#233: Mary Spio on VR Music Videos & Audio Haptics with Ceekars 4D Headphones

mary-spioMary Spio is the president and founder of Next Galaxy, and she’s working on a number of different VR experiences including music videos, medical training, and enterprise applications. They’re also developing the Ceekars 4D Headphones in order to increase the immersion from audio. They’ve included haptic feedback on the ears and band of the headphones in order to do things like amplify the feeling of wind blowing or a passing train. Mary loves going to concerts, and so she’s channeling her passion for music into the virtual reality experiences that she’d like to have. Next Galaxy is working with some heavy metal bands and talks more about how she sees that VR could help increase the engagement and distribution of music for bands who adopt the technology.


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Rough Transcript

[00:00:05.452] Kent Bye: The Voices of VR Podcast.

[00:00:12.054] Mary Spio: Hi, this is Mary Speer with NYX Galaxy, and we're working on a 4D audio headphone for virtual reality, as well as a platform for distributing VR content and 360 content.

[00:00:23.859] Kent Bye: Great, so what kind of content are you going to be distributing then?

[00:00:27.908] Mary Spio: We're looking at distributing our own content that we create a lot of that 360 videos VR concerts VR sports a lot of what we're working on now is Creating content on black screen compositing that into CG environments so that it goes beyond just a 360 video So you can actually be inside of the music video. You couldn't be inside of the sporting event we've also worked on some enterprise stuff, which is a focused on things like CPR, a lot of the training in VR as well.

[00:00:58.986] Kent Bye: Great, and so what's sort of the target demographic or you know some of the more specific content that you're working on?

[00:01:04.112] Mary Spio: Okay, the big part of our content that we'll be working on will be the VR concerts. So the target demographic would be music lovers, people who One, to be able to get inside of the concert, be inside of the experience rather than just passively watching the music video. So to be able to move around inside the music video beyond just looking around in a 360 fashion.

[00:01:26.637] Kent Bye: Great. And so have you started to work with any musicians or any music videos? Or what type of projects have you already started on?

[00:01:33.475] Mary Spio: Well we're currently working with a couple of very big artists because we haven't made the announcement yet and it's also with a big label so I can't go into the specifics but it's a heavy metal. Both groups that we're working with now are heavy metal so it's going to be super exciting. They already had like these robots and this futuristic world and so we're very excited about creating the concert you know with these robots walking around snatching people's heads and all the exciting stuff that's going on. So it's way beyond just a music video. So it's the performance. And the exciting thing about doing the VR concerts this way is the perspective that the user can get. So every single time you watch the video, you're going to get a different type of experience. So you can, for example, watch it from up on the bridge. It's going to be a different experience in terms of what happens to you there. Or you can watch it from on stage. It's going to be different in terms of what happens to you there. And we think that's going to lead to greater engagement with the fans, as well as a lot of excitement.

[00:02:34.329] Kent Bye: And so with the music, there's clearly a audio component. And so what is happening with the audio that you're making it so that it's suited for a virtual reality experience?

[00:02:44.441] Mary Spio: What we're doing with the particular music videos that we have coming out or concerts that we have coming out, we're going to be working with DTS. But for future ones, you know, we have other types of 3D audio that we're going to incorporate into the experience itself. In addition to that, our long-term goal with these concerts is that people would be able to use our own 4D audio headphones. And our exciting thing about our 4D audio headphones, the Seekers, is the fact that As a content creator, we don't have to worry so much about this plug-in and that plug-in and all the CPU resources that audio rendering puts on, let's say, the mobile phone or on the computer itself because we're able to do the rendering on the hardware independent of what goes on with the content itself.

[00:03:34.937] Kent Bye: So 4D, what's the 4D mean in the context of audio headphones?

[00:03:39.888] Mary Spio: Right. What the 4D means is that it has a 3D audio component. So we're doing a 3D audio visualization plus haptic. So we have a lot of haptic feedback. So, you know, if you have the train passing by, you hear it shaking and so on. So it's really just adding that haptic element to a 3D specialized audio.

[00:03:57.965] Kent Bye: So is that sort of through a vest or is that through the ears or where's the haptics being applied?

[00:04:03.196] Mary Spio: It's being applied to the ear. And then we're also looking at applying it to the band that's on top of your head. So it's the combination of the two. We also have a controller for navigating the environment. And so for future versions of Seekers, you're also going to have the haptic feedback, you know, within the controller.

[00:04:21.953] Kent Bye: I'm still trying to figure out what this actually means is it is it like the bass frequencies just kind of shaking the the actual headphones and you're kind of feeling it on the where the the edge of the headphones are around your head and also in the band is that what that means or

[00:04:35.978] Mary Spio: Yeah, it goes beyond that because I think a lot of the older stuff in terms of the rumble on gaming headphones was really just the bass frequencies, the low frequencies, but it goes beyond that. So we're actually using two separate drivers to create the rumble. So you still get your bass frequencies because what happens when you're just adjusting the intensity of the rumble or the intensity of the vibration with just the low frequencies is you end up killing your low-end response. So you don't get that deep drop in the bass, for example, when you hear like a, you know, dinosaur or something stepping and all of that. But here, because we're using two separate drivers, you actually get your low-end frequency response, which is really great, as well as the rumble in addition. So we actually increase it with the intensity, not just with the type of frequency.

[00:05:29.888] Kent Bye: And so, yeah, what's that feel like then?

[00:05:31.992] Mary Spio: It feels amazing, you know, I love it. I've actually tried a few VR experiences with it and, you know, there was one that I tried recently and it was really kind of scary because I could almost feel the wind blow. I felt, I truly felt like I could feel you know, the wind blowing is the same thing. We have a demo with a train passing by and when you actually hear it, it does feel like, you know, wow, the train just went by. What's been interesting about, you know, being here at Oculus Connect 2 is the focus on audio, creating that sense of immersion and that audio visual coherence. and that sense of presence happens with the audio. So I'm so excited that, you know, for the longest time, it's kind of been an afterthought. But I think now everybody's discussing audio because it's not a nice to have, you know, it's really a critical part of creating that 3D experience and creating that sense of immersion and presence.

[00:06:27.555] Kent Bye: And so is there a specific integration that a virtual reality creator would need to do in order to get these 4D headphones to work? Or is it just a matter of it reading the frequency spectrum and then kind of dynamically reacting to it?

[00:06:39.962] Mary Spio: Right. It's currently with the headphones that we have, we know that the content creator has to do enough, you know, so we don't want them to have to design for 2D experiences and have to design again for 3D experiences. So we're just taking the original uncompressed files and we're visualizing it and creating that enhanced experience. That also allows us to take pre-existing content and be able to kind of enhance it a whole lot more. so you can discover more inside of the immersive experience. You know, further down the line, we want to do things like making, creating the ability to tell the difference between material properties, you know, so you could tell wood from, let's say, an open space and all of that. As we do a lot of that, we then have to create these very customized geometry data. And so then we will create like an SDK so developers can create their own, you know, different geometry, different environment. But for right now, we're just visualizing the uncompressed files.

[00:07:36.972] Kent Bye: And so you've mentioned a couple of music videos at Heavy Metal. And as you're moving forward, is there kind of like a type of project that you're looking to do or, you know, kind of make your name for yourself doing, you know, what is it that you really want to create?

[00:07:50.998] Mary Spio: You know, the music is super, super exciting because I'm a huge music fan. You know, I go to a lot of concerts. I think the biggest part for me is bringing that cinematic experience to the user at home. And so it would have to be where our users are saying, wow, when I put on this headphone, I truly feel like I am inside of the experience, you know? So when we're able to in a super realistic way, create an experience that's better than being in the movie theater using virtual reality, then I would say, you know what? We've done a great job.

[00:08:29.021] Kent Bye: And so how did you get into VR then?

[00:08:31.564] Mary Spio: My background is actually I'm an electrical engineer in computer science, so I've always worked as an engineer. I worked on digital cinema. I'm actually one of the three engineers that created digital cinema, and my part was on the communications and working on bandwidth efficient schemes to allow efficient distribution of content. I did that and then after that I created my own online video platform. And we worked with Xbox Live and a whole bunch of other people distributing online videos. So I've always worked in distribution of high data rate content efficiently. So when I saw the Oculus, I was at Facebook, saw the Oculus, and my first reaction was like, wow, this is really next. This is how we should be watching movies. This is how we should be watching videos. And everything I saw was just gaming, which is great. I love games, but I'm a bigger fan of movies and music. So I wanted to create something that would allow me to watch and do the things that I love with VR.

[00:09:34.789] Kent Bye: And so what type of experiences do you want to have in VR then?

[00:09:38.548] Mary Spio: I want to have, you know, some of the best concerts. I want to be able to have more people watching concerts from their home than they, you know, they go out. And then also for artists, I want them to be able to say, wow, maybe I might not be able to have 30 tour dates, but they have like maybe a thousand VR tour dates because they can be everywhere. So I want to have a lot of music experiences. I also want to have other experiences like what we're doing with health care. So all of those things are very important to me, making an impact with VR and then also changing and transforming entertainment, period.

[00:10:14.002] Kent Bye: And so what is it that you're doing with health care?

[00:10:16.384] Mary Spio: What we're doing with health care on the enterprise side, we're working with clients. We have clients such as the Miami Children's Hospital, which we're working with them to create training, convert their passive video training into fully immersive VR training. The first module that we've created for them is a CPR module, so we can save lives with VR, right? We do a lot of shooting and everything else with it, so we can also save lives with it. And so people can go in there and they can practice CPR. For a lot of medical professionals, they have certifications that they have to do on an annual basis. CPR is one of them. But it's also for parents, if they want to learn how to do CPR, it goes way beyond just passively watching video, because you have the real-time feedback as you're performing the operation. And then also, the fact that you can create these memories inside of VR, it's great, because people feel like they've actually performed it, so that, you know, God forbid something should happen, they'll know what to do.

[00:11:16.543] Kent Bye: And so what has it been like for you to introduce people to VR for the first time?

[00:11:20.986] Mary Spio: It's just been amazing. And we have a lot of video that we've shot of people trying VR for the first time, and from four-year-olds to 80-year-olds. And the response is always the same, wow. So it's just been incredible. It's also been incredible to see the experience. For example, I have a four-year-old. I know he's not supposed to put on the oculus and stuff. The first time he tried it and I took it away, he just cried for like an hour straight and I'm like, wow. And then it's the same thing, you get people on both ends of the spectrum, whether it's a four-year-old or an 80-year-old that tries it and nobody wants to give it back. So I know that this is just phenomenal and that's been the response.

[00:12:05.599] Kent Bye: And finally, what do you see as kind of the ultimate potential of virtual reality and what that might be able to enable?

[00:12:12.672] Mary Spio: I think the ultimate potential of VR is truly endless. For me, what I would love to see it enable are things like virtual diagnostics. And because a lot of the healthcare field is looking at telemedicine and how can we do real diagnosis where we can touch people and be able to diagnose them, especially when it comes to things like, you know, critical or highly contagious diseases where doctors cannot, you know, are putting themselves at risk. So we have some of the hospitals that we're working on that are investigating the use of such things so they'll be able to feel a lump on someone who might be 10,000 miles away or here. And to me that ultimately those type of life-saving things that we can do with VR is really going to transform all of humanity and I see that as you know one potential. And you know the other types of things such as Empathy and just I think it's just gonna you know, help us all get closer. So it's just gonna be good for humanity Great.

[00:13:14.146] Kent Bye: Well, thank you.

[00:13:14.627] Mary Spio: Oh, thank you.

[00:13:15.808] Kent Bye: Thank you very much And thank you for listening if you'd like to support the voices of VR podcast then please consider becoming a patron at patreon.com slash voices of VR

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