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Voodle

From VR, onwards to Voodle and voodling

In January of 2020, after nearly 4 complete years working feverishly and with great passion and focus on the virtual reality market opportunity that seemed so bright and shinny and attainable in 2015… my colleagues and I at Pixvana made the painful, but necessary decision, to shut down our product and cease all of our efforts in the XR market. It was just, not, happening. We built something great, really the best v1 product i have ever been a part of in my 30+ years building software. It was elastic, it was cloud based, it had incredible VR native interfaces to build really interest and compelling immersive content. The Quest headset is pretty darn awesome (if only that had been the v1 experience for most consumers!) and we got *great* looking 360 and 180 stereo video working on it, over the network and offline, with a great end-to-end vr video publishing platform we called SPIN Studio. But in hindsight we were 3, or maybe 10 years ahead of any real inflection point in the VR market. After a blast of interesting products and innovation from the likes of google, msft, fb, and htc/valve… by 2019 our industry found ourselves in a ever smaller and nichier market with only FB/Oculus really pretending that there was any future anytime soon… and at their last developer event it felt like even they were just pretending. Soccer mom’s were featured prominently in their product advertisements while teenagers watched from the living room… really?

A fateful business trip that I took in the fall of 2019 to China and then Germany to attend the AWE event in Munich, provided both the death-blow to Pixvana’s VR dreams, and the inspiration to start something new from the ashes, which is what we now call Voodle. In China i had the chance to talk to some of the manufacturers of VR cameras. At the time we were still actively building support for these cameras in our Pixvana SPIN Studio cloud: we were teaching our system the nomenclature for the file naming conventions, the warp and optic parameters to solve high-quality stitches to 8k+ resolution master files, the LUTs for camera exposure gamuts… but these camera manufacturers one-by-one either did not engage with me (when they had in past visits), or, were blunt and honest with me and shared that they had ceased development and manufacturing, and in some cases had sold -through their inventory. VR Cameras were not going to be a thing… which as one of my colleagues said upon hearing, “well, that’s a signal” (understatement).

Beijing in fall 2019, never looked so beautiful as the city was decked-out for the national holidays. As i took in the beautiful beihai park flowers, i contemplated the collapse of the VR camera manufacturer ecosystem that was a precursor to viability for Pixvana’s video production and publishing software pipeline we had spent 4 years building. Not, good, news, for VR video.

A week later at the AWE conference in Munich, the vast majority of interesting activity at the event was not with headsets but rather, with mobile phone screens. Screens at arms-length, and usually with the SELFIE camera as the primary viewing lens onto the world. As much as Snap and Facebook product managers raved about “over 1bn people are doing AR today with their selfie-cameras”, i couldn’t help but feel that a pivot into phone-based-AR applications using pixvana’s IP and brain-trust would be like signing up for another several years of equal or even greater disappointment.

A representative image from the sessions that caught my attention at AWE Munich 2019; Snap and FB/Instagram crowing about how important selfie-cameras are as ecosystems for mobile AR. The takeaway for me, was not an opportunity with AR… rather, with selfie-cameras. This would directly lead to thinking about Voodle.

This 1-2 combo of punches in my face finally snapped me to the realization that many other entrepreneurs had come to in 2019–AR/VR might just not be relevant right now in the world, in any appreciable business scale way. Why would Pixvana continue to spend time on the XR space? Well, after we huddled back at the office, we all agreed we couldn’t.

However, what did strike me as incredibly interesting… in a way that people of my age/generation sometimes struggle to fully comprehend, is just how much people like looking at their selfie-cameras. To take pictures and video of themselves to communicate with loved ones, all day, every day. Over the course of the next several months i started to pay much more attention to how the selfie camera was being used by my family and friends, and the ways and subjects that we communicated to each other in private networks such as Whatsapp and iMessage groups. That, is what led to the kernel of an idea that grew into Voodle.

Essentially, why is it that among my family and friends, almost all of my communications are image, video, and emoji or meme based:

This is what conversations with (left-to-right) a dinner date plan with my wife, a banter about puzzles with my mother, a group chat with friends about a trip to Japan, and a critical 49ers game-day discussion with my dad, look like on my phone. Emojis, memes, photos, and videos. Very, very little text.

Yet when i’m at work, i’m 99% grounded in text. Long TL;DR text in email applications like gmail, back and forth short messages with an occasional URL or small jpeg thumbnail in Slack or Teams, and sometimes sharing documents such as in Highspot or Onedrive or Google Drive. This schism is plainly evident when looking at my phone screen; if it is text, i’m working, if it is friends and family, it is photos/videos/images. This seems incorrect on many levels?

This is what my daily conversations look like at work: text, more text, more text, some documents, more text, an occasional small jpeg image/thumbnail, and more text…

So what if our work related communications looked a lot more like how i communicate with friends and family? That’s the basic kernel of an idea that led us to create voodle.

Here are my work conversations that previously would have been lots of short text, or worse, TL;DR emails, re-imagined with lots and lots of video.

A “voodle” is a short “video-doodle” that can be posted and shared among work colleagues. These may be insights into customers, competitors, operations, morale and culture insights… we are going to figure out together with our beta-testers. But what we can already feel with our early tests, is that it is *transformational* to communicate with work colleagues in a manner more similar to that we use with friends/family already. 2 billion consumers on their cellphones can’t be wrong!

We are working on voodle! I will write more about voodle soon. I’m excited, as is the team, to share voodle and voodles and voodle pools…

Categories
Rants & Raves

Shoreditch Street Art

I had a lovely art-walk experience this week in Shoreditch neighborhood of London led by David Stuart of http://www.shoreditchstreetarttours.co.uk and wanted to make note for others. I had of course seen Exit Through the Gift Shop, superb film on the street art scene and the artist Banksy in particular, so it was with wondrous glee that i set out with David to see some of the many rich art-installations dotted in the streets of this neighborhood.

Categories
Rants & Raves

Remove and Replace Ford Focus RS mk3 Billet Badges/Emblems

My 2017 Ford Focus RS (mk3) is a joy to drive and i like its styling.  I’m a first time Ford owner, and got in on the “made in USA” car thing just in time for Ford to discontinue all future sales of car vehicles (except for Mustang) which might work out just fine for me, as I think of this project car as a long-term toy to use for track and occasional car outings.  Now it will also be the last ford hot-hatch made for a long time?!  Bonus.

car

When i looked over the exterior stylings of the car one of the things that stood out for me as a eyesore is the blue on white stock “billet badges”, the thing on the hood and the trunk that say “Ford” in the classic font.  I found a custom fabricator and design shop called Billet Badges that had awesome designs, and when i contacted them they assured me that as long as I was patient and gave them time (turned out to be about 4 months) to design and spec the new billets, they’d be happy to do a custom design.  I went with “Fury” in the same Ford font, which feels playful and true to the original mark, but unique and a tribute to the awesome heroine Furiosa from the last Mad Max Fury Road film.

The badges came a few weeks ago and I got started on install over the last day and wanted to post my findings/process for others thinking of this kind of mod.

badges

Here’s the first headline:  Be warned, the Ford Focus RS mk3 (2016-2018) front billet badge (“ford emblem” on hood) does indeed have screws that need to be removed from inside the engine bay. Floss and a heat gun alone will get you nowhere!  I was unable to find any videos or posts that correctly showed this install challenge. Floss alone will rip and hurt your hands–this job requires unfastening two screw bolts from under the front bumber/face of the hood.

Let’s jump right to the problem piece.  Using a heat gun (to warm up the pieces and make the glue that binds them to the surface a little looser/easier to manipulate) is a great first step and I’ve used to remove several outer badges on this and other cars.  Then, using tooth-floss, you can shimmy the floss between the surface and the badge, with a back-and-forth motion gently bitting into the adhesive and releasing the bond, eventually leading to the piece/badge popping right off.

But not with the front badge, which looks like this:

You can see the removed emblem and the fasteners. Note the thick plastic screws that are fused to the emblem and are threaded.  Those little fasteners are threaded onto the end of the two outer plastic aligners.  DO NOT try to rip/pull this off, you’ll damage the body fender/bumper.  Instead, go in through the engine compartment, get behind the badge, and use some pliers to twist/turn the fasteners off.  Then the piece will come off with some gentle tugging and the floss/cutting of the glue-binding.  When off, you’ll see this:

There is lots of adhesive to break down.  A little elbow grease, some Goo Remover fluid, and some gentle scrubbing and fingernail work, and voila:

I then placed the new billet badge in the slot to see if the fit was right, and was amazed at *perfect* fit.  Flush to the hood, perfect depth, oval size, etc.

Now onto the back tailgate.  Turns out the badge in the back is NOT fastened, rather, is simply pushed in through some alignment holes.  here’s what the piece looks like removed, with some floss to loosen the grip, and some gentle tugging.

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And the tailgate hole after some cleanup:

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I did have a fit problem with the back, you can see here that i could fit a US 1 cent penny in the gaps that remained around the badge, to be flush with the body of the tailgate:

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Here’s the same view, from flush above, without the penny in place:

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I contacted the friendly folks at Billet Badges and they said to send back and they would grind down the width of a penny, i think we agreed on a few mms.  When it came back a week later, perfect:

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So in summary, here below are (left) the FRONT badge, which has screw fasteners and needs to be loosened from inside the engine bay, the (right) rear badge, which has alignment push-in plastic protrusions (can simply be pulled off after loosening the glue bond), and the back of my new badges which are smooth, with the Made in the USA sticker (thanks again BilletBadges.com!)

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And here is the front after it is fully installed:

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And a wider shot, with my now more recently added decal stripes:

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e, voila!