1360: Sneak Peak of SXSW XR Experience Projects, Events, & Lounges with Programmer Blake Kammerdiener

I had a chance to speak with Blake Kammerdiener, the lead programmer of the SXSW XR Experience selection to get a sneak peak of the 36 projects that are being featured this year (14 projects in the XR Experience Competition, 18 projects in the XR Experience Spotlight, and 4 XR Experience Special Events). The XR Experience Exhibition will be running from Sunday March 10 to Tuesday March 12 from 11a to 6p CDT. New this year to the Exhibition Floor will be sponsor booths on the main exhibition on Floor 3 of the Fairmont (Arizona State University MIX Center, Meta, Taiwan Creative Content Agency (TAICCA)’s Taiwan Pavilion, and Xn Québec), as well as XR lounges in conference rooms including the Canadian Innovation Lounge, and L’Effet Québec on Fairmont’s 3rd floor. There are also some XR Experience projects on the 4th and 5th Floors as well, and the XR Track also runs from March 10-12, and will be split between the Hilton Hotel and the 5th floor of the Fairmont. Here’s an unofficial spreadsheet listing some XR parties and XR events happening during SXSW as well, and be sure to check out events at the Canada House & Ireland House.

I will unfortunately not be in Austin, TX to attend SXSW physically this year due to a family medical issue, but I will be covering 1/2 to 2/3 of the SXSW XR Experience projects remotely. Here is a list of upcoming interviews as well as some previously covered projects at SXSW including 6 from Venice Immersive, 1 from Tribeca Immersive, and 1 from IDFA DocLab.

This is a listener-supported podcast through the Voices of VR Patreon.

Music: Fatality

Rough Transcript

[00:00:05.452] Kent Bye: The Voices of VR Podcast. Hello, my name is Kent Bye, and welcome to the Voices of VR Podcast. It's a podcast that looks at the future of spatial computing. You can support the podcast at patreon.com. So the South by Southwest Festival is getting underway today, and there's going to be XR experiences and XR track that's going to be happening from Sunday, March 10th to Tuesday, March 12th. And so I had a chance to talk to the senior manager for film and television and XR programming at SXSW, Blake Kamradiner, who has been programming this since 2016, and I had a chance to talk to him about the 36 different XR projects that are going to be featured there at SXSW. I unfortunately am not going to be making it out to SXSW this year, I have a family medical issue that's going to be limiting some of my travel throughout the course of this year, but I was able to talk to Blake and also I'm going to be still able to cover about half of the different program. And by the end, maybe see about two thirds of it all. I'll do my best to do as much of the remote coverage as I can. So I'll be kicking off my coverage here for South by Southwest with this conversation with Blake to give you a broad overview of both the program, but also some new features like lounges and some of the sponsors that are being featured there at South by Southwest. So, that's what we're covering on today's episode of the Wists of VR podcast. So, this interview with Blake happened on Friday, March 1st, 2024. So, with that, let's go ahead and dive right in.

[00:01:29.814] Blake Kammerdiener: Hi, I'm Blake Kommerdiener. I am the senior manager for film and TV and XR programming at South by Southwest. I started the XR exhibition for the 2016 event, which was like our little small test pilot in a tiny little room in the Hilton where we had like Chris Milk's verse and Nani de la Peña and several other like smaller independent groups all showcasing some immersive work there. At that time it was all VR and then it was very popular so we moved into 2017 we had our official showcase come up which was then called the Virtual Cinema and now has evolved into the XR Experience. And yeah, it takes place for three days during South by Southwest week in March and will take place this year at the Fairmont Hotel. And we're very excited for this year's lineups. Very, very strong, I think.

[00:02:17.807] Kent Bye: Right. Maybe you could give a bit more context as to your background and your journey into this space.

[00:02:22.268] Blake Kammerdiener: Yeah, absolutely. So. I was kind of just a lover of VR since I was a kid in the first wave when I was in maybe the early 90s I was able to like try my first VR project at an arcade and I played it a few times Territory to Actual if you will for those who know and you know you hop into a headset with a giant massive headset in this ring and then Pterodactyl kills you in like 30 seconds or something like that. But it was fantastic. I was in love from that moment. I tried some other VR projects a few times. Disney Quest. Went to Disney Quest in 2000, actually. So my interest was always just there. I've always been an entertainment junkie, if you will, in general. So Then I started volunteering at South by Southwest in 2005, working kind of in the film festival side of things, like film technical side of things, doing like traffic, like moving films from one place to another, sound checks and those types of things. And I did that for about four years until I came on, started doing some internships, moved to the front of house, did front of house film festival event work for a long time. I was a production manager for many, many, many, many years for the film festival. But then I started getting into programming. and program title sequences, music videos, short films, the kind of whole lay of the land there, moving into some feature film programming as well. But then in 2015, our chief programming officer was like, we have a lot of immersive content coming in, in the conference side of things. I'd like to build a team. Who'd like to be on that team? And I immediately jumped at that, just because of my previous interest. And I just dove head first, really started getting into the industry, seeing what was happening, the evolution of immersive, where it was going. from then on have just been like, you know, full all in. So.

[00:04:03.677] Kent Bye: Awesome. Well, I know that there's just three short days. You have a lot of programming for folks to dive into. And so way more stuff than most people will be able to have a chance to check out in those three brief days. But I wanted to just have an opportunity to catch up with you. I unfortunately will not be able to make it this year. So I'm wanting to get a sense of some of the program and I'll try to do my best to cover some of it remotely. But maybe let's start off with the types of experiences that you need to ticket for, or the ones that you'll have to wait for a specific time, because I know that some of the experiences like topomancer was at Finnis, and there may be some other ones that may be harder to see because they're limited throughput. So are there any experiences like that that we should start off with?

[00:04:45.860] Blake Kammerdiener: So yeah, most of, first off, so much of it is headset based, right? And a lot of those are going to be less throughput. It's just the nature of viewing projects and headsets. So that's going to be like, honestly, like the mass majority. Now we do have an amazing AR project and then several screen-based projects this year that will have a much higher throughput. We have a lot easier to get in and they cover kind of a lot of different things. So I'm really excited about that and having that access. This year, I will mention, I kind of will jump around here a little bit, but like, In the Fairmont, you'll know the main floor is on the third floor and our congressional ballroom there. However, this year we're going to have projects on the fourth floor and fifth floor as well. So each year we're kind of just like placing a few more projects here and there and every nook and cranny we can. On top of that, we have some amazing support this year, which I'll mention real fast before we really dive in straight to the project specifics. We have ASU Mixed as our presenting sponsor, and they're going to have a big booth and presence outside of the Congressional Ballroom, which is going to be amazing. We're going to have supporting sponsors from Taika, from Taiwan, we're going to have X in Quebec, and Meta are all going to be in the Congressional Ballroom with projects showing some work there, what they're working on. Meta, speaking of Meta, they are our XR Track sponsor as well, so they'll have a presence, a lounge on the fourth floor and a presence on the fifth floor as well, which is great. So yeah, just like, On top of that, then there's going to be all these other immersive lounges from the UK, Canada, and Quebec as well. So we're really filling up the Fairmont this year and really, really excited about all that. So there will be a lot more for people to do who can't get into these headset-based projects because they can't get there early enough or whatever. So to get into these projects, first and foremost, you go in each day. There are signups at each booth. on the day of. So the earlier you get there, the likelier you are to get a slot. You go in, you sign up, there are oftentimes dropouts and while there are people around the entire day, and people can jump into headsets if people don't show up. So there's that as well. And like I said, as well as some of these more like screen based projects that will have a higher throughput that you'll be able to walk in and out of.

[00:06:45.060] Kent Bye: Great. So before we start to dive into the experiences, I guess a follow up question is that usually there's also a tracks of lots of different talks that's usually also happening in that same building right in the Fairmont.

[00:06:55.507] Blake Kammerdiener: Absolutely. So we have our XR track, and we also have the game industry track that take place there in the Fairmont. They're on the fifth floor there. We have two rooms of programming in each of those, and they'll run from 10 a.m. till about 5 p.m. each day. On top of that, we're going to have all sorts of networking events, happy hours, and all that kind of stuff that take place there in the Fairmont as well. Several on the seventh floor, some in some of the foyer areas. It's going to be a lot of fun.

[00:07:17.202] Kent Bye: And so it's new that you're actually having like some of the sponsors have booths. That's something I haven't seen before. So are they going to be showing projects or just talking to the audience or what's the plan there?

[00:07:26.868] Blake Kammerdiener: Yeah, really, when we built out these new spaces, we thought we really wanted to keep it project based. So there will be projects that we'll be focusing on. Some of them will be like multiple projects about like stuff that's coming out in their regions. Some might be one specific project that they're really focused on for this time. And yeah, so it is new and we're kind of really excited about it because able to bring in kind of a new sector and be able to showcase different types of stuff that's happening in the immersive space.

[00:07:52.122] Kent Bye: Okay. And the lounges, is that an evening? Is that like the after parties or what are the lounges?

[00:07:56.925] Blake Kammerdiener: No, all the lounges, those are going to be daytime also. And those are going to have different focuses as well. For like Canada, they're going to have rotating each day, different types of projects, like companies that they're focusing on that are working on immersive projects. We have, and actually it's back. We had them here last year, the UK, the UKRI, they put together an amazing program where there's some talks and then they're showing some like really innovative use cases for immersive technology, which is really awesome.

[00:08:24.297] Kent Bye: Okay. Well, we should probably start to dive into the different experiences. Let's start with the competition and I'll just let you kind of go popcorn style. I've got a list of ones here and I'll make sure we try to give a little bit of a sneak peek for each of these.

[00:08:36.697] Blake Kammerdiener: Yeah, absolutely. So I'll just start going through this list. We'll start with Astra. So very excited about Astra. It's a follow-up from Eliza McNitt, who directed Spheres, which was popular several years ago. Pre-pandemic was one of the first really big immersive projects to pop. And yeah, this is her follow-up. It's a mixed reality, space-based, more narrative-driven project that I'm really, really excited about. Then let's see here. Apple Vision Pro. All right. So Chief is a project by Catherine Ng and Kilma Lattin who were here in 2022 with Chalk Talk Code Talkers, which is a really amazing project. And they're going to be showing their project called Chief, which as far as we know, will be the first project shown at an event on Apple Vision Pro. We'll see how that works out. We're doing all sorts of tests on throughput and how that works, which we're really excited about. And in this project, you'll be able to kind of meet several of really interesting leaders of native tribes. You know, we have some chief women, one of the youngest chiefs to be voted in to lead their tribe. And really, really beautiful and interesting project. Very excited to see that. So, you know, Miroshot and Wristband. They're an amazing band and company that have been working in the immersive space for quite some time. Their first standalone project is called Detachment, which will be premiering, directed by Roman Rapak and Luke Higgs. So very excited for people to be able to see that. You mentioned Tulpamancer earlier. We're playing the next project by the directors Mark DaCosta and Matthew Niederhauser called The Golden Key. Now, The Golden Key is going to be one of those screen-based projects that I was talking about. It's going to be a large screen. It's like a narrative story around the trickster gods, trickster myths, if you will. And there will be multiple computer setup where the audience can come in and start helping to write and change that narrative. And then through generative AI, it's going to integrate that group story into this projected onto a very large screen. That one will actually be found on the fifth floor. And I will mention in that same room, we are playing Topamancer actually as well. Topamancer will have several setups for Topamancer up there on the fifth floor as well.

[00:10:47.047] Kent Bye: Just a quick follow up on the golden key. So is that going to be like a rolling like, just drop in? Or is it going to be like a set time where it says a runtime 15 minutes? And so is that going to be like every 15 minutes is going to be a new batch of people?

[00:10:59.911] Blake Kammerdiener: No, I think it's going to be more of a rolling opportunity for people to come in, go out, there's a good large capacity in that room. So people can come in and watch as they do. And because of the generative AI nature of it, it's going to be different. continuously different, right, depending on the input from each group and all of that. So I think really, like, there'll be an opportunity to spend some time and see how that changes and moves through the story and develops.

[00:11:27.036] Kent Bye: Very cool. Okay. So yeah, let's keep moving through. I guess we're going alphabetically. So I guess I'm tired of being hyper surveilled.

[00:11:33.432] Blake Kammerdiener: Yeah, absolutely. I'm tired of being hyper-surveilled. This is really awesome. It took me by surprise, if you will. It's a visual album for an artist named Hino, who's one of the directors, also directed by Tara Rose Morris. And it's like an exploratory album from this artist. So as you explore and find different places in the space, you're running through a building, you find different places, and it pops up different videos. So you're looking at both immersive video as well as a 6DOF playscape. It's really very interesting, very beautiful, and the music is amazing. Yeah. So now we'll move on to Justifer Lowe, final encore. This is a opera singer from Quebec and one of the premier bass opera singers from back in the day. That's going to be directed by Emily Rosas and Colas Wolfhardt and that is also yet again like a really amazing biopic there. last we left off. This is kind of like a project of love for me. It's directed by a group called the expats. It's a group going through a D&D game as they move in and out of game or gameplay or not. And the conversation as it goes around is just absolutely hilarious. And you know how hard that comedy can be in VR, actually, right? So, when I start laughing in VR, It's instantly affecting to me because of, honestly, how rare it is. So I'll say. All right, Madden Pirate, Code of Conduct. This is actually the second episode of the Madden Pirate immersive series made out of Taiwan and co-produced with France, I believe. It is directed by Morgan Ulmer and Danqi Wang. We played episode one as well, although we didn't premiere it. I believe we were the international premiere for that. and they've changed style and it's just fantastic like to see the different styles that they've integrated last time they were doing like 360 video animation this time there's more volumetric capture it's like really lovely to see these style changes within this series and it's really really beautiful.

[00:13:40.355] Kent Bye: I think the uh Madame Pirate there was also is that the story of like the Pirate Queen is that right? Yeah. Okay yeah. Eloise Singers, the Pirate Queen is actually releasing on March 7th, right ahead of South by Southwest. So it's the VR version of the same story that showed at Tribeca, but that's coming out on March 7th. So I'll be playing through that and also talking with those, but yeah, it's kind of a nice to see the similar story.

[00:14:04.713] Blake Kammerdiener: Yeah, no, absolutely. In the early days when they first came up, you know, one of those things as I guys, you know, whenever I was so confused at first, I was like, wait, there's a I've talked to her. No, I didn't talk to you about this. You know, it's like, the game is beautiful. Also, you know, singer studios amazing job with that. And then so it's like these two different like kind of ways to explore this one really amazing story.

[00:14:25.827] Kent Bye: Right, and I know the Maya: Birth of the Superhero, I saw the first chapter of it at Tribeca, so I'm assuming that this is going to be the full experience.

[00:14:33.768] Blake Kammerdiener: Correct. That's exactly right. So my birth of a superhero by Pulumi Basu and CJ Clark. This was, if I'm not mistaken, one of the last projects from the Oculus program VR for good. So really excited. We, they were great partners that we showcased a lot of their work over the years. So very excited to be able to show this and yeah, it's some people may have seen that first kind of chapter there at Tribeca and yeah, this will be the first time to you'll be able to see the complete story.

[00:15:02.180] Kent Bye: Right.

[00:15:03.205] Blake Kammerdiener: Then we have Reimagined Volume 3. So this is another series, right? Which is really cool to see, I think, all these different series coming through and being able to build on their audience like that. Reimagined series takes lesser-known fables and kind of reimagines them for an immersive audience. And this is Young Thing. It's by Melissa Joyner, Julie Cavalier, and Kayla Terneski-Holland, who's been a really amazing producer over the years for several projects that we played. SoulPaint, okay, so you'll see this through several of the projects. There is like a really amazing like mental health and wellness theme, several of the projects. SoulPaint is gonna be one of these by Sarah Ticho and Nikki Smith. Now this project, it's really about exploring your feelings and how they're connected to your, really amazing, really effective. There's a lot of research behind this and really excited to get to share this with our audience this year.

[00:16:02.082] Kent Bye: So is it, is it have specific sensors that they're going to be having that's like detecting your biometric information and fed into the experience or?

[00:16:10.607] Blake Kammerdiener: No. So. Basically, you, I mean, there are some built in, I guess, to the project itself, but it's actually more choice based around choice, right? So you're able to kind of choose a palette of colors that express your experience. And you're able to kind of build that into a body or avatar that you're creating and then be able to connect those feelings and the experience of what it looks like. Right. It's kind of like a immersive paint therapy, if you will. So it's really, really interesting. The tent. This is directed by Rory Mitchell. This is an AR project. It's a beautiful, like volumetric captured AR project talking about place and home, if you will. Right. So, you know, dealing with homelessness and really like the effect on people, on your emotions and, and really like what you have behind your intent, whenever you are working and dealing with displaced people. Very interesting, very beautifully made, very beautifully crafted. I'm really excited to see this type of craftsmanship in an AR project. It's really, really, really awesome. The Vortex Cinema. I think this is gonna blow people's minds. It's an immersive video game by Max Sacker, who's been here with several projects before over the last several years. And it is so beautiful in the craftsmanship itself. And then in the gameplay, just, constantly changing, constantly exploring. You get all of the puzzles and the fighting, and it's a noir exploration of jumping into the past through the cinema. It's absolutely fantastic. It's gonna be a massive hit. It's one to definitely look out for, I think. And then our final project in competition is going to be from South Africa and Nigeria called We Speak Their Names and Hush Tones. It's about the effect when family members and loved ones gone through these different routes to leave the continent, right. And are lost. And so it's like what that loss, the effect it has on family and friends there. So very, very interesting exploration there.

[00:18:20.814] Kent Bye: Okay. And based upon previous years of South by Southwest, I've noticed that sometimes the projects that are in the spotlight and the ones that are in competition aren't necessarily always clearly marked for the audience. They're kind of all mashed together. So this year, I don't know if there's going to be any difference or if there's going to be a similar kind of like, cause these are all the ones that are in the competition, but there's also the spotlight that we're about to talk about. But just in terms of as people were navigating the space, they're all mashed together. Right.

[00:18:48.320] Blake Kammerdiener: So when navigating the space, yes, it's kind of one of the like hidden gems that I don't really normally talk about, but I spend excruciating amount of time. projects in kind of a flow, right? I know that most people would never notice, you know, but there is a, there is an actual flow to it. And it's really interesting when people do notice, like there's very few cases, but people will be like, Oh yeah, no. Like I hit these documentaries and then I hit this kind of sector of things and I went into this kind of sector of things. So a lot of times it's probably just made up in my mind and doesn't matter so much, but I do put a lot of time into that. So yeah.

[00:19:26.410] Kent Bye: Okay. Well, maybe we'll unpack a little of those hidden gems if we have time at the end, but maybe let's, let's move on to the spotlight, which there's a number of different projects that have either premiered already, or, you know, there's a number of projects here from Venice and one from DocLab that I've had a chance to see. So maybe we could start to dig into the spotlight selection.

[00:19:45.129] Blake Kammerdiener: Yeah, absolutely. So with the spotlight, they all have played somewhere in some form or fashion, right? And so that's one of the main distinguishing things, and it's not 100%, but is that they're all going to be world premieres and competition. And in spotlight, it's going to be a mishmash of international North American US premieres, as well as things that may have already been out, right? you know, a couple years ago we played Goliath, which had already been out on Meta for several months before South By. So it's really like a great place where we can just like highlight work that we love. We'll start with 4.4.2 by Nirmah Madhu. This project blue my mind I don't know if you were able to see a little preview of this so it actually premiered at South by Southwest Sydney which is really interesting but she was at Venice in the market if you will talking about another project so well this one it's Absolutely beautiful. She really takes, like, fashion-forward approach to her work. It is really, like, about the African view on cosmology. Absolutely beautiful. Just stunning in its creation. So really excited for people to see that. Antipsychotic by Matt McCorkle. This is another screen-based project, actually. I think might be the only screen-based project on the main floor. But it's an interactive journey with some haptic couches and some surround screens and all that kind of stuff that's going to be a lot of fun, really kind of exploring his world through the lens of bipolarism, if you will. But it is psychedelic and just fascinating, really fun exploration there. You said you saw Buried in the Rock, just Scan Lab. I mean, what can we say about Scan Lab? Their work is absolutely stunning, right? Always has been for a long, long time. Anything I've seen ever come out of Scan Lab has just been beautiful. So this is no different and is really about a couple who explore, they're cave explorers, right? It's just wonderful, so. getting down there into the caves. If that's a fear, this is, you know, if you get a little claustrophobic, you know, this is maybe the time that you can go through and explore that, right? And not be so affected, maybe.

[00:22:03.676] Kent Bye: Yeah, lots of really great spatial audio in that one and using point cloud data to really give a sense of the spatial architecture, but also to tell a story. So I've had a chance to see that at DocLab and do an interview with Shahani and one of the producers from ScanLab.

[00:22:18.430] Blake Kammerdiener: I mean, it's just, it's beautiful. Um, and honestly, I've been anticipating it for a long time. I know about this project for quite a while and like really, really excited to see it come to South by. Danny the Portrait of a Beauty from Cooper, Sanghyun Yoo. This was produced by J. Kim, formerly of Giglio, if you will, who had like one of the live projects last year, live theater projects last year. And this is really interesting because what they did is they took a, oh man, I'm gonna forget the century, very old artist who had this series of paintings, right? And then weaved a story through it and brought that story to life through a musical actually. It's really, really amazing. beautiful animation. Just fantastic. Let's see here. Dream of Lebanon by Martin Willisch and Cynthia Salma. Now, this is awesome because it is an interactive 360 video where you get to just kind of sit and talk to and see the life of these three Lebanese individuals. And it's about them living their life and what that's like. And it's really, really amazing. Super personal. Emperor. This was one of the projects from Venice. It is incredible black and white animation about aphasia, a story about aphasia. The father in the project had a stroke and then went through aphasia which is when your brain mixes up the words and letters when you're trying to speak or communicate. Very personal for me. Uh, I had a grandmother with aphasia and so like, and it's like, it's amazing in its interpretation and the way it lets you really experience that. I'm very excited to be able to play that. That was like, that was one of my highlights from, I mean, it's just so personal for me. So like really, really, really wonderful and beautifully crafted, just absolutely beautifully crafted. Oh yeah. Uh, directed by Mary Berger and Elanje Cohen.

[00:24:17.663] Kent Bye: Yeah, it picked up the third place prize at Venice and it's a little bit longer, like 40 minutes. So it's going to be difficult for folks to see, but definitely recommend seeing the combination of both really amazing writing, but also some interactive components that really feed into the story as well.

[00:24:33.659] Blake Kammerdiener: Yeah, absolutely. Energia, so Energia by Yugo Arasak. This is, I think, going to surprise some people just in its beauty and the nature of the exploration within it. So it's a scan, like a 3D scan of an energy plant, right? nuclear energy plant. And you get to just explore through the entire thing. And as you do, you find these hidden audio components of experts talking about climate change and the effect of climate. And it's just, I mean, I spent a very long time for this project, you know, because I could just keep on exploring and really like finding nooks and crannies and then finding new bits of audio. It's really, really beautiful piece, very beautiful project. I'm really excited to see what Hugo does and some more of his work as it comes along. He's going to be a very exciting artist to follow. Her name was Gisberta by Sergio Galvo Rojo. And now this one is a Portuguese and Brazilian co-production. It is an animated project about a true story about a trans individual who was tortured and murdered by a group of kids, actually. And so it will be a hard watch for some people, but it is a very important story to tell and really, really amazingly told in their style and how they did it. The Imaginary Friend, this is another Venice project from Steja Halema from the Netherlands and beautiful, beautiful project about a boy with an imaginary friend and how he's using that to cope with some loss in his life, right? So it's really, really beautiful, really, really well told. And the kid actor is incredible, you know. The Dutch had a very strong outing this year. I think we have four Dutch projects. So really, really strong. All right, Impulse, the preview by Barry G. Murphy and May Abdalla. This is the follow up from Anagram, their project Goliath. So Goliath was about psychosis, and this is their follow up in a different realm of mental health. Impulse is more about ADHD and neurodivergence in that form, and exposing that to people and, you know, like letting people see what it's like to live with these different mental health issues. So now I'm going to talk about The Journey Back, which is a collection of three projects called Escape to Shanghai, Letters from Drancy, and Walk to Westerbork. Escape from Shanghai is directed by Charlotte Mikkelborg, Letters from Drancy by Darren Emerson, and Walk to Westerbork by Mary Matheson. Now, these projects are all about these amazing women who are Holocaust survivors and their story of what they lived through during World War II. And they're a mix of 360 video and six off animations. I mean, it's you know, it's like their styles are all different, but all in the same format. And they're just absolutely beautifully told. We're so excited that two of the ladies will be in town and on a panel session in our culture track, which we're super excited about.

[00:27:36.527] Kent Bye: And all of them are produced by the Illinois Holocaust Museum, correct?

[00:27:40.768] Blake Kammerdiener: Correct. So Illinois Holocaust Museum and East City Films, which is Darren's company that he worked with on that. So yeah,

[00:27:48.787] Kent Bye: Yeah, I saw the Lotus or Jancy premiered at Venice and I was really moved by it. It's just a really amazing filmmaking. So I'm hoping to get some remote access to the other two because it's like a trilogy of different stories that they're telling. But yeah, just a really amazing to see how this particular museum in Illinois had access to VR headsets and has been producing some of these stories. So yeah, just a real great exploration for what you can do with the medium.

[00:28:15.050] Blake Kammerdiener: Absolutely. And it's exciting that they're showcasing this, right? Because they're showing in Illinois. So these are three projects that you can go see at the Holocaust Museum in Illinois now. So very awesome. Okay, Natatsia or Sister Lin Tao. This is by Sao Mai Ho and Chuan Ming Yan from Taiwan. Get excited because the Positron Voyager chairs are back and they are back with Sister Lin Tao. So there will be a line for this around the block for the entire event. Positron Voyager chairs always attract a huge crowd. And it's really amazing to be able to show this project in them, which is like very artistic, exploration of women. It's just absolutely beautiful and stunning. And I haven't seen it in the chair yet, and I'm excited to do so. All right. Shadow time. My sister Sylvester and Dennis Tordham. This is another Venice project. Another Dutch produced project as well, actually. And it is about the first virtual image scene, right? I don't know about you. Did you try this project in Venice?

[00:29:20.488] Kent Bye: Yeah, I saw it at Venice and have an interview with the creators. And so it's like what I think of as one of the first VR essays. And so it's like a VR essay. And yeah, I had a chance to talk to them. And they've got an interesting voice. They're talking about stuff that they don't always themselves believe, but they're making an argument. in a way that's really quite interesting because they take you through the history of VR from the sort of Damocles and go through the history of computer graphics in a way. But I think the core of it is that you're making an argument around the nature of VR itself. So very thought provoking, but also very interesting VR design as well.

[00:29:59.480] Blake Kammerdiener: Yeah, I'm excited because it was in combination with like a research project that they did that they also had a short film kind of built around that they're also going to kind of have running at the event with us. So you'll be able to have the opportunity to see both, which is really kind of fun, I think. And super interesting. Like you said, there's a lot of generative AI used in the creation of this as well, which is another interesting layer on it all, I think. And then the winner from Venice, another Dutch project, Songs for a Passerby. This is absolutely stunning, just extremely beautiful and thought-provoking, really diving into kind of the inner thoughts of people and plays with viewpoint like no other, I think. You know, whenever, as like you go around through the project, kind of around this building and through these scenes. And I don't want to give too much away. It's all like, you know, as you're able to see the view of what you had seen earlier from a different vantage point, it's really very, just absolutely thought provoking, I think.

[00:30:55.237] Kent Bye: Yeah, this would definitely get one of my top picks of stuff that I've seen that I would highly, highly recommend folks check out. They needed a quite a lot of space to show this at Venice. Is this going to be on one of the other floors at South by?

[00:31:07.387] Blake Kammerdiener: No. Yeah. No, this is actually it does take a lot of space, but it will be on the main floor.

[00:31:13.591] Kent Bye: Okay. Okay. Yeah. Definitely. This is one to look out for and check out.

[00:31:17.574] Blake Kammerdiener: Absolutely. All right. Tadpole. Oh, my goodness. This is actually another kind of little hidden gem. Now, it's a 360 video. It's super short and sweet. It's like hand-drawn animation. And it's just lovely. You know, I mean, I say lovely. It's deep. And it has some really like, you know, it's a dark subject matter, if you will, at the core of it. But the way it's presented is so unique and beautiful. So very excited about this one. There were several this year that just like caught me off guard in both their simplicity and delivery and kind of depth at the same time. We talked about Topalmancer a little bit.

[00:31:56.145] Kent Bye: Well, we did, but I wanted to just jump in and say about Topalmancer is that this is probably one of the most forward looking in terms of what would it look like if you had an experience where you're able to get some questions asked about your past, present and future and have a whole custom bespoke VR experience created just for you. And I'm imagining, I don't know if they've changed the pipeline at all, but things are moving so quickly that they. But they've also got another project that they're there. So I don't know if they've tweaked it at all, but definitely one of the most thought provoking in terms of the confluence of generative AI systems and how you could use both text prompts, but then get back audio on top of echo rectangular 360 videos kind of mashed together into a VR experience. That's like a sand painting that you're the only one that gets to experience it. So it's something that I thought was really a sneak peek into the future of what I would imagine a hollow deck type of experience would be. But this actually was able to create an arc and a story in a way that chat GPT and the way that you're prompting stuff isn't always easy to have a narrative. But I feel like they did a really great job of taking the inputs and giving you back something that felt like a full arc of a story.

[00:33:08.841] Blake Kammerdiener: I totally agree and I think that that was that's one reason why I'm so excited about that and then to be able to show that's why that's like it's not often that I'll show two projects by the same group but that was why I wanted to because it is so exciting what they're doing and how they've been able to craft this bespoke narrative utilizing degenerative AI. I think it will have evolved, right? Just by the nature of the AI itself. I think that the experience, even with only slight tweaks to the pipeline, if any at all, will have evolved from when they showed it prior to now. So, I'm very excited. I'm going to try it again for sure. You know? Yeah. All right. Special events. All right. We have four special events this year. Three of them are on the fourth floor in the Fairmont. We have Kiss Crash by Adam Cole. So, Adam created these images using AI. There's actually three screens set up. There's a couple that are different, right? So, this is kind of like imaging of yourself, kind of reflection on each other. kind of melding then the central component is these cars crashing into lovers and then back and just constantly changing as this happens and then there's these other monitors that are connected to some pedals that you create an interactive component to all of this right so there's gonna be lots of cars crashing it's gonna be a lot of fun we'll see But then we are going to have Opal by Thibaut Duvernay and Guillaume Cardel. It's a really interesting project out of Quebec. There are multiple screens. They've created these lamps that interact with the screens and then interact with each other. Kind of a really beautiful kind of meditation on climate. It's really great. A Picture Can't Take Me by Sybil Cavalli-Bastos. This is actually going to be in the hallway. So this is in the foyer area on the fourth floor. So really anybody can come up and see and interact and play with this. And it's going to be a screen-based setup capture where they've combined audio components, AR components, and AI to create different portraitures of yourself, if you will, I guess. And Sybil is just an absolute. I'm like super excited about her work. She is based in Germany. I believe she's from Brazil originally and then like through Portugal and into Berlin. If you like look her up, you'll just see some just absolutely incredible art in all different types of mediums. And I think that's one of the super interesting things about her work is it's like her past in all these different mediums and her exploration of new mediums within that and kind of bringing it all together. So very exciting. Then, yes, the last one eclipsing. This is actually taking place is why I wanted to save it for last. It's taking place in a different location altogether. It starts at our Rollins Theater at the Long Center, which is on the other side of the river. It is an AR walking tour. So this is by Andrew Schneider and Annie Saunders. They won, I think, the first prize in 2022, maybe. 2021, one of those years. I think first year post pandemic maybe, Tribeca, where they did an AR walk, an AR audio walk in New York. It's called Eclipsing. It's a narration of the space and time, but kind of related, the story is really related to the eclipse which is happening where you can see it in full, like a full eclipse. in Austin on April 8th, I think. So it's taking that and weaving that narrative into their day in the life walk.

[00:36:37.492] Kent Bye: Nice.

[00:36:38.294] Blake Kammerdiener: And that's the program, I guess.

[00:36:39.670] Kent Bye: That's great. Yeah. Like 36 projects or so that we went through. That's a lot of great projects that I'm sure that folks will have a great time trying to see as many as they can. I know it's always difficult at South by Southwest because there are only three days to see stuff, but you did mention that you have like clusters and maybe as we start to wrap up, if you can maybe elaborate on that or also talk about the themes that you're seeing in terms of either thematically or if there's anything that was new or different and cause you've been curating for a number of years. or that same type of way of trying to tie together those seams within the floor and then how you start to try to do that or imagine the spatial representation of those different connective tissues.

[00:37:19.992] Blake Kammerdiener: You know, South by just in general themes is not what we programmed to, but themes do emerge. Right. So, and that happens like every year, it's like, what is in the artistic kind of ocean that is kind of washing on the beach this year. Right. So this year, I think we have some just exquisitely strong documentaries that has been a really strong point in immersive in general. So you'll see some strong documentaries there and maybe a cluster ish. Right. And I mentioned a little bit, but before, but. Mental health and wellness was kind of a theme that emerged this year, which is really interesting. I found I had a theme-ish that I like to think of as otherworldly. If you think of detachment, if you think of Astra, so it can be space. So there's a lot of like overlap, if you will. So if you think of antipsychotic, it's both this otherworldly project, but also related to mental health. which is really amazing. So that was a really interesting theme to emerge, I thought, this year, which was, I think, fantastic, actually. Yeah. And then, like I said, so a lot of strong documentary, a lot of strong mental health, a lot of this otherworldly kind of component. And then AI was integrated into so much in so many different ways also, right? And that is definitely going to be a big theme across South by Southwest in general, is kind of AI, how it's integrating it to different types of technology. And as you know, immersive artists are often those exploring what that newest technology is and how they can integrate it into their work. Right. And so the projects that use generative AI, like topomancer and the golden key, and then the projects that used AI in their creation, if you think of like shadow time and kiss crash and several others actually as well. So yeah.

[00:39:00.722] Kent Bye: And I know that South by Southwest also has music as a feature with a number of different projects that is distinct from other festivals that I go to. I know that South by Southwest being a confluence of film and music and technology tends to also have that as a theme generally as well in some of the projects.

[00:39:17.850] Blake Kammerdiener: Yeah, and last year was like kind of like a super peak of that. I feel like there was just a ton of different types of music, or different ways that people were using music combined with immersive art. This year, there might be a little less but like we said earlier with I'm tired being hyper developed a full album of new work, like this whole visual exploration, which funny, I was a musician way back in the day. And so it's like, I lean into that kind of heavily. And it's very effective for me whenever I see a musician really like kind of exploring and diving into what they can do with their music in the immersive environment.

[00:39:55.443] Kent Bye: Great. And, and finally, what do you think the ultimate potential of XR AI and immersive storytelling might be and what it might be able to enable?

[00:40:05.531] Blake Kammerdiener: I mean, It's endless because it is the whole, you know, the nature of the world beyond what we can see with our natural eyes, right? So, I mean, I will say it, the Apple Vision Pro has been very, very, I've been having a lot of fun exploring with it, you know, bringing it into my workflow, just like from just like everyday work to my relaxing and watching film and whether it's immersive or not. And so I think that it will continue to grow like it has, you know, People like to talk on the hype cycle and whenever the hype cycle's down, they like to talk a lot of crap about it. But I've always said that with immersive art and VR, AR, and all of it, it's a slow growth and will continue to slow grow until people don't even realize that it's integrated into every facet of their life.

[00:40:57.079] Kent Bye: Awesome. Anything else left unsaid you'd like to say to the broader immersive community?

[00:41:01.284] Blake Kammerdiener: Come on up South by Southwest. We are March, the full thing, March 8th through 16th, or you can come check out the immersive projects, which will be Sunday, March 10th through Tuesday, March 12th. And really hope to see you at the show.

[00:41:15.418] Kent Bye: Awesome. Well, Blake, thanks so much for coming on today to help give a bit of a sneak peek. I know there's always a lot of really amazing projects that you're able to curate from around the world and yeah, 36 different projects over the course of the three days will be plenty for folks to check out. Get there early for sure. If you want to check out stuff and you know, hang around to try to pick up on things that you weren't able to sign up for. So. Yeah. Thanks again for taking the time to help give a little bit of a sneak peek and some of the emerging trends of what you're seeing and the archetypal zeitgeist of what's on the artistic imagination. So thanks again for coming on to help break it all down.

[00:41:48.752] Blake Kammerdiener: Thanks Kent. Always a pleasure to see you.

[00:41:50.805] Kent Bye: So that was Blake Kamadiner. He's the senior manager for film and TV and XR programming at South by Southwest. So I've had a number of different takeaways about this interview is that first of all, well, this is a great overview of a lot of the different experiences that are going to be shown there at South by Southwest. If you are there at South by Southwest, I highly recommend getting there right near when they open. They open each day at around 11 AM. A lot of these projects, if they do have a list to be able to see it, then those will fill up pretty early. So you want to get there early to get onto some of those lists and then just kind of hang out and try to see as much as you can. I'd recommend for folks if you are going to see stuff try to hang out there for a good portion of the day just to try to get on to standby for anything that you can't actually see because it is only three days and 36 projects and so it's always difficult to try to see everything that you want to see. There are some other lounges that are going to be happening in some of the conference rooms that are also there in the third floor. I know the Canadian Innovation Lounge is in the Lady Bird room there on the third floor. Lafayette Quebec is in the Hamilton pool room on the third floor. And then also on the exhibition floor, there's going to be the lead sponsor, which is the Arizona State University's Mix Center and the Herberger Institute, as well as the Taiwan pavilion featuring Taika. MediQuest has a whole booth there. And then Exxon Quebec. As far as what I could tell from what Blake was saying, they're also going to be featuring some other projects that you can check out. So be sure to see some of those other projects that are there on the floor. And the XR track is also happening from March 10th to 12th. So lots of different panel discussions that are also happening. So it ends up bringing lots of different folks from the XR industry together and highly recommend going to the third floor, be there around 11am or even earlier, honestly, because there's going to be quite a long line of people Rushing in to try to get onto all the different standby and then yeah Just try to catch stuff that is more of a walk-up approach since there will be some projects that I'm sure that you can kind of Wait and also see there. So I will be covering 10 to 20 of the different projects remotely I've already seen seven of them six of which I've seen at Venice immersive and then another one that I saw at doc lab I'll include in the show notes links to these interviews. I'll be doing remotely as well and So, that's all I have for today, and I just wanted to thank you for listening to the Voices of VR podcast. So, if you enjoyed the podcast, then please do spread the word, tell your friends, and consider becoming a member of the Patreon. This is a listener-supported podcast, and so I do rely upon donations from people like yourself in order to continue to bring you this coverage. So you can become a member and donate today at patreon.com slash voicesofvr. Thanks for listening.

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