Monday Aug 28, 2023

I Don’t Think We’re in Kansas Anymore: The Deepening of Immersive Storytelling

What makes for an interesting interactive story? How complex must the story be? Why some interactive stories (like in gaming) flop? Why is the user experience so important?

Our guest this week is Ronda Thomas from Alozari.

"At Alozari we seek to return that connection through a collaboration of seasoned professionals in events, entertainment, and technology. We’ve been weaving the real and the virtual worlds together for decades, always at the forefront of technology and engagement."

 

Folktellers Universe

 

#Storytelling

#StoriesToBeShared

#FolkTellers

#Alozari

#RondaThomas

#InteractiveStories

 

All right,
this is week 10.
I don't think we're in Kansas anymore.
The deepening of interactive storytelling today,
we're talking about interactive storytelling,
immersive storytelling.
And what does this all mean in this,
in this modern age?
And so guys,
I wanna begin with a,
a quote from a video game.
What is a man?
But the sum of his memories,
we are the stories we live and the tales that we tell ourselves.
This is from uh Clay Kasick of in Assassin's Creed Brotherhood.
If you've ever played Assassin's Creed,
actually,
I am not a big video game person,
but I love some of the stories that they tell my kids play these deep um interactive games like Assassin's Creed.
And,
uh that's the only one I can think of top of my mind.
But there's actually a story to those.
Oh my gosh.
Yeah.
And they're great.
I mean,
they're by,
they're so immersive and they're so layered.
Uh,
you have full character development stuff.
We need to introduce our,
uh compadres here.
Uh We've got the elusive,
elusive,
you keep getting up to go to the back.
Yeah,
that's,
that was a stretching and the uh incredulous.
I have no idea what that word means.
Look that one up,
look it up.
You are often incredulous.
OK.
Maybe not today because you,
you were smiling.
So Stephen Sadler,
Stephen Sadler is here.
All right guys.
So uh I don't think we're in Kansas anymore.
We're talking about the,
the deepening of interactive storytelling.
This is a,
a kind of a mysterious one.
Not um it's not mainstream.
No,
this is not mainstream.
And so,
you know,
are or is it well?
OK,
let me begin with this.
Let me begin with this.
So here's,
here's a quote about interactive storytelling in our highly mediated technology driven world.
We are all looking for meaningful ways to connect.
This has constantly inspired me to create environments full of lively immersive experiential elements specifically crafted to foster human connection.
And this is uh David Rockwell from uh he's a,
he's a game developer,
but we're talking about game more than just games.
We're just,
I mean,
this is kind of a can be a uh a melange of different interactive,
what do you guys think about interactive storytelling?
Like again,
we'll do our,
our gut check before we bring our Well.
Yeah.
And,
and for me,
when I hear this and when I,
I understand what it's about,
it's,
it's just part of that trans media,
right?
It's part of that trans media approach for telling a story.
You can have a film,
you could have a TV,
you could have uh a TV show,
you could have a book and you can have it in a game or,
or some type of um platform like this where the stories are being told.
And this is,
this is something new to me.
Um And it's interesting because it is just another platform,
but you have people that really enjoy this platform to tell their story,
to live their story.
And what,
what is,
what is interactive storytelling?
Is it just a video game or do we live in it?
00,
this,
this smells like a rabbit hole to me.
This is all right,
Steve Lay,
lay down that.
What's,
well,
there was an interesting project that um Carnegie Mellon.
Um uh A few guys from Carnegie Mellon created.
Uh I think they stopped the program in 2002.
And it's funny because I didn't know that you were gonna title this podcast uh with Kansas.
But the project was called the Oz Project,
which is kind of strange.
Yeah,
but the way that the,
the uh the Oz project works,
I mean,
it's probably what the,
the framework that they've actually used for a lot of video gaming since then.
And I know some of the guys that worked on that project actually got into A I.
Um but there's an interesting component to it all is one,
you have an interactor.
OK.
So if I'm a part of this interactive storytelling system,
so imagine it's a piece of technology,
right?
Um I'm interfacing as the interactor.
Uh Then there's characters that are controlled by something called a drama manager.
OK.
Is this something they're building?
Is this they built this?
OK.
So this is a piece of technology,
correct?
Keep going.
And this drama ma manager actually was responsible for moving the characters around to make sure that you are having an interactive experience within this,
you know,
this environment,
this physical environment,
which is not a physical environment,
it looks like one,
but it's a,
you know,
a 3d virtual environment.
Um but it could have multiple different endings.
So maybe there's 10 or 15 different programmed endings,
you know,
back then because back then probably they weren't using A I with you,
I should say machine learning with machine learning,
you could probably have,
you know,
limitless number of endings relative to,
you know,
what the characters are doing and what you're doing relative to interacting with the characters.
Well,
when you look at the way that that system is all laid out,
is that not the world that we actually live in,
is there not a master drama manager which is controlling the characters?
Maybe I'm the inter actor and you are a character.
You,
you already were a I Joseph that I still am.
This is,
this is the,
this is you,
you,
you might be a character in my story and vice versa.
I'm a character,
character many times So who is this big drama manager?
Yeah.
Well,
it's interesting because I,
I remember in one of our earlier episodes,
you kept avoiding the A I language.
It was like this is mechanical learning,
right?
This machine learning machine learning,
right?
And so same thing with this that this is a machine technology that tells a story.
But this is something I didn't know that these,
these games,
if you look at that aspect only they are telling a story and you're living that story during that game.
Yeah.
So,
so what you guys are touching on and this is becoming more and more prevalent in the development world,
whether it's whether it's development of technology,
whether it's um it's anything tied to story is story world development.
And we've touched on this a little bit,
but this concept of being able to build out an entire world.
And previously,
you know,
you did this,
you know,
you could do it through books or you did it through a game and like,
and now it's like,
and it's what we've said that's really trans media.
If you're doing it right,
it's really story world building.
And as Steve has said,
it's like building a platform where it though there will be multiple outfit uh outlets and outputs.
But that it's really all about the story and the multiple layers,
wouldn't it be great if we can get an expert on our show to talk about this?
But if we could do that.
Yeah.
In fact,
uh,
so Rhonda Thomas works for a company called Azari and we're gonna have her on and,
uh,
she'll,
she'll be able to,
to enlighten us a little bit before she comes on.
I,
I'll forget this.
Thought.
There is a,
a piece of technology called conductor and it's spelled weird.
I have to look it up.
But,
um,
there's the,
uh,
Robert Prat.
So Robert Prat and Jeff Gomez are the two like gurus of story World Building.
So what Robert Prat did years ago um he built this engine,
this like Steve you were talking about uh the Oz project.
It was um it was a tool where you could basically build out your trans media story.
It was called conductor where you were like the conductor of a symphony and you had full control of the story and then what the outputs were gonna be and you,
you would stage it.
Um it never took off because it was too complex.
You had to be an expert developer.
But what he does now he took the same technology and he's using it for crisis simulation.
He's out,
he's in London and I talked to him a couple of times.
Super,
super smart,
super nice guy.
But um now he does these crisis scenarios and and uh they're live scenarios but it's all managed with this,
with this conductor system.
So it's like the drama manager.
It is he is the drama manager,
the conductor.
Like that was the analogy he used was the conductor of the orchestra.
And you decide what piece you're gonna play,
especially the drama,
right?
I mean,
it's,
it's we're talking drama.
Well,
welcome.
Uh Rhonda.
Thomas.
Rhonda is our good friend from a Azari and I'll let her describe uh the,
the crazy,
cool things that Azari is doing.
But Rhoda,
you're here with uh Kurt David and Stephen Sadler and here's truly.
Hi,
Rhonda.
How are you?
I'm good,
good.
Nice to meet you.
Good to hear you.
Like,
which part of the world are you in?
So,
I'm in Park City,
Utah.
I'm in the mountains at about 7000 ft.
Is it still snowing?
No,
thank heavens.
We had snow into June this year.
I know.
Oh my God,
it's beautiful.
Absolutely beautiful.
Awesome.
Well,
Rhoda,
thanks for,
thanks for being on with us.
We're talking about uh interactive storytelling and we're kind of going deep.
This is kind of a mix of uh technology and story world building.
And um it's right in your wheelhouse.
So,
you know,
you've started this company,
uh a Azari and it's,
you know,
I think it falls into the metaverse but it falls into a lot of different things.
What is a Azari?
What are you,
what are you trying to do with um with your technology and with your interactive storytelling?
Sure,
thanks.
So it goes back to the name of the company.
So the the name of the company is a,
a made up word Alo Zari.
And we picked it because Zari is the golden thread that weaves through cloth,
ancient cloth and Allo is hello in most many languages.
So we looked at communication or storytelling as the golden thread that weaves through experience for people.
And we wanted to really tie people together and give them shared experience.
I've been working in technology for a very long time longer than I care to admit.
And I think that technology while it's allowed us to communicate,
it's all,
it's also separated us as community.
It's we each,
you know,
if you look at the algorithms for Facebook or,
or Twitter or tiktok,
they all,
they go to these small,
small,
small interests and it splits you apart from the main whole.
And so what we've been trying to do with a Azari,
a Azari is a what we call curated live events in the metaverse.
So it's available on any browser,
it's avatar based.
So you come in as an avatar,
you can look like yourself or anybody you want and you can talk to people just like you would in the real world and you can share experiences which I think the problem with Zoom or Webex as wonderful as they are.
And as much as they connected us during the pandemic,
it's really a platform for one to many or 1 to 1,
but it's not many to many.
You can't walk up to somebody in a zoom meeting and start your own conversation.
But in a Azari you can.
So coming from the live event world and the technology world,
our idea is to facilitate that shared experience that builds community and builds culture and allows companies to really reach and engage their customers by amplifying their brand.
And that,
so that,
that's kind of what we do.
You don't need a headset,
it's not VR you can access it on your phone or your tablet or your computer and we think it's gonna be the new,
probably one of the most powerful mediums we can have for storytelling.
Yeah.
Why do you,
why do you think that,
I mean,
how does this differ from a chat room or way back when,
when they tried to launch like second life and,
and things like that?
How,
how do you think this is gonna differ?
So I think the difference from a chat room is you actually have a physical presence and you move through an environment and then Azari,
we created a photorealistic environment.
So it looks like what you're used to experiencing in the world.
And it's very interesting as we were building it and we would have our avatars running around or my business partner has their avatar doing jumping jacks,
you sort of feel like you're actually doing it.
So you get a real sense of presence that you don't have in a chat,
but it differs from second life and that it's,
the technology has really come a long way,
you feel like you're there and it looks like you're there.
And in fact,
technology is to the point where we could even put you in as a hologram into the environment as exactly yourself and track your actual movement.
So I think it's where I think of it kind of like the next phase of the internet where it's not flat and it's not just user generated content,
but the entire thing is driven by the user.
So I think your,
your platform of choice to build this on was uh was the Unreal engine,
correct?
Right.
So we're using gaming technology.
Uh-huh and bringing it to bringing it to a broader audience because it doesn't require a download.
So for example,
probably the one of the most successful games is Fortnite,
which is also built on an Unreal engine,
that's a 90 plus gigabyte download.
So if you are,
um if you want to come in for a short meeting or a short event and you're in a,
in a corporation,
they're not gonna let you download 90 gigabytes.
And this doesn't require you to download anything and you also need a really powerful computer to download something like Fortnite,
right?
You can't play Fortnite on your phone,
but all of the heavy lifting for Azari is done in the cloud.
So you don't have to have,
you don't have to have a huge bandwidth,
you don't have to have a huge computer.
So if you're in a school in Kenya and you have a tablet,
you have enough bandwidth and enough power to access a Azari.
Wow.
Yeah,
actually some of the biggest flops that have happened in the history of gaming actually is where uh the developers actually designed beyond the limitations of the console.
So it's uh it's good to hear that.
That,
that's,
that's the uh the path that you,
that you guys are taking.
Yeah,
it sounds like you're lowering the barrier to entry because that's usually the biggest thing is if you haven't designed the lowest common denominator,
you're not gonna get uh you're not gonna get usage.
Well,
Ron,
I'm curious,
um you alluded to it shortly,
but what are some of the implications for this?
So when we say curated live events,
my background is out of taking technology into sports and arts and entertainment.
So sponsors for the Olympics or professional cycling or the NFL or global music concerts,
all of that kind of content can come into a Azari.
And similarly,
if you're thinking big conferences like Oracle Open World or Sap Sapphire or even a small local meeting,
all of that can come into a Azari because what we do is we,
we get rid of the physical boundaries of space.
So say you have a meeting that only fits 10 people.
Well,
now it could fit 10,000 people.
We get rid of the physical boundaries and we get rid of the distance boundaries.
So the applications really are think about any shared experience that you have with someone in the real world close.
You could probably have an Wow,
that's amazing because it is,
it can really expand the storytelling that we're talking about,
right?
I mean,
this platform can help in that capacity.
Yeah,
I mean,
if you wanna,
if you wanna use an example,
um Rhoda,
the application that you guys were gonna build with folk tellers um about recreating those um those those actual theaters.
If you wanna,
if you wanna talk about that a little bit.
Sure.
Yes.
So because we are photorealistic,
um we can take in technology is pretty amazing nowadays and we can scan in.
So the theater,
so Folk tellers was gonna do a s a concert series and in a famous old theater in Canada and we were looking at,
we can replicate the theater um down to the sea cushions,
right?
And so the people that are there at the live experience have the live experience,
but the people that are in a Azari can share that experience in a theater that looks and feels identical to what the live environment is.
And um so we have the ability to mix the reel and the live.
And even in fact,
we could put a screen in the live theater,
say in the lobby where the people at the live event can talk to the people in the metaverse and vice versa.
Resurrecting the past.
Yeah.
So,
yeah.
So it really,
it really allows us to mix the two worlds together.
Has she connected with Angus Vale from our previous The Globe Theater?
I mean,
literally it just,
yeah,
we,
we uh we had Angus Vale on,
he's a kiss,
his financial manager and he's a,
he's building building uh the Globe Theater uh out of uh shipping containers here in Detroit.
So it's a virtual world.
Yeah.
Yeah.
So we'll,
we'll take,
we'll take that one.
Yeah,
we'll take that one off line.
Well,
I had a question for you.
Yeah.
Uh So my,
so here's my,
my question is I'm wondering from a,
not everyone gets excited because it'll be an incredible user experience.
But from the people that need to launch these,
you need to produce this.
I mean,
what level of complexity is this?
If you know,
it sounds like uh a similar skill set of someone who's like if you're running a campaign or you're,
you're an event planner.
Um Is this something that,
that they would use uh to create virtual events?
Sure.
Yeah,
it is.
Most of the really difficult technology is built in the back end.
And what,
what you're really doing for any different event is you're just skinning it.
You're creating art and,
but all of the applications like talking to people or showing live video or sharing printed materials,
all of those tools are already built.
So from an event producer,
standpoint or from an advertising campaign manager,
it's really just creative art and,
and the order in which you want the tools to appear.
So it's really pretty simple um from that level.
So I mean,
this is a huge powerful storytelling tool.
I mean,
when,
when are we gonna see it?
I mean,
how,
how soon,
how soon is a Azari like ready to uh light the fuse and and send the ship up to space?
Yeah.
So we are just coming out into the marketplace.
I think that um we are ready,
we will be in active use for the average consumer by fall and we're just finishing up some integration as some of our technology partners.
One of the things we've been looking into as everyone's hearing about artificial intelligence,
right?
And how A I impacts storytelling and how A I impacts user experience in a live environment.
So we've been working to integrate with a couple partners that will allow us to have what are called NP CS in the game world,
non player characters.
So you could walk up to someone at a theater and they could be the usher and they might recognize you and they could say,
you know,
hi,
Kurt,
welcome to the show.
We know you always like to sit in the second row center.
Follow me,
right?
That A I can do all of that and you can and So we're just finishing the integration for that and we'd like to get that done before we,
before we go to launch with some of the live events we're playing,
we can uh rent out A I Joseph for if you like to.
So yeah,
that Steve's my A I agent.
Now see,
I think as a storyteller is incredibly powerful and,
you know,
we've always seen that stories connect culture and they give us common ground and they give us,
you know,
it's myth if you go back to Joseph Campbell and,
and people sitting around the fire and telling stories to each other.
Um I think one of my favorites is Ira Glass said that great stories happen to those who can tell them.
I think the happening part as well as the telling part is what Azari will facilitate.
But on a really on a global basis.
Yeah,
very cool.
It's around uh you know,
this is Kurt,
I,
I do public speaking and,
and keynote speaking and he used to do a lot before the world shut down and then it changed this hybrid model,
right?
You see this hybrid of,
of in person as well as uh virtual.
Uh but you know,
I I still see it not 100% in person.
There's still a lot of virtual platforms for doing this.
Is this something that this will address,
right?
This is something you can still do both,
correct?
Yeah,
you can still do both.
And I think the difference between a Azari and the majority of platforms that are out there now is that rather than it just being a video that you watch,
even if it's live,
the difference is you can be sitting next to Steve and,
and Joseph and you can be in the same room and I can lean over to you and say,
hey,
what do you think about that joke?
He just told that's my favorite,
right?
And you get that interaction and the shared experience that you don't get on just the video platforms right now.
Wow,
what if I don't want to sit next to him though,
I guess.
Is that something I can for you in your own?
Very own better question.
Is,
is,
is there enough space in a Azari for Kurt to have a virtual?
You can see uh he's,
he's almost 7 ft,
so 4 ft and 33 inches in,
in AAA.
He can be,
he,
he could experience what it's like to be a short female if he wants.
Oh boy.
Well,
I don't know if I want to go there.
But,
but the the avatar is what you're talking about,
right?
You create the avatar avatar.
And I think that's gonna be really interesting.
You guys were talking about accessibility.
I think the ability to put yourself in someone else's shoes,
literally in an environment and to walk around and experience the world as a different race or as a different sex or maybe as a non sex,
identified individual,
the way people react to you is gonna be different.
I can't get this vision out of my head.
Now,
looking at your curt,
if you're sitting here in a 22 or something,
you don't have to worry because you won't see that.
OK,
so you,
you got me thinking about sort of the,
the whole,
the whole experience.
How is this experience going to differ?
Like,
OK,
for example,
a concert.
So what you're saying is this could be,
you could have a hybrid concert where there's still the live concert,
but then there's also the virtual experience is happening live at the same time.
Correct?
Is that,
I mean,
that's,
that's in the,
in the offing.
Um So what,
what is that,
what is that,
you know,
concert goer experience?
How is that gonna differ from,
you know,
what they're,
what they're doing now?
I think it's gonna be really interesting.
I mean,
the,
the,
so the leaders in the music industry are saying that platforms like Ali Ari are going to disintermediation,
the recording industry from the artist and the artist can go direct to their fan.
So if you think about,
so if I want to have my uh my own private club,
I,
I'm Justin Bieber and I want to hold a concert once a month.
Um I can have that venue,
it can be mine.
I can perform in it and my fans from all over the world could come buy a ticket,
enter as an avatar and there's several different ways that the artist can perform.
The artist could perform live on video.
The artist could perform as an avatar with um motion tracking um or the artists were getting to the point where the artist could perform as a hologram in the platform.
So if you were at a live concert,
so say,
say the concert we were talking about in,
in Canada,
the musicians are on the stage and the audience is watching the concert while we would be most likely at that point,
videoing the the live concert and feeding it into a Azari as a concert and they would be watching it.
You could be watching it on a screen.
Now,
if we wanted to go one step further,
we could put a green screen behind the artist even in,
in um virtually do it and then put the artist into a Azari in 3d.
So there's a lot of different ways things can happen and we could even sync musicians up from multiple different locations.
So I don't know if you saw some of the ones during the pandemic where the drummers didn't play like I think was the Rolling Stones um because the sync,
you couldn't sync them.
Exactly.
So we've been working on technology right now,
we can sync up to 12 different locations.
Um So they can play together.
That's crazy musicians definitely need another avenue to be able to generate revenue.
That's,
that's a fact,
especially with all the other ways that they've lost revenue.
So that's a great thing that you,
that you're doing.
No,
Steve Steve,
you're hitting on something because this is gonna,
this kind of technology is gonna create a whole another service industry,
don't you think Rhonda just to develop?
I think so?
Absolutely.
It's gonna,
it's gonna really,
it,
it really allows people to have a low cost of entry to a mass audience.
Um But in a way where the mass audience can be together as opposed to alone at home.
And that sounds odd because you really will be at home,
but you'll feel like you're not.
So speaking of audience,
where can our audience find out more about this,
about the development of it where it's heading more information about it?
We have a pretty simple website,
Azari dot com.
You can find the information there.
And other than that,
we've kept it kind of under wraps until today,
until today.
Until today.
You can email me.
You can email me,
right.
So that would be easy or we'll,
we'll guide people to you,
that's for sure.
OK.
There you go.
All right.
Well,
so,
but Joseph,
tell me about how you see,
you know,
you had talked about folk teller Universe.
How do you see that playing out in the 3d world?
Oh,
yeah,
you're,
I'm like way above my pay grade on,
on that,
I mean,
just,
you know,
but just like,
you know,
and we've,
we've,
we've talked uh with you and Alison at,
at,
at length and,
uh I,
I just believe I,
this is what I,
I always go back to the story,
like,
and,
and,
you know,
Steve and I have been proponents of trans media for,
for years and,
and to me,
this is a,
this is a powerful trans media storytelling engine.
And,
you know,
one of the things that,
uh you know,
we've,
we've talked about so,
you know,
for,
for folk tellers,
our audience,
it's family entertainment,
but like the books are,
are like middle grade fantasy fiction.
And I,
I've said this before is I do not have and we do not have direct access to our primary audience.
Like we don't have direct access to kids.
We,
we have direct access to the parents and teachers and librarians and um you know,
they invite us uh into,
you know,
to speak to the kids,
but something like this,
like what you said,
you know,
having direct access to your audience,
uh We currently don't have that today and that would be pretty cool if we could be um you know,
interacting as storytellers with our primary audience uh in a,
in a,
in a,
in a safe uh appropriate way.
And I,
I go ahead,
I was gonna say,
I don't know if you've been to London to actually see the sets,
the Warner Brothers sets for Harry Potter.
You have.
Yeah.
It,
it's imagine that done in a Azari.
Yeah.
And,
and I can imagine a,
a virtual folk teller's story being done like that.
So,
you know how they,
like,
they've captured all the sets and they,
they walk you through the big hall and then you go through all the sets like a four hour experience.
I mean,
there's no reason that,
you know,
with the technology that you're doing,
you know,
that that can't be done,
you know,
virtually.
And I think that um that would be an amazing path for folk tellers and all of the beautiful stories that Joseph has written over the years.
Yeah,
I think it's really interesting because there will always be,
there will always be a place for the Harry Potter sets in London and that experience in person.
But think how many people will never be able to get there.
Right.
Right.
Right.
And if you could take that and create it in a virtual world and expand the accessibility to,
you know,
hundreds of thousands more people to really have that.
And,
you know,
you look at the impact that Harry Potter stories had on culture and how,
I don't know if you guys remember when the books would come out and they would have sleepovers at book midnight release parties,
book sellers,
little,
little midnight release parties.
Right.
And imagine you can expand that.
I,
I like to really just think about it in terms of bringing amazing experiences.
I mean,
I've been really lucky in my business that I've been,
you know,
to the Olympics and I've been to amazing concert from backstage and I've been to the top of Alto for the Tour de France or all for work and all for brands.
But so few of us ever get to those places and how exciting it would be to open all that up.
Agreed.
Ok,
for people to experience.
Yeah.
So,
so in closing Rhonda,
if you were to take this Zari thread and pull it all the way through,
where,
where would,
where would we be ending up?
Where would we,
what path would we be the golden thread?
That is,
yeah,
I think the path of the golden thread would lead us to a more engaged and cohesive society because I think what's happened with technology is we're all,
you know,
you think back to Walter Cronkite,
right?
And how everybody got mainly the same news and it's not that differing views are bad,
but it's allowed us to get more and more and more siloed and have less and less in common as a people worldwide.
And I hope that this platform can be used to make some bridges across culture and follow that storytelling thread back to the cultural engagement that I think we all used to have.
Yeah.
Well said,
yeah,
well said.
Amen to that.
Well,
Rhonda,
thank you so much uh for,
for being on.
Um We really appreciate it and um,
well,
now the cat's out of the bag and you've,
you've shared the ari secret.
So uh we'll be sharing it,
we'll be sharing it as well.
But um any,
any parting words before we let you go.
No,
just thank you so much for really letting me engage in this and I think that,
you know,
storytelling is what we need more of.
I really do.
So thank you so much for your time and for sharing this with me.
Thank you.
And we'll talk to you soon.
Ok.
All right.
Take care guys.
Thanks.
Bye bye.
Bye,
bye.
Wow,
she is right.
That's what I keep thinking in my mind right now.
Just wow,
with the potential of this.
Yeah.
And that whole conversation,
I mean,
clearly,
I,
I mean,
I love storytellers that have a vision.
I mean,
Rhonda was so articulate and,
and I mean,
we had talked about how eventually you gotta strip your story down to.
And she said,
basically,
this is an opportunity to bring people in to bring people back together.
We didn't ask it,
how,
how long has she been working on this?
Um They said they started when we started talking to them.
It was,
they started during COVID.
So that's three or four years.
But she's been involved in a lot of other interactive storytelling projects through huge brands.
So she's been as she said she's been in tech longer than she wants to remember.
But uh this is different.
She's got um she's really defined what her purpose is.
And um so yeah,
what blows me away is that,
that the,
the use of technology to do it?
I mean,
when,
when she's talking holograms and things like that and this technology,
like you're sitting next to somebody and they're there and the entertainer and we have this Ava,
I mean,
just I'm trying to visualize it,
right as well of how this all works and,
and,
but it's,
it's exciting to see because it's just another media to tell a story.
And I'll add to that and say that,
I think this is one way where you can humanize technology and that's kind of what they're trying to do.
What's funny is so Rhonda's background is intact,
but she's also uh for years and years has helped run the um the folk festival.
What's the big one in the Newport,
the Newport Folk Festival,
which is like the most famous music festival.
That's what like she's done a lot of the live.
So that,
that,
that very uh organic,
you know,
very human.
Yeah.
Yeah.
And then,
and you know,
to,
to bring that in with the technology is absolutely brilliant.
It's pretty cool.
And,
and to me like that,
I mean,
that's what it's kind of like you're looking at that North star of interactive storytelling.
I mean,
you,
you Steve you brought up the,
the Oz project.
How did that?
So how did that end up?
Like,
what,
where did that?
Why did they stop?
Well,
I think what happened is that they all broke into different pieces.
Like some guys went into A I,
some went into VR they just became different names right?
Under different pieces of technology.
But uh I think it was 2002,
I think I said that before that,
that was that when they actually finished as their,
they called it their motley crew of uh of developers,
but uh some brilliant,
brilliant guys that,
you know,
that,
that came up with,
with,
with that solution and that platform.
Um but just as they're still trying to integrate A I into a Azari,
I mean,
still these pieces,
they're not all put together.
I mean,
we live in very,
very interesting times where,
you know,
there's still not a main platform where you can go to.
And one of the biggest problems is,
is you don't want to have a flop,
you know,
many video games that have had flops is where,
you know,
they've taken on too much and they've tried to build the uh the application beyond the console uh capabilities or beyond the graphics card or beyond the process or whatever.
And I think where Azari will be successful as we spoke,
when we were speaking to her,
she's not,
they're not doing that.
They're trying to,
you know,
as you said,
get under the lowest common denominator of,
make sure that the technology will work on any single device.
Um And if holograms come in the future and they work,
you know,
and,
and these new headsets,
maybe they're more the way,
the way they're designed are more communal.
So they're not like this or I'm,
you know,
isolated with a headset.
I think,
I think that'll be the big difference,
but it still goes back to the same thing where you are the interactor of the system.
You,
that's,
that's,
it's all about you and the,
and the,
the drama manager and all these care,
secondary characters that are guiding you down that path,
that process that they built I think is,
it's still the common thread that um that is gonna be used for storytelling.
Yeah.
And so as we're the storytellers,
right?
So you think about what are the implications for the way that you tell stories?
So,
Kurt,
so you do a ton of public speaking and motivational speaking and you're,
you know,
you're on the circuit before 2020.
But I mean,
that's like you,
I mean,
like change like a champion,
which is your,
which is your company.
Um You have a message that you're getting out there and you're,
you're talking to leaders about change and transformation.
And so how would um this type of thing impact you and your business?
I,
I kept thinking about that the whole time when she was describing it.
I kept thinking over and over.
I thought for one,
the,
the app,
the ability to have in person and a real uh virtual or hybrid,
whatever you wanna call it experience where it's not just watching a video,
it's actually like she mentioned,
you could have interaction with the person sitting next to you,
they have a tire sitting next to you or whatever that uh created character is that you have um the ability to interact perhaps even with the presenter during that time or,
or afterwards.
And you know,
the potential of this to me is exciting because one of the things that I enjoy when I go to speak in person is that interaction before and after it's not just being on stage,
it's talking to the people afterwards or beforehand and just hearing their stories.
And so this takes the technology to be able to do that that before in a hybrid model,
you couldn't,
right?
You basically are just watching a video when it's over,
it's over and then you log off,
right?
The other key like for you as a speaker too.
I mean,
you gain the energy from the audience,
right?
And so you don't want to lose that in a piece of technology and in zoom,
you,
you,
you immediately lose it and it's like,
OK,
I got all these little screens up.
But if you are in more of a virtual environment where you can actually see these avatars and,
and,
you know,
there's emotion built into them so that you can see what's going on,
you know,
see their reaction to,
to what,
to,
what you're saying.
That's the difference.
We're,
we're a ways away from that.
But that's what for it to be successful for interactive,
you have to have that,
that interactive and you be able to see what's going on in front of you.
Yeah,
very practical application is I'm 6 ft nine inches tall.
You can't tell that on a zoom.
You don't know.
Right.
But I'm in person.
It's like,
whoa,
ok,
there's a,
an impact factor as a result of that.
My avatar is 6 ft 10,
by the way,
just by an inch on our,
on our last call,
I knew how tall you were because I could see your knees up by your chin.
Well,
that's when I'm sitting on an airplane.
Right?
That's where you see me like that.
Oh my God.
I see.
I,
I see.
I'm thinking from a storyteller perspective and there's,
there's tons of things that uh of implications of this technology in storytelling.
And I keep coming back to,
you know,
and I said this to Rhonda and she,
she agreed that um there's gonna be a whole another service industry around staging and producing um using this technology because um it's gonna be the storytellers that become sort of the,
the planners and developers and because you're gonna have to treat this.
You're gonna have to use it as like as part of a live event and sometimes it'll be an event,
an event unto itself and someone's gonna have to design it,
someone's going to have to produce it and someone's gonna have to stage it.
What,
what we didn't get to ask,
Ron is in uh the conversation Steve and I had had with a Azari before a lot of the assets you develop for their platform,
you can use those same assets to develop an interactive game.
Sure you can.
So now like,
you know,
there's a,
there's a cost share,
like if you,
you know,
we're looking at it,
you know,
from folk tellers perspective because we're a trans media company,
it's like,
well,
if we invested in,
you know,
uh a Azari doing some stuff for us,
part of that investment,
we would get back because we'd be getting uh assets to develop our interactive game at the same time and,
and you,
you hit it right in the head.
They are assets,
assets,
meaning that they have value.
And so remember we,
we talked about building your digital footprint,
um you know,
on the web or socially,
right?
This is building your digital footprint in your tangible 3D assets.
So if I build out an entire say I did the entire uh Harry Potter,
you know,
place in London,
OK.
You know how many assets there would be in 3D?
Think about that.
I mean,
hundreds of thousands.
Yeah.
So you're talking millions and millions of dollars because there's a lot of work and effort that has to go into building all of those assets.
Now,
once they're built,
they can be reused over and over again as different instances.
Um,
I go,
go back to the days when I used to design things.
You would say if I'm,
I'm gonna use a specific 3d part over and over again,
I draw it and I,
I would create instances of that,
that I can use all the way through designing a guy or a car or whatever,
right?
This is really the same thing,
you know,
and I think that that's going to provide a lot of value in the future to companies and the,
the way that they,
they calculate value and assets is going to start to change because that this is really important to that.
So yeah,
this gets this splinters and gets complex really fast.
So,
you know,
as we're wrapping up,
let's um I,
I kind of want to put this question out there back to storytelling.
What is the implication because you could,
you could go down this rabbit hole and get completely lost and kind of freak out.
But if,
if you're a storyteller,
regardless of your medium and you are telling your stories,
what are some of the things that storytellers should be looking out for?
Yeah,
I think right now the way I view this is,
it's just another tool to be able to tell my story,
right?
We have film,
we have TV,
we have books,
we have uh learning modules,
you know,
all sorts of things that we can tell a story.
But this is another great tool because it adds just another technology depth to it that hasn't been there.
And so,
um you know,
to me that's the exciting part about this is to see just another tool to be able to tell the story,
the trans media,
another layer of trans media.
Yeah.
What about you,
Steve?
Well,
it to,
to me looking at it from a business perspective.
OK.
It's,
it is definitely building the wealth of your assets as I I was just mentioning.
And um it matter of fact,
it didn't really dawn on me until right now that to thinking about how that new world is gonna operate,
it's gonna be extremely interesting,
but it's your stories,
the stories that you write that contain all of those assets.
I think you called it something the other day uh the different devices within a story.
Remember you said that?
Well,
those different devices are ideas,
those end up becoming,
you know,
three dimensional objects that become a part of your digital assets and the value of what you're doing.
So that actually goes back to one of the episodes we did on IP it's IP value.
So it's all this stuff is all connected,
all interconnected.
Yeah,
Wow.
So this,
well,
this is a great way to end.
I will just end with this.
Um If you are a storyteller focus on your story because there's only gonna be more and more ways to tell it,
but you gotta get your story down and make sure it's what you want it to be and make sure um you know,
it speaks to you and that the power starts from within and moves outward.
Exactly.
Get your ducks in a row.
All right guys.
Good one.
Thank you.
Thanks everyone.
Thanks for having me.
Thanks for having me.
Thanks to.

 

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