#500: Mindshow VR’s Collaborative Storytelling Platform

Gil-BaronThere are a number of immersive storytelling innovations Sundance 2017 in a number of experiences including Dear Angelica, Zero Day VR, Miyubi, and Life of Us, but Mindshow VR’s collaborative storytelling platform was the most significant long-term contribution to the future of storytelling in VR. I first saw Mindshow at it’s public launch at VRLA, and it’s still a really compelling experience to record myself playing multiple characters within a virtual space. It starts to leverage some of virtual reality’s unique affordances when it comes to adding a more spatial and embodied dimension to collaboratively telling stories.

Super Serious Show PolaroidsI had a chance to catch up with Visionary VR’s CEO Gil Baron and Chief Creative Officer Jonnie Ross where we talk about how Mindshow is unlocking collaborative creative expression that allows you to explore a shared imagination space within their platform. We talk about character embodiment, and the magic of watching recordings of yourself within VR, how they’re working towards enabling more multiplayer and real-time improv interactions, and they announced at Sundance that they’re launching Mindshow as a closed alpha.


This is also episode #500 of the Voices of VR podcast, and Jonnie and Gil turn the tables on me for what I think the ultimate potential of VR is. My full answer to this question that I’ve asked over 500 people will be fully covered in my forthcoming book The Ultimate Potential of VR. But briefly, I think that VR has the power to connect us more to ourselves, to other people, and to the larger cosmos. Mindshow VR is starting to live into that potential today of providing a way to expressing your inner life through the embodiment of virtual characters that you can then witness, reflect upon, and share with others, and Google Earth VR shows power of using VR to connect more to the earth as well as the wider cosmos.

If you’d like to help celebrate The Voices of VR podcast’s 500th episode, then I’d invite you to leave a review on iTunes to help spread the word, and become a donor to my Voices of VR Patreon to help support this type of independent journalism. Thanks for listening!

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Music: Fatality & Summer Trip

Rough Transcript

[00:00:05.452] Kent Bye: The Voices of VR Podcast. My name is Kent Bye, and welcome to The Voices of VR Podcast. So today is episode number 500 of The Voices of VR, and I wanted to feature what I think was the most significant experience at Sundance 2017, which was Mindshow VR. Now there are a lot of really important storytelling innovations that came out of Sundance this year, ranging from the volumetric storytelling capabilities that were shown within Dear Angelica. Zero Days VR was a immersive documentary that started to use the environment to be able to explain abstract cyber warfare concepts. And then there was MyYubi, which was a 40-minute scripted narrative from Felix and Paul, and they were using improv actors that were instructed to deliberately disrupt a scene in order to ensure that everybody would create a sense of presence and to be able to react to whatever was being said with complete emotional authenticity. And then there was Life of Us from Within, which was a experience where you're embodying a range of different characters going through a linear narrative with another person. So it was combining embodiment with social dimensions of VR within the context of a linear narrative. But Mindshow VR was doing something that was completely different because it's more of a storytelling platform that is encouraging people to embody these different characters, to tap into their own creative potential by doing some improv acting that they can record and then act in a scene with themselves. And then they can take a step back and take a look at the entire scene. So it is, in essence, combining the process of giving and receiving your actually jumping in and expressing your agency by embodying a character and telling a story, but yet other people can receive that story and be able to jump in at different moments and remix it, mash it up, and create a conversation out of storytelling that is moving more towards this, what Charlie Melcher calls, a living story. And so this is a storytelling platform that I think is going to be actually a really crucial part of the future of virtual reality that is allowing people to explore their imagination and to lower the barriers of judgment so that people can just completely get present and express their creativity in a collaborative fashion. So I'll be talking to the CEO Gil Baron and the Chief Creative Officer Johnny Ross of MindShow on today's episode of the Voices of VR podcast. But first, a quick word from our sponsor. Today's episode is brought to you by the Silicon Valley Virtual Reality Conference and Expo. SVVR is the can't miss virtual reality event of the year. It brings together the full diversity of the virtual reality ecosystem. And I often tell people if they can only go to one VR conference, then be sure to make it SVVR. You'll just have a ton of networking opportunities and a huge expo floor that shows a wide range of all the different VR industries. SVVR 2017 is happening March 29th to 31st. So go to VRExpo.com to sign up today. So this interview with Johnny and Gil happened at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, which was happening from January 19th to 29th, 2017. So with that, let's go ahead and dive right in.

[00:03:33.165] Gil Baron: I'm Gil Barron, CEO of Mindshow.

[00:03:35.747] Jonnie Ross: And I'm Johnny Ross, Chief Creative Officer of Mindshow.

[00:03:39.329] Kent Bye: Great. So I've had a chance to try Mindshow, but I just kind of want to hear how you describe what Mindshow is and what you're doing here.

[00:03:45.700] Gil Baron: Mindshow is an app that lets anyone jump in and experience, share, and create their own animated shows in VR. And what you make in VR, you can then share with your friends and collaborate, and then you can export it out to your social media.

[00:04:00.298] Jonnie Ross: Yeah, and what makes us unique, I think, in the crowd of really incredible VR film moments that are happening at Sundance is we're not showing a film, we're showing a software platform that lets anyone make films. So the idea that this can and should be accessible is the heart and soul of what we're about.

[00:04:20.132] Gil Baron: So you use your body and your voice to control the characters, and then once you've done that, you can jump out and then watch what you've done and redo it until you're happy.

[00:04:28.232] Kent Bye: Yeah, I had a chance to try it again this morning. I had a chance to try it at VRLA, I think is when you were really showing it publicly for the first time. And again, I was just struck with how being embodied with a character changes how I react and move around. And so to me, what I see this is this ability to be able to start to record the strengths and the affordances of VR, what VR is uniquely. Set up to do is actually embodiment and embody the character where you can actually express your agency And so what have you started to see already with the impact of embodiment and what that does with people?

[00:05:02.851] Jonnie Ross: It's that's actually surprisingly a deep subject like there's a lot of crazy things that have happened and that we've seen in the reactions. I guess one of the biggest things that's happened that's been so unbelievably gratifying for us as we've shown our sort of first user experience demo is that this thing that we thought might happen in five years happened almost out of the gate. And it's something we had a gut feeling about, that there is dormant creativity in people, and that if it's simple and fun to be able to tell stories, we're kind of doing that all the time every day, right? Right now, we're improvising a conversation. we're using our body and our voice, right? And so if we were surprised when babies started operating iPads, how crazy is it going to get when your body and your voice are the way in which you drive and interact with a computer? So, you know, we looked at this opportunity of two controllers and a headset, said, what is the most meaningful thing we could possibly do? And went straight towards creativity and dormant creativity and the sense of This freedom that we have when we're kids, you know, that's been my thematic sort of painful awareness and in many ways Gil's too, of like, Man, why does creativity die for people? Why do we get quieter over time? And if you're really lucky, you get to hold on to that. You get to put that somehow into your work life and still use that energy. But for most people, it somehow gets lost, but it seems unnecessary. And here comes virtual reality, and we have a whole new potential for anything that is virtually visually possible, at least at first visually, right? So that's where we've seen crazy, profound reactions that are difficult to encapsulate, but where people are at least getting a sense of reconnection with something that they haven't had in a long, long time around play acting and the freedom that we feel when we're kids to just make stuff up.

[00:06:58.096] Gil Baron: Yeah, it's that embodiment, right? With the magic of VR and the ability to be another character, have some context, it's freeing in a way. You can take some of the judgment out of it and put the play back into it and I think that's part, when we talk about presence in VR, embodiment for us is a really great hallmark of that kind of presence because you start to answer the question of who am I and where am I and you don't have to think about it anymore so you can actually be present.

[00:07:21.859] Kent Bye: Yeah, I think one of the biggest challenges with creativity is facing a blank slate and not knowing where to start. And I think that having a prompt actually, you know, this is the second time I've done this, and so I was curious to see how I would react differently. And it really wasn't all that different. It felt like the prompt was this fate that was really setting me on this certain trajectory of acting in a certain way. And I feel like the part of what you're able to do, though, is have a friend give you a prompt. You know, like writing prompts are huge for people to really have some sort of constraint, a boundedness, so that they can actually, you know, dive in to start acting.

[00:07:56.005] Gil Baron: Yeah, and it's that idea of having that starting point and thinking about that as storytelling and communication all in one, right? So, you know, you can make your own version of the captain and then share that to your friend and totally change the context. So, again, you don't have that fear of a blank slate, but you have all of the still the affordance and the fun of this almost in an improv way, right? Like where you've kind of established some kind of rules, but you can break them, or you can play in them, and you can explore around the differences. And it's one of the things that I think we're really keen on is this idea because of VR and because of the way we built the system, is that you can try with impunity. You can do multiple versions. You can try the most extreme. You can try a serious. You can see how it feels when you do those things. And that's one of the things we're really excited about.

[00:08:37.715] Kent Bye: So yeah, one of the things that we were talking just before we started recording was this tension between interactivity and passive reception and I really see that film is like the ultimate expression of giving you a story that you're passively receiving. You're subjectively projecting your own meaning always in life, you know, so there's a interaction there that it's subjective but with VR you're able to start to objectively express your agency within an interactive medium and I think there's this tricky balance between whether or not you're receiving a story at any given moment or whether or not you're interacting and participating and exerting your will and you're always testing your limits of what can I do in this scene, what's possible. And so I think narratives that try to add interactivity as an afterthought without giving you a true global agency of being able to dictate the outcome of the story, then it's just kind of like local agency that doesn't really, it feels dissatisfying and almost makes it worse.

[00:09:30.784] Gil Baron: right? It's almost like a break in the sort of audience contract, right? Like, sort of arbitrary rules. And I think that's for us is the idea of you can choose, right? You can choose to watch, you can choose to participate. And so you have your own agency about whether you want to give up your agency. And I think that's a new way of thinking about storytelling because it covers both sides of both the telling of story and then the other side of that, as you pointed out, which is the experience of story, right? Receiving the story.

[00:09:57.294] Jonnie Ross: I'd add to that, from the very beginning with Mindshow, going back two years ago, we very early on decided that we believe in the value of both passive and interactive in equal parts, that passive storytelling offers very, very unique opportunity for one person around the campfire to impart their perspective to a whole group of people all at once. One person with a microphone, right? And there is unassailable value in that, right? At the same time, interactive and what we see in gaming and how that's changed storytelling is also impossible to argue with the value that that brings, the ability to actually become part of a world and change things. So we'll be revealing more in the coming months as far as where Mindshow goes, but that's a fundamental premise for us, that I want to be able to have both of those experiences as a foundation.

[00:10:52.769] Kent Bye: One of the things that it makes me think of is how much language can determine the course of thought that isn't possible. And that's true with the English language and how it's constructed and going into different languages. be able to express different ideas given basic words and grammar that's available but yet with Mindshow you're essentially the grammar is both the scenes and the characters that are made available and whatever is made available is actually going to dictate the range of expressiveness that could come out. So I'm just curious to hear your process of how you've started to really focus in what are those characters and what are those scenes.

[00:11:27.405] Jonnie Ross: We're just at the very beginning of what Mindshow can look like and what we can offer and right now our focus is around shortest line path to creative capability. That's what's really been driving me for almost 20 years and I've been trying to infuse in all the work that I do and was struggling for a long time and now has new legs in this medium and with Mindshow and I'm excited to be able to bring and contribute that thought is like if we can give people a sense of creative capability. I don't know anything bigger. And that's what we're doing with Mindshow, right? So it's a difficult set of choices. How do you give people the ingredients and the ability that creates a sense of capability? So right now we're designing around accessibility and around ease of use and speed and just fun, right? And that's Gill's big sort of true north is like making it fun and you know so far so good. But of course we have extraordinary ambition in terms of how deep the set of choices can go about who you can be and where you can go and how you can combine all these ingredients.

[00:12:43.297] Gil Baron: And that's one of the things we're really excited about, which we've announced here is our alpha is now open and we're rolling through and adding users on an ongoing basis and using that as a way of creating dialogue and understanding. And, you know, we do a lot of user testing internally as well to really kind of validate what people are finding the most value in and help us kind of shape the product so that people can have the most creative capability, can feel the most personalization and really feel empowered and again, have fun. Like that's one of the things that's just the magic of VR, right? So we should embrace that.

[00:13:13.832] Kent Bye: Yeah, and I think in the process of creation, there's this Hegelian process of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis, so that there's like this, you know, initial cut of, you know, if somebody's creating something and then people may watch and be like, no, no, no, not that. This should be like this. And then they create something and it's sort of synthesizing and something forms. So I'm curious to hear how you've kind of built that thesis, antithesis, synthesis process into this.

[00:13:37.787] Gil Baron: It informs everything. I mean, it informs how we create the product, right? Because there's always more things that you can do, that you want to do, than you can. And so there's that filtering process, and even that is a sort of a wrestling match. And then within the system, the idea that now we have this media that's malleable, right? Where we can change it, and we can push it, and we can pull it. And so that all of a sudden opens up exactly what you're talking about, which is, there's a dialogue around the dialogue. And it's not fixed to a moment in time anymore, because you can redo it with impunity. And so that's what we've seen a lot of, I think, the exploration and freedom come out because what we've done is collapse the process. It no longer is that difficult to make this kind of content. There's no longer that layer of judgment. So you can get into that place where you can try the poles to find the middle and to find the thing that actually resonates and then to build around that.

[00:14:23.832] Jonnie Ross: Yeah, and I think it's really the creative, collaborative potential of VR that is the most inspiring thing for us, right? And what we're showing in our first look user experience demo, where you're passing it back and forth. A lot of people ask us, you know, when is multiplayer, right? And that's obviously super important to us, like when you can be in there and it gets really, really fun, really fast. improv a scene in real time, right? We also have this gap to cross where we're waiting for the installed headset base to be enough where it feels convenient to say, hey, meet me at nine o'clock or I don't need to anymore because there's enough people in there. I'm going to find some folks to play with, right? So this concept of creative collaborative potential that's inherent to VR for us, it's kind of the biggest goal. in a lot of ways and I think probably the biggest story maybe that's my best guess at the biggest story of the next decade or what I would hope to see happen is an explosion of creativity and in particular collaborative creativity that's enabled by virtual reality and augmented reality and this new technology in a way that we've just never seen before like I keep having this image in my head of like skyscrapers that were drawn in Tilt Brush. Like skyscraper-sized works of art that you could run around in, in VR, and go on an adventure in another world, that were made by a whole bunch of people that didn't even know each other that were in different parts of the world, and that somehow came together. And we've already seen so many pieces of this in other places, and especially in games, right? But for artistic creation and collaboration, and for storytelling, we've barely scratched the surface of what's possible there. And I would like to think that Mindshow is a first step towards that future where media can be malleable and the creative collaborative potential of people is exemplified and revealed for the first time.

[00:16:26.682] Kent Bye: Yeah, and there's a couple of thoughts that come up. One is that you're really moving into this realm of living stories, stories that are alive so that people can continually participate in them and add to them. But you're also creating this alternative imaginal world where people are able to enter in some sort of altered state of consciousness where it's beyond what they expect. And when it transcends what they're expecting, then they're able to really dive deep into different dimensions of their personality that they're able to tap into the first time.

[00:16:56.304] Jonnie Ross: Yeah, I think what you're talking about is effectively shared imagination space, right? And being able to explore the imagination of other people and the sort of overlapping product of many imaginations. That's something we've never had the opportunity to do in the way that we're about to pretty soon.

[00:17:14.271] Gil Baron: It's experiential shared dreaming in a way right that imaginative layer and that's I think going to be profound I think to Johnny's point about what we don't know yet and what you're describing about what creative collaboration will open up when we have these magical affordances and we can be these people in these other places. One of the things we're most excited about and I think it's the tension that you described is that, you know, we have our thesis and we're excited to put this in people's hands and see how they start running up against the boundaries and finding the edges and finding the utility and seeing how that sort of transforms both the product, you know, what we're making and the thinking around it, but also how people then start thinking about story and about sharing their stories and about thinking about creativity.

[00:17:54.644] Kent Bye: I was talking to a privacy expert on a recent episode, and one of the things she said is that, you know, the First and Fourth Amendment are really connected in the sense that you really need to have a sense of privacy in order to have your full expression of your free speech. And what she said is that sometimes when you wear a mask, you can actually feel that layer of anonymity gives you a lot more freedom to really speak about what is really on your mind. And so what I see this is doing is like starting to allow people to put on these different masks and these different costumes to then start to express themselves in ways that may be more authentic.

[00:18:27.538] Gil Baron: Yeah, that's one of the hopes, and that it opens up that people who don't feel like they have a venue for their voice or their creativity now have a new avenue to explore that. And again, think of that as sort of one of the main ambitions and goals of this, and that it will hopefully open up more dialogue from both sides. Again, even the way you talked about the continuum between passive and interactive, that if you have more honesty as creation and in conversation, then you can have more honesty on the reception as well. and that that's going to be hopefully a really profound part of that glue.

[00:18:58.087] Jonnie Ross: All you have to do is look at sort of communities like the cosplay community and how that's a global phenomenon and what a crazy positive effect it has for those who dare to participate. Like it's a cool thing to be able to wear a costume and go into another character and effectively be in another world with other people who are doing that too. I think what you're talking about is an absolute truth about what's starting to happen and what we'll be seeing more and more of made possible through VR and AR that it will probably shape up in ways that surprise us. I think the thing that we're now excited about is just all the crazy, ridiculous, awesome, hilarious, bizarre, insane, wonderful, messed up, fucked up things that people let out. And why not? Yeah, we can so we should is kind of where we're at.

[00:19:53.128] Kent Bye: Do you guys have any personal favorite memories or stories of being in VR or MindShow?

[00:19:58.489] Gil Baron: You know, I guess if we talk about MindShow, I think one of the profound moments for me was when we got multiple characters working together with the physics system so the interaction was possible and to be able to jump in and I hugged myself.

[00:20:11.896] Jonnie Ross: You gilded the first VR hug, or at least that I've heard of.

[00:20:15.057] Gil Baron: First auto-hug or self-hug. That for me was kind of a profound moment because it was an affordance of something that had never really been possible before in that way because I was doing it both sides in a first person but then I got to experience that in a third person after that. For me that was, like we were talking about earlier with that idea of embodiment and presence, it really was that. I could really transport myself there and then transport myself to the observer point of view and feel the continuum there and I think that was one of the most profound moments for me.

[00:20:43.787] Jonnie Ross: Yeah, and I think mine was actually pretty close. It was the moment I became a character for the first time. And I think it was the moment I had the full circuit experience of teleporting into a character and becoming them, acting something out, and then teleporting back. But it was around character embodiment and feeling a kind of freedom. For me, it connected me right back to being a kid again. It was something like you take the headset off and there's a tear in your eye. wait a second, I remember what that felt like. I haven't felt that in a long, long time and it felt good and it felt right and I felt like capable and allowed to play and to be creative without judging myself and without judging other people and also stripped I think a bit of ego as well because you're just in a pure state of play.

[00:21:42.605] Kent Bye: I was over the holidays just, you know, had a six-year-old and trying to play with him in different ways and, you know, just realizing how much constraints and rules are into being able to play and be really able to have that space of being able to really let loose. And I feel like that's a quality that I think has been lost in people after a certain age of those constraints and rules that people are able to really play with each other or even with themselves. And I feel like I've probably done more play in VR over the last couple of years than I have in a long, long time.

[00:22:12.548] Jonnie Ross: Yeah, I stopped playing video games and now I'm doing it again.

[00:22:16.109] Gil Baron: It feels great. It feels great and I think you get that. That was one of my early epiphanies watching my kids. I have a six-year-old and they live in that world of imagination without judgment and play and it's such a beautiful thing to watch and to engage with and feel connected to and then realizing how little of that we get to have in our regular lives. And I think for me, one of the great things about being in VR and the sense of play is that I think you carry it with you when you take the headset off. It's almost like a muscle memory, right? The brain is a muscle. And if you get into that place, that flow state and that place of play and that place of sort of freedom and connectivity, when you take the headset off, you bring a little bit of that in the world. And so our fixed vision of how the world is doesn't always hold true. It's a sort of kind of a safety net that we've held on to. That's been one of the really fun things for us, is even at the office seeing how everyone's sort of blossomed with this as we've grown as a company and as VR has grown as a medium. The sense of play and creative capability and sort of connectivity as people to something that's kind of a deeper truth is really profound.

[00:23:14.307] Jonnie Ross: Yeah, we've gone from a quiet office to a place with a lot of laughter and screaming.

[00:23:20.388] Kent Bye: So what do you guys want to experience in VR then?

[00:23:26.375] Jonnie Ross: I'm mostly focused on Mindshow and how we can continue to build it and make it great and get it into people's hands. So that's most of what I'm looking to experience is really the surprising results of what people decide to do with this thing.

[00:23:45.385] Gil Baron: And a connected future, right? That idea that we keep building from here. I think the thing I'm most excited about is tomorrow and the day after tomorrow and a year from now. That what we've seen with people, we put on the headset and you give them a good experience for the first time and they take it off, they want to come back and they want to do more and their imaginations get lit up. And so I think, for me, the thing I'm most excited about experiencing is that sort of future vision of where you can do anything, you can be anyone, you can connect all these pieces together, we can connect people who never would have known each other around some sort of commonality. And I think that that's, you know, obviously kind of a lofty vision, but I don't know, that's the thing that gets me up every morning.

[00:24:26.035] Jonnie Ross: I want to run in VR. I've been saying that, I think, actually I realized after you asked me the question. I want to run in VR. I've been thinking about that for a couple years now. I haven't had the opportunity yet. I know The Void might provide that opportunity, but maybe we can get over there.

[00:24:42.523] Kent Bye: It's more of a walking slowly with redirected walking, yeah.

[00:24:45.964] Jonnie Ross: I want to run in VR because my instinct about it is that it will be an even deeper sense of presence than I've ever had. And I want to run because I want to adventure. I want to feel completely lost in another world. I want to know what that's like. And again, it goes back to that idea of when you're connected to your sense of imagination, when you still have one foot in imagination land as a kid, I think you have a bit of that everywhere you go all the time. And like I said, we get disconnected, but it's this question of why, and do we need to, and is that right? Yeah, so that's my deepest sort of current desire is to run and specifically I think through the product of creative collaborative action from a group of people I think, you know. I want to be in that skyscraper sized piece of art from Tilt Brush. Maybe take the elevator to the top and look out and see what's there.

[00:25:43.557] Kent Bye: Yeah, I had a chance to do The Void last year, and I still think it's one of my most profound experiences, just because it was untethered, and I was able to be embodied within my body, but also they have the redirected walking set up so that you can walk forever, essentially. And you're walking slowly, but yet, whenever you reach out and you touch something, you get that passive haptic feedback of their labyrinth system to be able to trick your mind into be walking in a straight line when you're actually walking in circles. And that level of depth and immersion just showed me the power of that embodied presence, combined with your active presence and willful presence. So yeah, I feel like as we move forward that, you know, talking to different people about VR arcades, like VR arcades are going to make a comeback. There's going to be haptic feedback that's going to be too expensive for the home, but also real estate and space is going to not be able to be constrained within our homes. And so we're going to have these VR arcades, we're going to be able to do these types of big experiences and as you were saying that I was just thinking like being able to record like MindShow type of experiences in the metaverse where it's huge architectures that people have built collaboratively on the web and that you may go there and it may be a ghost town but maybe there's a story that's playing out like a Sleep No More type of experience that people have recorded that with technology like MindShow where they're able to create this passive narrative but within the context of a metaverse virtual space.

[00:27:01.977] Jonnie Ross: one step at a time, but how incredible is that going to be? Yes, please. Like Gil said, yeah. And I'm even actually curious. So you asked us the question, so I'd be curious because you talk to everyone and have absorbed some of the best thinking of really most of the luminaries that are in this space, right? So I would put the same question back to you. What is it that you want to do in VR? I'd be curious to know.

[00:27:27.952] Kent Bye: Yeah, well, I think the motto of the company that I started, Drupal City Media, you know, I'll be writing a book about the ultimate potential of VR, synthesizing the first 500 interviews to kind of put that out there. But one of the things that is our mission is to use VR to connect more to yourself, to connect to others, and to connect to the cosmos. So you have this ability to do this inner depth psychology exploration of being able to explore the different archetypes of your inner psyche through potentially different esoteric traditions. but some way of looking at personal narrative and whether that's going to be aggregated through artificial intelligence, things that are going to be creating that for you, but to be able to go into VR and come out knowing more about yourself. And I think that's something that is a cutting-edge thing of the work of the next 500 years of figuring out how to do that. create the stories and the experiences that are reflections of ourself. And I think that in MindShow you're able to start to do that. You should be able to start to embody different archetypes and express things. They're recorded and that is actually going to be a reflection of your psyche that people are able to watch in a form of a story. So it's going to connect you to more of yourself. Being able to do that is going to connect you to others. And there's a dimension here of being able to be connected to the cosmos and the world through this idea of the anima mundi, the world soul. such that there's a connection to a physical place, and everybody on the planet lives on this planet, so seeing how this Earth that we all live on is really the common ground that we all are living on, and how the principles of embodying cognition are basically saying that our memories are not just in our mind, they're in our bodies, but they're also connected to the environment, which means that we're in a physical place, we have a memory that we're able to get connected to, and so exploring how physical locations are connected to our memory and our past and all of humanity. And so, you know, one of the things that I see in Mindshow, it's like in this imaginal realm, but what would it mean to be able to go to actual physical locations and be able to act out stories about your personal life, and for people to actually go to kind of a Google Earth type of synthetic representation of these real places that have real memories for multiple people, and to move it not just in the virtual, but to have a VR experience, but when they come out, they're more connected to themselves, they're more connected to each other, and they're more connected to the Earth and to the cosmos. So, that's what I'd say.

[00:29:39.625] Jonnie Ross: That's it.

[00:29:40.673] Gil Baron: Well said. Very well said.

[00:29:42.555] Jonnie Ross: That's an incredible description and I think right on. You're talking about what feels like probably to most a far-flung crazy future, but for us with Mindshow, we're sorting out how we can start doing that now. And why not? Because we've got enough. We've got two hands and a headset. We've got three points of positional tracking to work with and that's enough to get started.

[00:30:13.020] Kent Bye: Yeah, there's something about the performance of your soul that comes through. Like you can watch yourself and you can see, yeah, yeah, that's me. And that's, you're really capturing yourself.

[00:30:20.604] Jonnie Ross: You asked what was like one of the most surprising things. That's one of the other ones was just how, how, no matter what, even with such a limited set of inputs, you can always read the personality of the person that did that performance. Like it comes across. in the character they've puppeteered. And I think that shows us something.

[00:30:46.573] Kent Bye: Great. And finally, what do you guys see as the ultimate potential of virtual reality and what it might be able to enable?

[00:30:53.358] Gil Baron: I think you just described it. What you said. I mean, that's the dream. I mean, that's what you talked about. It's the connectivity, reconnection to humanity, reconnection to each other, to our world, to our imaginations. I think it's that connected tissue. I think that's why.

[00:31:09.262] Jonnie Ross: We're all talking around it in different ways and I think we have, in this location that we are standing in right now, in the Sundance VR Palace and New Frontiers and the other places that VR is being shown at Sundance, you have the densest collection of passionate people scratching at, walking towards that thing that you just described. I think everyone can sense it. And some attempts are more overt than others. But we're all feeling that there is a positive potential and something good for people here that could happen. And I think that's what describes and defines the VR community and the work that people are doing right now.

[00:31:54.112] Kent Bye: Awesome. Well, thank you so much.

[00:31:55.432] Jonnie Ross: Kent, thank you so much for having us. Thanks for having us on.

[00:31:58.661] Kent Bye: So that was Gil Baron, the CEO of Mindshow, and Johnny Ross, the Chief Creative Officer of Mindshow. So I have a number of different takeaways about this interview is that, first of all, the thing that first comes to mind is the movie Arrival, which was exploring this idea that language can dictate the extent of our thinking. Now, our language at this point has been very much a linear language. As we speak, you kind of have to go from the beginning to end and listen to it. And virtual reality in some way is breaking out of that linearity. It's more of a non-linear experience, which means that it's hard to direct your attention. So you're able to encompass another dimension of space that you're not able to within a linear way of communicating. And I think that what MindShow is doing is really exploring the possibility of using that as a communication medium. In other words, when you speak, you're usually speaking from a first-person perspective, you're fixed in a certain place and time, but what does it mean when you're able to communicate within a whole entire environment where you're able to embody different characters who have different spatial relationships to each other? And maybe at some point, if you go to the extreme of Sleep No More, which is essentially roaming through an entire warehouse of a hundred different rooms with all these things going on at the same time, and it's a looping narrative with these dancers who are expressing a narrative that's unfolding, which happens to be Shakespeare's Macbeth, but they're able to translate what was normally a linear narrative into a nonlinear experience with many multiple threads that are happening over a very large space. Now Mindshow is starting very simple, but the concept of where communication is going in the future is going to look a lot more like Sleep No More. What's it mean to be able to encompass an entire thought within the architecture of a building with 100 different rooms with narratives that are happening all throughout that that are pre-recorded and running, but you have the capability to interact with it as if it were an experience. You can't necessarily take it all in and you have to make different decisions and choices and so you're expressing your agency in order to explore that space. So just to ground it down a little bit more as to where Mindshow is right now is that I really think that they're at this very unique cross-section on the spectrum of film and games. They're right in the middle of that sweet spot. If you think at the one extreme of films as receiving, you're just receiving the story and you're not able to interact with it. So you're not able to change the objective reality of that story. You just have to project your subjective reality onto that story and you're interacting with it in an internal way, but you're not able to make decisions that change the outcome of that story. And then on the other end of that extreme are these games, which is the ultimate expression of your agency where you're actively interacting with that game. And so you're able to express your agency and be embodied within a video game, but yet you still usually have to do these context switches where you have to kind of slip into storytelling mode and watch a cinematic unfold. And I think in the middle there is the combination of giving and receiving. It's the essence of a good conversation where you're able to say something, someone's listening to you. And then from that listening, they're able to respond and then change the overall course of that conversation. And that's where storytelling is going within the context of MindShow. It's going to be more like this conversation where it's a give and take, being completely present in the moment in this improv of giving and receiving and letting the story emerge. Right now you're kind of recording that with yourself you're just embodying this monster and you're interacting with this pilot of a spaceship and you're scaring them and it's a pretty bounded type of interaction but when it starts to eventually have real-time multiplayer which I think is eventually on MindShow's roadmap But what Charlie Melcher of the Future of Storytelling said is that we're moving towards this living story, which is a story that's being told that's actively alive, and it's able to take in participation from people within the audience. And I think this is what Mindshow is encapsulating within this technology, and why I think it's so important is because it is combining that ability to embody a range of different characters and tell the story, but to also create a conversation out of that and to collaboratively do that with other people. But once you're done, then people can just watch what you're able to do. And I think if they are able to enable a lot of different remixing tools, then maybe at some point they'll be able to jump in and add what they think the story should be. And so they have this branching narrative type of effect. So I think this is actually a new communication ability that is going to change the way that we express ourselves and communicate with each other, but also change the way that we're able to peek into somebody's imagination, dream space, and to look at the part of their inner psyche through the expression of these different psycho dramas that are acted out through these characters and stories. And so as a storytelling platform, I think this is one of the more significant experiences that are out there because it's really starting to tap into this potential of a new way of communicating with each other, a new way of telling stories, a new way of experiencing stories. Which is part of the reason why I wanted to feature this episode as the number 500 of the Voices of VR podcast because I do think it's actually starting to live into that potential where you go into VR and you experience something and then you come out of VR potentially learning more about yourself. There is something really super compelling about going into VR, embodying a different character. You start to act in different ways that are surprising to you. It allows you to lower your inhibitions. You're not judging yourself. You're able to completely get into that moment. And then you act out some sort of scene, either with yourself or with other people. And then the amazing thing is that you take a step back, and you watch yourself. And you're able to cultivate this witnessing consciousness about yourself. And I haven't seen that in a lot of different experiences. And when I first experienced it back in August of 2016, it was something that was really quite profound because like Johnny was saying, there's something about a performance that happens within VR where you're able to just have the movement of your head and your hands, but yet it's still a performance that you can really discern the humanity from that. There's so much we can tell from the body language. And I think that if we look at something like Sleep No More, we can see how powerful it is to use the medium of dance within a nonverbal context and how much information can be communicated with the body. hear all the time that when you communicate there's up to 60 to 90 percent of the communication is happening through Nonverbal cues whether it's the tone of the voice whether it's your body language There's just a whole lot of additional information that we're taking in when we're communicating with other people and And virtual reality as a medium is able to actually capture that in a way that makes it much more higher bandwidth than any other thing that's out there right now. It's that volumetric sense of capturing somebody's embodied presence. And when you're co-present with that, it's markedly different than anything else you've ever experienced before. And it's the closest thing to actually replicating what it feels like with being with another person face-to-face in reality. And so the power of being able to record that and share that in this distributed fashion with my show VR, I think is going to have a profound impact and really tapping into some of the unique affordances of VR as a communications medium. So that's all that I have for today. I just wanted to thank you for listening to the Voices of VR podcast, especially if you've been a longtime listener up to episode 500 now. We have over 200 hours of content since May of 2014. And if you enjoy the podcast and you really want to show your appreciation, then there's a couple of things you can do. First of all, just tell your friends, spread the word. If you'd like to send a testimonial for the Voices of VR podcast of what it's meant for you, then go ahead and send me an email at kentatvoicesofvr.com. And you can also show your support by becoming a donor to the podcast. The Patreon really is the thread that has kept this podcast alive over the last year of being able to enable me to continue to maintain an independent voice within the VR community. And it really has been a small fraction of listeners that's been able to keep that alive. If you want to help ensure that I can continue to do this podcast, then making just a few dollars a month a donation really does make a huge difference, especially if we get more and more people involved as donors. So you can donate today at patreon.com slash Voices of VR. Thanks for listening.

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