Well after 4 years at Pixvana chasing after the dream of VR and headset based immersive storytelling, today marked a huge milestone–we shipped our first iOS release of SPIN Play. It turns out that the billion+ users of mobile phones and iPads are a super compelling audience for immersive storytelling, and while it wasn’t our initial target, it is the most exciting milestone in our team’s journey.
You can get Pixvana SPIN Play for iOS now from the Apple App Store for iOS devices. iPad only release today but iPhone will be out shortly (we did a vertical layout for phones which is more comfortable in your hand given how big phones have gottent).
Ok so we are adding support to Pixvana SPIN Studio to share URLs more easily of what we call SPINs, playlists of content. Here’s our default SPIN that loads when you download our player app, SPIN Play, from various app stores (iOS App Store, Oculus, etc.):
“XR-vu“, or “VR-vu”…whichever term comes into vogue in the near-future, i want to go on record as saying that it happened to me a few weeks, ago, and I liked it–a lot!
Yes i’m playing on the word “deja-vu“, that oh so fun feeling of experiencing something and having a sense of foreboding or otherworldly prescience, as though you’ve previously dreamed of the moment or even lived the moment, in a different state of consciousness? Well play with me for a moment–take that feeling, and now imagine what that feels like when it arises because you HAVE experienced the moment before… but in Virtual Reality or another form of XR (extended reality)?
That’s what i experienced a few weeks ago when I visited Ollantaytambo Peru, a lovely Andean village about 2 hrs outside of Cusco, the former empire capital of the Incas. I had been to the region before, about 30 years ago when i was backpacking for 18 months after college. However, i had never been to Ollantaytambo’s ruins–not in person. But I did visit Ollantaytambo in Virtual Reality, in a detailed, compelling experience that was built by Microsoft as an example of how tourism and travel might be conveyed using VR. It shipped as Microsoft HoloTour, a demonstration app that launched in 2017. This technical document describes what the team did to build the Holotour experience of Ollantaytambo–quite interesting mix of techniques to photographically capture and convey the site.
Unfortunately i couldn’t find any images to illustrate the experience in the headset–suffice to say that in Holotour, i experienced standing in the midst of the Ollataytambo ruins… and when i visited these dame ruins in April of 2019, i had a triple-take moment that flooded my brain with a sense of *very* strong “deja-vu” like cues. Have i been here before? Why does this place seem so familiar? Did I dream it?
No, i had never been here. But yes, i was here in Virtual Reality! Wow. WOW. It was all the fun of deja-vu, times at least 5x… or maybe 10x. It really showed me the difference between seeing a picture or a movie, and having been immersed and felt the unique compelling experience of *presence* that is the hallmark of XR/VR, which triggers activity in the human brain that forms actual spatial *memories* that i was then recollecting/remembering, as though they were real. I don’t know if this feeling would always be as strong, say, if i had felt this sensation many times before? But it was incredibly interesting, and i wanted to first at the podium to share it and i look forward to writing about it more and discussing it with others as they have XR-vu of their own!
Buy a japan-rail pass before flying to japan, activate it at Narita or other JR Rail station. Huge savings over buying tickets individually or locally in japan after arrival, 7 or 14 day passes, you can make reservations for multiple trips at any JR Rail station and have nice comfy chairs, reserved seats, and tons of fun. Riding the bullet trains never gets old, great fun and way to get around the entire country. lots of google ads take you to vendors who sell the passes, all are licensed, but i used this one.
Amazing Tsukiji market tour and private cooking class, this was insanely good. We did this before the move of the market out of central tokyo to god-knows-where. But this company was top shelf, and the experience insanely good. Best sushi meal of the trip, and fun for family with 2 teenagers not easily impressed: http://www.tsukiji–market.jp/
Really reasonable great location boutique hotel. Cheap/great-value, and good location. I’ve stayed in 5+ hotels in Kyoto that were all more $$ and lesser locations. Very, very small rooms, but comfy. Kyoto Granbell Hotel.
Phenomenal 6-person, michelin-star sushi restaurant, best i’ve had in Kyoto, well worth the $150 fixed price experience for 3hrs of entertainment and close-magic-cooking. Sushi Gion Matsudaya.
Great Kyoto cooking class in a private home with a woman-chef who has pro-kitchen experience overseas. Great english, great tour of the market before or after to buy directly from vendors (in the big central Kyoto market), great location, really neat small private home with good kitchen. We spent 3-4 hours with her, were entertained, and great meal. Very price reasonable. Contact Midori Nukumizu at her email: email@example.com.
Insanely good coffee, several locations, be prepared to wait in line for 15-30 minutes… worth it and fun to wait in line in expectation of great coffee!
Do a day trip out and back to Nara, amazing walks from train station to dozens of temples including insanely old/awesome/etc.
If you have the JR Pass, consider taking a morning side-trip from Kyoto on the bullet train to the city of Himeji, to check out the Himeji castle. OMG, insanely awesome… apparently the best/oldest/original castle in the country. So. Cool. Better day/morning trip than others from Kyoto IMHO.
Before or after the castle go to the rope-way and up to a hiking area for a 2-3 hr trek around some old temples that were used in several films including the tom cruise japan film about samurai. Shoshazan Engyo-ji Temple, via the rope-way called Mount Shosha Ropeway
Onomichi – coming soon
Fukuoka – coming soon
Miyajima Island – coming soon
Kanazawa – coming Soon (Kiragawa Go, Takayama day trips)
Just unboxing a Kandao Obsidian R VR Camera, this is going to become my personal VR blogging / testing camera, i really like the form factory and the quality of shots is excellent.
First observations which are important to others considering buying:
Box includes the camera, and a PPOE power injector. And not much else.
NO included LP6 Canon Batteries (2 required to shoot with battery power)
NO micro SD memory cards. they recommend U3 class, 100mb speed cards. I have ordered a set of 6x64gb to start
The power cable for the PPOE adapter is a european plug standard, useless in the USA. This camera was purchased from Kandao directly and drop-shipped from China… perhaps ordering from other sources will yield the proper power cable.
Not much else in the box. The nice carrying case is kind of overkill, i plan to carry this around with me in a wrapped towel in my luggage so it can go on/off planes with me easily.
Our papa Emilio Casanueva passed away Friday May 25th, 2018, at the Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara CA. He was surrounded with love and affection with family. Emilio was born in Chile in 1939 and immigrated to the USA with his young family and eventually settled on the west coast in Marin County CA. Early in his career he opened Campolindo, an innovative health-food store in San Anselmo in the 1970s, and he maintained a life-long interest in health foods and active living. He was the founder of La Barraca de Zapallar and Zapallar Sustentable, and a designer/builder of dozens of delightful homes in Chile, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Santa Barbara. One of Emilio’s greatest passions in life was ocean swimming. He was a founder of swimming clubs and events including the Santa Barbara Channel Swimming Org, and social swimming groups Patos del Mar / Ocean Ducks. He published a book on innovative cooking recipes using Cochayullo.
Emilio was a loving and active father to his 5 sons: Luis Andres, Santiago, Forest, Joaquin, and Roberto. He was an adoring and fun-loving father-in-law to Laura and Cristina. He was a cool and relaxed grandpa to Emilio Jr (and wife Andrea), William, Camila, Carlos, Caetano, and Ava. He had the joy of meeting his first great-granddaughter Nyla this year. His dearest friend and big-brother Catucho survives him, together with his wife Angelica and their many children and grand-children, who knew Emilio intimately and delighted in his company. His nephews Carlos and Diego Casanueva were very dear to his heart, as were Andrea, Angelica, Mario, Cote, Maria, and their partners “Gordo”, “Caco”, Luz Maria, and “Negro”. Emilio’s former wives and co-parents remember him fondly and with great love and affection: Maria and Jane. In Emilio’s last years of life, he had the incredible fortune of returning to Zapallar where he lived some of his most joyous moments together with Francisca who he absolutely adored.
He was beloved and he loved his many friends in the communities in which he lived. He was particularly fond of his life-long friends in Chile and in the USA that shared his passions for swimming, good company, and positive outlooks.
Our family is planning a memorial for Emilio in Zapallar to be held at a later date. His in memorium facebook page is a place to post photos and memories of him.
These people (including some that aren’t pictured):
Just shipped our first baby, Pixvana SPIN Studio:
Pixvana SPIN Studio is an amazing new tool for storytelling with video for Augmented and Virtual Reality. The suite has a lot of components still to come, but our MVP is something we are super proud and excited by–it provides workflow support for optimizing and publishing high quality VR videos to both our SPIN Play SDK and SPIN Play. Login to Pixvana SPIN Studio here.
Our SPIN Play SDK is in the hands of our partners who are building their own branded players, the first of these to be live is Valve’s Steam 360 VR Video player, in beta now. Many more to come. Learn more about the SPIN Play SDK here.
The video player component of the Studio is called SPIN Play. SPIN Play is available on Steam for download for use with both Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. This is the player for reviewing and sharing VR videos–think of it as a b2b player (it is not a consumer portal for videos!) . Versions for other platforms including Gear VR and Daydream VR, coming soon to Google Play and other Android app stores.
We just got back from a lovely spring break in Zapallar Chile visiting family. We took a Omni VR Camera Rig with us and spent a day shooting the areas along the Zapallar-to-Cachagua coastal area and upon my return and review of the footage i’m really excited by how it looks. I’ve got my 15 year old cineast son working on building a ~5m piece for VR which we’ll master at 8k+ using Pixvana’s software.
For now i wanted to post a few photos and production stills:
Just getting going with the equarectangular 4k elements… really exciting project.
Here’s a rough play-out of all shots:
And here’s an extremely rough, early version of the footage. Carlos will be doing a proper edit, sound design, effects, titles, giving it narrative cohesion, etc. Then we’ll master at full 8k and publish with Pixvana’s SPIN Studio. But here’s a preview of work in progress:
Seattle fine artist Jesse Link completed a commissioned piece for me to adorn the Pixvana office. He completed the piece and dropped by our office last week, and my colleagues and I are totally psyched.
My wife and I came across Jesse’s work in various Seattle cafes and first asked him to paint a piece for our home a few years ago. As a fan of his work, he immediately came to mind when we moved into our new Pixvana office on Stone Way in Fremont/Wallingford, and I looked around at the walls longing for some inspirational art and color to liven things up.
At work we have frequently talked about our journey and Pixvana’s mission/vision as a company focused on building a Virtual and Augmented Reality storytelling technology platform. We often use the 1933 classic film King Kong as a metaphor/framework for our own journey, because the film is (a) an absolute classic of the cinema, and (b) the movie contains a meta-story about film-making and pursuing a journey of discovery.
We named Jesse’s protagonist “Sofia” after Sofia Coppola, an inspiring film director. Our Sofia is seen packed and ready to go with her VR Camera, VR headset, and tools for her adventure into the great adventure that lays ahead.
Thank you Jesse–your art piece will be a constant companion to us on our journey in the years ahead.
@Pixvana this week we announced our Virtual Reality Video platform, now known as SPIN VR. The word SPIN has obvious connections to the new VR and AR medium, namely, the ability to “spin” or otherwise adjust your point-of-view to perceive the experience from different perspectives and angles.
The photograph image of “spinning” fireworks was a direct inspiration–it captures both the beauty, power, and chaos of the VR industry and VR Video as a medium, in fall of 2016 (at ground-zero!)
The first two components of Pixvana SPIN will be our SPIN Player and SPIN Publisher. SPIN Player is both our own cross-VR-headset (eg: Android, Windows, Web) playback engine which connects to the Pixvana SPIN cloud to playback VR videos, as well as a set of tools for developers to implement support for SPIN’s video capabilities, in their own applications. SPIN includes a plug-in for Unity development, as well as a full-reference player so that media brands can build and distributed their own branded applications for VR Video. The SPIN Publisher is our cloud publishing toolset to load, encode, optimize, and stream vr-videos from Pixvana’s AWS hosted infrastructure. Videos created with SPIN can be hosted on Pixvana’s system, or, published to your own IT/cloud, for integration with your existing video delivery pipeline and resources.
I’ve worked on naming many products in my software career (Microsoft Expression and Silverlight, Puffin Design’s Commotion, Pinnacle Systems’ CineWave, and for better or worse, buuteeq!). With SPIN we went after a inspiring term for our broad platform for virtual, augmented, and mixed reality storytelling. SPIN aims to cover extensions such as SPIN VR, SPIN AR, and SPIN MR (eg: virtual, augmented, and mixed realities). I know it will be a great container brand to graduate all the way up to SPIN XR (as in “x”-reality).
There is a lot more coming from SPIN. We will be releasing technical previews, the full product, and other news about SPIN’s capabilities.
At Pixvana we use a company culture mini-pulsing product from one of my favorite seattle startups, TinyPulse. Each week the tool asks our team a fun question that can be answered anonymously via browser or iphone and usually takes less than 1 minute. The surveys invite a participatory, transparent, proactive company culture. I’ve written about TinyPulse use at buuteeq, but since Pixvana is a new company, we are enjoying it anew with our 12 person team.
This last week’s question is a really fun one, and I thought i’d share. Photos of the animals were added by me (not the team member who submitted)–i hope it captures the intent of the suggested animal!
If you had to describe Pixvana as an animal, what animal would it be, and why?
Pixvana is like a baby elephant. Although we may be small now, eventually we will grow up to be very big. Elephants are one of the most intelligent animals in the world due to their large brains. If you combined all the brains at Pixvana, it would be like one big engineering elephant brain. Elephants learn to use tools in creative ways without being taught first, which is something that we are doing at Pixvana. They have excellent communication skills and work together to make sure their entire family is successful. Elephants are also snack lovers, and can be found constantly grazing on delicious healthy snacks such as bamboo, leaves and bananas.
An eagle. We need to have incredible vision like an eagle to spot the emerging VR market trends and keep our focus sharp. Also, we need our pixels to be in clear focus like an eagle’s vision. Eagles aren’t the biggest but they move fast and can stay on target. Be nimble, be quick:)
A viper snake that is green and stealthy, because we are currently a relatively stealthy, hidden in the grass kind of animal… that has a lot of venom to unleash when we are ready to strike.
Ants... we’re small (but in a good way) and we work well as a team.
“Known for their massive intellect orca whales often use complex sounds to communicate with each other and coordinate their activities among the group very effectively. They are also formidable problem solvers.”Pixvana would be an orca whale calf. With superior intellect, curiosity, and communication skills it is exploring the uncharted oceans of XR storytelling.
Owl. it’s has great vision and is swift and can turns its head 360!
We should be an Owl.
* like owls we are far sighted in that we can see VR is going to be big and we are running to be there when it happens
* Owls are traditionally thought of wise in stories and we have a gang of wise old men (Paul,Mike,Bill,Suki, Forest, Scott, Sean) [sorry, yea you guys are old :)]
* Owls are a bird of prey. We will prey on the competition
* Owls can swivel their necks and and view the world behind them just as VR video opens the world behind the viewer
* Owls are stealthy just as we are silently building a killer
Chimera – adaptable to any situation.
Parrot– because they are smart adaptable animals able to use a foreign language from a different species, can fly which allows it to be extremely nimble. Parrots don’t get the credit they deserve as avians.
Kudos to Aaron Rhodes and Sean Safreed for the first of many Pixvana videos that outline some of the unique challenges, and solutions, to making great stories and experiences using video in Virtual Reality. This video tackles the unique challenges to working with *really* big video files, on relatively under powered devices and networks. This general approach is something that we think of as “field of view adaptive streaming”, in that unlike traditional adaptive streaming where multiple files are used on the server/cdn to make sure that at any given time, a good video stream is available to the client device… in VR we have to tackle the additional complexity of *where* a viewer is looking within that video. The notion of using “viewports” to break up the stream/video into many smaller, highly optimized for a given FOV, videos, is something we are firing away on at the office these days.
So, should we call this FOVAS for short, for Field of View Adaptive Streaming. ? It is kind of weird, but it makes a lot of sense… i’m using the term regularly, maybe it will stick!
We’re having a lot of fun at the Pixvana working on various VR storytelling technologies, what we have termed “XR Storytelling” as we are thinking broadly about both AR and VR but also xR, such as virtual reality caves, and other as yet to be conceived of immersive platforms which will require similar tools and platforms. One of the key challenges we are working on is how to deliver absolutely gorgeous/high-quality adaptive streaming 360 VR video.
Last week we combined our love for food with our love for VR, and shot a rough blocking short film that we intend to turn into a higher quality production in a few more weeks, when we can bring a higher quality camera rig into the mix. Aaron blocked out the shots while the team at Manolin, the f-ing awesome restaurant next to our office, was prepping for the day. Here is the rough cut:
Then, we threw it into our cloud elastic compute system on AWS and produced several variations as a series of “viewports” which when viewed on a VR headset like the HTC Vive (the best on the market so far) produces some pretty darn immersive/awesome video at a comfortable streaming bandwidth that can delivered on demand to both desktop and mobile VR rigs. Here’s a preview of what the cumulative render “viewports” look like in one configuration of the settings (we are working on dozens of variations using this technique, so we can optimize the quality:bandwidth bar on a per-video basis):
Looking forward to sharing more of what we are up to with the public in the near future–for now, if you are a seattle friend, stop by for a demo, and, delicious dinner at Manolin Restaurant!
Here’s some really clear images and videos that illustrate a VR Video assembly process using a 6 camera go-pro rig. This isn’t meant as a comprehensive how-to, rather, just a visual only guide that I will be using in presentations to walk folks through the process.
A lot of my friends have asked me why i’ve plunged into starting a new company, and, why / how i chose building a VR Video Platform specifically as an area for software innovation? I think i can succinctly summarize as: VR Video is *magical*, and things that are truly *magic* are f8cking cool and rarer than unicorns. I see a unique confluence in time for me, my skills, my passions, and a market need and opportunity. It’s only been about 90 days since I put on my first vintage 2015 VR headset (like many i had tried the 1990s era stuff which just made me vomit), and my Pixvana Co-Founders and I gave birth to our VR Video startup Pixvana this week.
When i put on a HTC Vive headset for the first time and experienced the demos Valve has been showing in summer of 2015, i experienced a profound, complete, pervasive feeling of what I knew immediately to be what the VR industry calls “presence”. The sensation was right there with other must-try-in-a-lifetime, hard-to-describe-to-someone-who-hasn’t-done-it-yet experiences: falling-in-love, skydiving, scuba, sex, certain recreational mind-expanding drugs, finishing a marathon, watching my wife give birth to our boys… Specifically, for me, I experienced a sense of outer-body time and space travel: time stopped functioning on the normal scale of my daily routines, my body perception was replaced with something “virtual” that was not quite real but not quite fake either, and i was taken to far away imagined worlds–underwater, into robot labs and toy tables and several other places that while not photo-real in their rendering, felt and behaved in ways that were significantly real enough that it WAS REAL.
When i took the goggles off after that first experience, it took me a good 3-5 minutes to “come back”–just like landing in Europe after a long flight and sensing the Parisian airport as different than my home city departure equivalent, coming back from the virtual world took me a moment of reflection and introspection to balance the “wait a minute, where am i now”? It made me think of existentialism and some of my favorite Jorge Luis Borges short stories–my mind immediately considered “wait, am i still in VR and i am just perceiving another layer of possible reality, waiting to take off another set of goggles within goggles?” This wasn’t a scary thought or psychotic split, rather, a marvel at the illusion that i had just witnessed, like a great card trick from a magician–only it was my own mind that had played the trick on me…
In addition to the Steam VR experience (HTC Vive is just one hardware implementation, what I was really marveling at was Valve’s SteamVR vision and software–not the hardware form factor) in the last few months I’ve tried most of the other mainstream 2016 expected delivery VR experiences: Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear, Playstation’s VR, and a variety of configurations of Google Cardboard and various phones. In terms of delivering “presence”, without a doubt the Vive is on a completely different level–i’d rate it a 10 on a scale of 1-10, the DK2 Rift and Sony VR a 5, Samsung Gear a 3, and Google Cardboard a -5 (i’ll write more in detail about Cardboard in the future–suffice to say it is antithetical to creating any sense of presence, and it does VR an injustice to have so many of them floating around out there, suggesting a inferior experience is to be expected to all the unknowing consumers who have tried it and think they have seen what is coming in VR). But these distinctions between hardware systems this early in the market is really inconsequential. I believe that just like with mobile devices or PCs, within 5 years the hardware will become pretty uniform and indistinct (is there really any difference at all between a iPhone 6 and a Samsung Galaxy 6?), and the real business and consumer differentiation will be in the software ecosystems within the app stores and developer communities that will rise, as well as in the software applications that will be fantastic but will run cross-platform on all of these devices.
So for that reason, i’m much more interested in the content and software enablement systems that need to be built to enable creators to build cool shit that will be compelling and magical for consumers. The more magic experienced, the more VR consumption and headsets will be sold, and a virtuous business cycle of new content, demand for that content, more content creators, repeat….
It is clear to me that there are two (2) canonical types of content for these devices–3d CGI environments, and video/still image photography based content. 3D CGI material is very attractive and inherently magical, as it can fully render images that track the users head movement side to side and even at “full room scale” if she walks around and freely explores the environment. A pretty mediocre piece of VR content in 3d CGI on the Vive is pretty darn amazing. A great piece of CGI VR is astoundingly cool (eg: WEVR’s theBlu Experience.
On the other hand, even a really great VR video can be pretty darn “meh” on any of the VR headsets, and pretty darn awful and nausea producing on a bad VR headset (‘wassup Google Cardboard!). But it won’t be that way for long–this is more a reflection of the nascent state of VR video than of a fundamental problem with the medium. VR Video Content and the technology to shoot, prepare, fluff, and deliver for playback of VR video will follow a rapid improvement cycle just like other new film mediums have enjoyed. Consider:
In the late 1890s when motion pictures were being introduced, Vaudeville was the mainstream performance art form and most early cinema consisted of “filmed vaudeville”. Within 20 years, unique storytelling technology and production and editing techniques were introduced with films such as the Great Train Robbery, and various intercutting techniques between very different camera compositions (wide shots, close ups, tracking shots, etc.) started to tell stories in ways that bore no resemblance at all to vaudeville’s tropes. This transition from Vaudeville-to-cinema was ~1900-1950 phenomena which included the addition of audio in the 20s and color in the 40s and large format wide aspect ratio spectaculars like VistaVision and Cinerama in the 1950s.
Television came next and introduced live broadcasting and recorded programs which were stored on tapes in both professional (and later) for consumer distribution on VHS/Beta. Editing was done as “tape-to-tape” transfer, cumbersome and time consuming and actually slower than just cutting film pieces together on a Moviola.
In the 1990s when i worked at Industrial Light and Magic, the first digital effects and digital post-production projects were just being introduced. When Jurassic Park was made in 1993 there were less than 30 digital effects shots with CGI creatures, but 5 years later there were films being made with 1000s of shots and some that were color graded digitally and thus 100% processed through computers. In that same timeframe non-linear editing tools like the Avid made it so much quicker and time efficient to edit, that editors started to cut films in a whole new style that was much more rapid and varied–it is incredible to watch a sampling of films from the 1985-92 period, and compare them to those from 1996-2000. My teenage sons see the earlier films as i might see a 1922 film pre-sound/color. The analog-to-digital-cinema production transition was perhaps a 1990-2009 transition that started and ended with James Cameron films (The Abyss was the start, and Avatar as the culmination in its perfection of blending digital and analog content seamlessly).
In the 2000s the web was the big disruptor, and technologies like Quicktime, Flash, Silverlight, Windows Media, and the enabling web infrastructure have pushed televisions which were once broadcast reception devices, into on-demand streaming playback screens for web-content and DVR playback. My household is now dominated by Youtube (which consumes my teenagers free time at all hours of the day on their phones) and Netflix and HBO GO (which dominate my wife and my evenings). Early web-video was mostly inconceivably small and crappy looking, but by 2010 was of the highest quality and matched master recordings in resolution and fidelity.
Which brings me to VR Video. It is clear to me that VR Video will disrupt other forms of video consumption and viewing in a similar manner, and following the trend of other media tech adoption, will do so in a much shorter time frame. There is so much to do, so much to build, so many creative problems to solve. I’ll write more about that soon–but for my friends that have asked, now you know the context for my excitement about VR Video.
I’ve got a new favorite word that i’m investing energy in imbuing with greenedness: Pixvana.
Pixvana is evocative of video delivery and virtual reality, and has its very own domain at http://www.pixvana.com. I really like the combination of the pixel and nirvana concepts, as in the place pixels grow up and get to go when they achieve enlightenment. I’ve chosen this lovely photo of green tea that i enjoyed while at a bamboo garden in Japan last spring to capture the feeling that Pixvana gives me. Here are some more evocative images of Pixvana, in a bamboo forest. I hope to grow Pixvana into a little bamboo garden just like this, someday.