interaction safety, since the patent application implies that theme park guests will be able to hug the soft-body characters. Continue reading Disney Tests Prototype, Pursues Patent for Soft-Bodied Robot

Sea Change in Guest Experience Announced by Carnival CEO

When CTA announced Carnival Corporation, the world’s largest leisure travel company, as the opening keynote of CES 2017, it was reasonable to anticipate a major announcement and speculate that the defined characteristics of cruise ships and travelers could be a proving ground for smart tech and the promise of IoT technologies. This morning, Arnold Donald, CEO of Carnival Corporation, introduced the development of Ocean Medallion, what he described as “the world’s first interactive guest experience platform capable of transforming vacation travel into a highly personalized and elevated level of customized service.” Continue reading Sea Change in Guest Experience Announced by Carnival CEO

Nintendo, Comcast Reveal Details of Universal Park Alliance

After inking a deal in May 2015 with Universal Parks & Resorts, a unit of Comcast NBCUniversal, the two companies are finally revealing details of how that partnership would play out at three Universal Studios theme parks. Configured as a park-within-a-park, Nintendo videogame characters will star at rides, restaurants and other forms of entertainment. Dubbing the setting “expansive, immersive and interactive,” Nintendo and Comcast say the new attractions will open in the coming years at Orlando, Los Angeles and Osaka, Japan. Continue reading Nintendo, Comcast Reveal Details of Universal Park Alliance

Japan Emerges as Hub for Virtual Reality Culture, Innovations

Japan is on track to become a virtual reality powerhouse, largely due to the imminent release of Sony PlayStation VR. Mixed-reality theme parks, VRcades, augmented reality, and VR retail applications are all gaining traction. Gumi, GREE and Colopl, which has made about 30 VR investments, are a few of the major domestic VR investors. One VR startup, FOVE, a pioneer in eye tracking, has already raised $11 million; its chief executive Yuka has been featured in Forbes and SoftBank’s Taizo Son, chairman/founder of mobile gaming company GungHo, is one of its investors.

Continue reading Japan Emerges as Hub for Virtual Reality Culture, Innovations

Disney Accelerator’s New Startups Address Robotics, AI, VR

The Walt Disney Company has invited nine new companies into its 2016 Accelerator program. Disney Accelerator, now in its third season, has gained a desirable profile as several alumni have inked partnership deals with Disney. Among them are Sphero, creator of the BB-8 droid “Star Wars” toy and sports data platform StatMuse, which now works with Disney’s ESPN. One of this year’s invited startups, says The Walt Disney Company’s senior vice president of innovation Michael Abrams, is an internal project team. Continue reading Disney Accelerator’s New Startups Address Robotics, AI, VR

The VOID Debuts its First Mixed Reality Attraction in New York

The VOID has opened its “Ghostbusters”-themed experience inside Madame Tussauds wax museum in Times Square. “For $50, visitors can strap on a VR headset and a backpack computer fashioned into a ‘Ghostbusters’ proton pack, pick up a matching gun-shaped plastic prop, and act out a cinematic fantasy in real life,” explains The Verge, which describes “Ghostbusters: Dimension” as “stunningly intricate.” The experience utilizes tracking markers to create full-body avatars of guests and haptic feedback to add unique physical sensations. As Road to VR notes, its success “has something to do with its ‘4D’ components (e.g., the Slimer-cued mist, mock-rickety platforms, the vibrating vest)” and “the user engagement prompted by walking around in and interfacing with a semi-real virtual space.” Continue reading The VOID Debuts its First Mixed Reality Attraction in New York

Comcast to Purchase DreamWorks Animation for $3.8 Billion

The rumors are true. Comcast announced yesterday that it would acquire DreamWorks Animation SKG in a deal valued at $3.8 billion. The move reflects a significant change in entertainment media as companies seek new ways to address the impact of evolving trends such as streaming video and cord-cutting. Since animation performs well in foreign markets and helps drive consumer product sales, DreamWorks could serve as a vital resource for NBCUniversal. The animation studio could also become a launch pad for the Universal theme parks unit, which is currently planning a new park in Beijing. Continue reading Comcast to Purchase DreamWorks Animation for $3.8 Billion

Comcast is Reportedly in Early Discussions to Purchase DWA

Reports have surfaced that Comcast is in talks to purchase DreamWorks Animation SKG for more than $3 billion. The unconfirmed deal would make the cable giant a major player in the family entertainment business, and possibly provide additional leverage for building out theme park and consumer product businesses. According to The Wall Street Journal, “One person with knowledge of the talks said that DreamWorks and Illumination Entertainment, Universal’s animation studio, would remain separate brands.” However, a deal could provide Universal with a greater presence in China, where DreamWorks chief exec Jeffrey Katzenberg has focused much of his attention. Continue reading Comcast is Reportedly in Early Discussions to Purchase DWA

ILM and Disney Unveil Compelling VR Experiences for Movies

Industrial Light & Magic’s Experience Lab (ILMxLAB), the Lucasfilm R&D division that prototypes interactive, immersive cinema for VR, augmented reality and theme park attractions, debuted a VR experience of “Jurassic World” at Sundance. Now, it’s rolling out “Trials on Tatooine,” a VR demo using the same CG models created for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” Lucasfilm’s parent company Disney also just released a new 360-degree video, “Cold Lairs,” to tease its upcoming “Jungle Book” remake. Continue reading ILM and Disney Unveil Compelling VR Experiences for Movies

GDC 2016: Creating Virtual Worlds for Companies and Brands

Tony Christopher, president and CEO of Landmark Entertainment Group, is currently developing a Virtual Worlds Fair. The project started with a discussion with Steven Spielberg 20 years ago, and is currently moving forward with funding from Chinese backers. The fair will feature four key areas: Dataland, an entertainment and education VR experience for children; Intencity, for branded VR experiences; Passportal, to virtually experience the wonders of different countries; and the Tower of Humanity, to celebrate the planet through virtual experiences. Continue reading GDC 2016: Creating Virtual Worlds for Companies and Brands

Lucasfilm Shows Off ‘Star Wars’ VR Experience with HTC Vive

Lucasfilm’s ILMxLAB R&D unit just did a limited demonstration of its new “Star Wars” virtual reality experience: “Star Wars: Trials on Tatooine,” using the HTC Vive headset. The user, by walking around in a 15×15-foot space, explores the planet’s surface, does some maintenance on a Millennium Falcon, meets R2-D2 and fight offs a group of attacking Stormtroopers with a lightsaber. After unveiling the experience to a group of journalists, Lucafilm plans to allow other “select audiences” to also experience it. Continue reading Lucasfilm Shows Off ‘Star Wars’ VR Experience with HTC Vive

Chinese Company Buys Legendary Entertainment for $3.5B

Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group paid $3.5 billion in cash to purchase Legendary Entertainment, one of Hollywood’s largest independent movie companies, making it the largest such deal between Hollywood and China. Dalian Wanda’s other Hollywood holdings include AMC Entertainment, the second largest cinema chain in the U.S. The company, which got its start in real estate, also owns theaters and produces movies in China. Legendary has co-financed numerous movies, produced its own and has TV and digital divisions. Continue reading Chinese Company Buys Legendary Entertainment for $3.5B

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