IMAX 3.0 Underway with Acquisition of Streaming Tech Firm

IMAX Corp. has acquired SSIMWAVE, a leader in AI-driven video streaming solutions for $21 million in a mostly cash deal. Ontario-based SSIMWAVE lists Disney, Paramount Global and Warner Bros. Discovery among those currently using its technology, which lets streaming and broadcast providers deliver what IMAX says is “the best possible image” to any device for on-demand and live video. The move marks a significant expansion of IMAX’s strategy to deliver its own super-sized content at the highest quality to a variety of screens, including phones. As a service, SSIMWAVE fits IMAX’s financial strategy to generate new, recurring revenue. Continue reading IMAX 3.0 Underway with Acquisition of Streaming Tech Firm

Immersive Gamebox Pacts with Netflix for IRL ‘Squid Game’

Netflix has licensed “Squid Game” rights to location-based game destination Immersive Gamebox, which will launch an interactive — and safe — version of the deadly competition, at U.S. locations including Manhattan, Dallas, Salt Lake City and San Jose, as well as overseas sites in the UK and Germany. Fans who purchase a ticket for $24.99 to $39.99 (£20.62 to £32.98) can participate in all six challenges from the show using 3D motion tracking visors and touchscreens placed around the room. Players that don’t “survive” will lose “lives,” while winners “earn money in the piggy bank,” though not actual cash.  Continue reading Immersive Gamebox Pacts with Netflix for IRL ‘Squid Game’

Spotify Debuts Live Streaming In-App, Rebrands Greenroom

Spotify is integrating live audio capabilities from its Spotify Greenroom app into the flagship Spotify service and rebranding the feature as “Spotify Live.” The company says the change “reflects our belief in the future of live-audio creators and live experiences being provided to all 406 million Spotify listeners around the globe.” Spotify Live will continue to live as a standalone app, as well as providing live-stream functionality within Spotify for music and podcasts. Beginning this week, Spotify will enable in-app live streaming for its original programming while independent creators can stream live using the separate app. Continue reading Spotify Debuts Live Streaming In-App, Rebrands Greenroom

Female-Driven No-Code Game App Dorian Raises $14 Million

Fiction writers are invited to bring their art to life as mobile games with no-code app Dorian. Founded in 2018, Dorian offers choose-your-own-adventure play for free, but lets users spend in-app currency to choose narrative paths, promising authors a first-dollar cut of the payments. The company, which builds for iOS and Android, claims a library of roughly 3,500 games, created by a “nearly all-female creator community” of about 250 monetizing storytellers, a number it says is growing quickly compared to other platforms, where it can take years to start earning. Dorian recently raised $14 million in Series A funding led by The Raine Group. Continue reading Female-Driven No-Code Game App Dorian Raises $14 Million

Viewers Choose Episode Order in Netflix Heist Series ‘Jigsaw’

Netflix is exploring another interactive story approach with its upcoming eight-part series “Jigsaw,” currently in production. The heist thriller will allow viewers to watch the first seven episodes in any order, culminating in a designated finale that will tie things up, no matter the path chosen by different viewers. Branching story structure is nothing new to fans of video games and Netflix previously experimented with the format in the “Black Mirror” special “Bandersnatch” and “Love, Death + Robots,” but “Jigsaw” shakes things up a bit in that the series arc can be constructed at random. Continue reading Viewers Choose Episode Order in Netflix Heist Series ‘Jigsaw’

Illuminarium to Launch ‘Wild’ Immersive Experience in Atlanta

On July 1, experiential entertainment company Illuminarium Experiences will open its first location in Atlanta, Georgia, offering “Wild,” a virtual safari shot by RadicalMedia. The company’s immersive entertainment is intended to offer a kind of virtual reality — but without the clunky headsets. Instead, visitors walk through exhibits with 4K video on giant screens, spatial sound systems, haptic flooring and other interactive features including scent. Tickets for “Wild,” at $35, give the visitor an hour to walk through an 8,000-square-foot room. Continue reading Illuminarium to Launch ‘Wild’ Immersive Experience in Atlanta

ETC Execs to Discuss Future of Production at Makers Pop-Up

Makers Pop-Up is a 2-day virtual conference for the creative community that explores the merger of technology with storytelling in film, TV, advertising, interactive and animation. The event, scheduled for Wednesday-Thursday this week (June 9-10), will provide a digital space to make connections, meet potential partners and share ideas and resources. Two executives from ETC@USC will offer their expertise on panels: Yves Bergquist will address the “Virtual Creative Muse: The Evolution of AI as Artistic Mentor and Production Assistant” and Erik Weaver will discuss “Fix it in Prep: How Virtual Production Front Loads Creative Decisions and Costs.” Continue reading ETC Execs to Discuss Future of Production at Makers Pop-Up

ETC Executive Coffee: Disney on Immersive Media Storytelling

Disney executives met virtually with USC students on April 7 for the fourth installment in ETC@USC’s Spring 2021 Executive Coffee with… series. Mark Mine, director of the Technology Innovation Group at The Walt Disney Studios, along with his Disney colleague Daniel Baker, senior producer of technology innovation – interactive experiences, engaged a group of nine USC students in a one-hour discussion on “The Future of Immersive Media Storytelling.” They discussed the “aura” of effective immersive media, the balance between game elements and narrative elements, the use of light and shadow for user interface and user experience design, and the importance of navigation. Continue reading ETC Executive Coffee: Disney on Immersive Media Storytelling

Universal Character Model Detailed in Latest ETC White Paper

ETC@USC teamed with Charisma.ai, Digital Domain, Fable Studio and Write Brothers, Inc. to publish a white paper on an innovative character definition tool that enables casting audience members within a story. The goal is to help construct new immersive experiences across different narrative formats using a variety of authoring systems. The proposal features a Universal Character Model (UCM) that houses all motivations, goals and methods of any specific character in order to create consistent behavior within the fluid context of interactive and dynamic stories. The white paper is now available to the creative community. Continue reading Universal Character Model Detailed in Latest ETC White Paper

Disney Premieres Interactive Short at Sundance Film Festival

During Sundance Film Festival 2021 (January 28 – February 3), Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution and Disney Television Animation is showcasing an interactive short — “Baymax Dreams of Fred’s Glitch” — that plays via Nvidia’s GeForce NOW streaming service. The game-like short features the cast from “Big Hero 6” and challenges the viewer to fix Fred’s destructive “glitch” and Baymax’s programming. “Baymax Dreams” is part of the New Frontier Alliance Showcase at Sundance. GeForce NOW, officially unveiled in 2015, recently launched for the Chrome web browser and M1 Macs in beta. Continue reading Disney Premieres Interactive Short at Sundance Film Festival

Former Magic Leap CEO Now Building Synthetic Characters

Rony Abovitz, who stepped down as chief exec of augmented reality company Magic Leap in 2020, is now heading Sun and Thunder, a startup focused on synthetic characters and interactive storytelling made possible by spatial computing. That latter goal leans into the work Abovitz did at Magic Leap to create mixed reality experiences. Abovitz said Sun and Thunder is building its own technology platform, the TREX101, and output isn’t tied to any specific media or platform. Meanwhile, Magic Leap is now headed by former Microsoft executive Peggy Johnson. Continue reading Former Magic Leap CEO Now Building Synthetic Characters

Virtual Event: GPT-3 and Its Implications for the M&E Industry

To fully examine the inner workings and potential impact of deep learning language model GPT-3 on media, ETC’s project on AI & Neuroscience in Media is hosting a virtual event on November 10 from 11:00 am to 12:15 pm. RSVP here to join moderator Yves Bergquist of ETC@USC and presenter Dr. Mark Riedl of Georgia Tech as they present, “Machines That Can Write: A Deep Look at GPT-3 and its Implications for the Industry.” The launch last June of OpenAI’s GPT-3, a language model that uses deep learning to generate human-like text, has raised many questions in the creative community and the world at large.  Continue reading Virtual Event: GPT-3 and Its Implications for the M&E Industry

Music Is the Focus in Spotify’s New ‘Original Shows’ Format

In response to learning that listeners want to discover and save music in their favorite podcasts, Spotify is debuting “Original Shows,” a new spoken word format that combines music with particular themes featuring a monologue or conversation with guests. But, unlike a typical podcast, each song inside an Original Show will redirect the listener to that artist’s Spotify official audio files. That means the artist will make the same money as if a listener sought out his or her music. Listeners can also like and save a song while they’re listening to it. Continue reading Music Is the Focus in Spotify’s New ‘Original Shows’ Format

Niantic and Punchdrunk Partner to Develop New AR Projects

Punchdrunk, the British theater company that produced “Sleep No More,” and Niantic, developer of popular mobile games “Pokémon Go” and “Harry Potter: Wizards Unite,” are teaming up to collaborate on several projects. In “Sleep No More” — an immersive but not interactive show — audience members walked through rooms at their own pace, with actors performing hour-long loops. Punchdrunk already produced a virtual reality project for Samsung Gear VR and a mobile game with Silverpoint. The two companies haven’t released details on their first project. Continue reading Niantic and Punchdrunk Partner to Develop New AR Projects

KidHQ: Walmart and Mattel Renting Space in Virtual Store

Online toy shopping is getting increasingly creative, as digital reality tools rise in popularity among retailers and consumers. Walmart and Mattel are now leasing “floors” at the BuzzFeed-produced interactive video experience KidHQ, a virtual reality store that allows users to browse products via choose-your-own-adventure-style videos. Both companies are looking ahead to the holiday season as they try to sell toys ranging from Barbies to “Frozen 2” merchandise, and are using interactive video to connect with consumers to do so. 

Continue reading KidHQ: Walmart and Mattel Renting Space in Virtual Store