In this podcast episode, I share some of my take aways from Magic Leap’s LEAPcon as well as talk with the creators behind the Sigur Ros interactive music experience called Tónandi, which is the best interactive AR experience that I’ve had so far. I talk with the creative & tech leads & Co-Directors Mike Tucker & Steve Mangiat as well as with Rebecca Barkin, who is a Senior Director, Magic Leap Studios & Senior Director of Strategy & Partners at Magic Leap.

My bottom-line take away is there’s a tension between the idealism of the potential of head-mounted AR and the pragmatic reality of how to sustainably get there. Magic Leap is choosing to empower artists to push the potential of what’s possible in terms or storytelling and cultivating an emotional connection, which is symbolically reflected in their first experience from Magic Leap Studios being a cutting-edge, interactive ambient music experience like Tónandi, which translates into “sound spirits.”

There’s been a lot of skepticism around Magic Leap’s marketing hype, but the story has had to be ahead of where the technology is because it takes time to produce a consumer product of something that doesn’t exist yet. Will the technology be able to live up to the potential of the stories that Magic Leap is telling? I’m convinced that spatial reality will be ubiquitous by either 2025 or 2045, and that it’s just a matter of time before their vision comes to pass. How we get there is another question.

But the developers I’ve talked with are overall genuinely excited about the potential, and they tell me that Magic Leap is the best AR HMD on the market today. No one knows all of the best practices for designing mixed reality experience yet and there’s a lot to figure out, which excites the pioneering developers to help figure it out.

On the pramgamtic reality side, the price is a barrier for nearly every application beyond enterprise apps, architecture, medical, or high-end immersive entertainment. But the phone-based AR ecosystem with the iOS ARkit & Android AR Core is providing a more robust and viable ecosystem for many developers to bootstrap themselves with viable immersive agency contracts that allows for a progressive enhancement from phone-based AR to Magic Leap consumer to Location-Based Entertainment.

I have many more take aways and impressions that I share in today’s podcast episode as well as in the Twitter threads down below.

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Here is a Twitter thread with my reporting from Magic Leap’s LEAPcon

Here is a video made by JJ Castillo that captures the vibe and excitement of LEAPcon.

Behind the scenes of Tónandi | Sigur Rós in collaboration with Magic Leap Studios

Trailer for Tónandi

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Music: Fatality

luna

robin-hunicke-2017Robin Hunicke is the co-founder of Funomena, which recently released Luna. I had a chance to catch up with Hunicke at Oculus Connect 5 where she shared her insights into embodied game design, game design theory, experiential design, and some of the things that she’s working on next in terms of how to get a game to listen and better respond to player behaviors based upon a set of different player archetypes.

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Music: Fatality

hierarchy-of-being

yelena-rachitskyOculus employees Yelena Rachitsky and Isabel Tewes gave a great talk at Oculus Connect 5 titled “The Hierarchy of Being.” It’s a great melding of theory and practice of the impacts of embodiment on the phenomenological experience of a VR experience. They take a human-centered design approach of centering on the self, avatar representation, and the phenomenological human experience as being the bottom as the core foundation, and then looking at how the world, environment, and object interactions creates a certain set of behaviors, interactions, and overall context of an experience, and then finally on the top is the social interactions.

I had a chance to sit down with Yelena at Oculus Connect 5 to break down the key findings of her research process, and some of her key experiential design insights that she presented as a part of “The Hierarchy of Being.”

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Here’s the video of The Hierarchy of Being talk at Oculus Connect 5, which I highly recommend watching:

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Music: Fatality

vr-institute-health-exercise

aaron-stantonAaron Stanton says that VR is the most effective piece of exercise equipment he’s ever purchased. He’s spent over 100 hours playing an exercise mod of Audioshield, which is more than he’s used his exercise bike, treadmill, or elliptical machine combined. But should playing a VR experience be considered exercise? He created the Virtual Reality Institute of Health & Exercise in order to gather the empirical data to provide evidence that some VR experiences have a Metabolic Equivalent Score that burns as much calories as walking, jogging on an elliptical, playing tennis, rowing, biking, swimming, or sprinting.

I caught up with Stanton at Oculus Connect 5, where he was waiting to play the arena-scale version of Dead & Buried while wearing a portable metabolic unit to measure his amount of energy expended while playing it. Stanton shares the surprising result that some VR games take people to their metabolic maximum, but that there’s something about the pain reduction aspect of VR technology where people don’t perceive that they’re exerting themselves as hard as they are. He believes that VR has the potential to provide the most painless and enjoyable exercise experience above and beyond any other option that’s available today.

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Here is John Carmack talking about people passively interacting with VR during his Oculus Connect 5 keynote (where he references a conversation he had with Stanton on the first day of OC5).

Here is Aaron Stanton’s Bet with Carmack that VR Exercise will be one of the most important verticals in consumer VR by 2020.

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Music: Fatality

empact-labs-heart-science

christopher-pitcherBrands are looking to cause-based marketing & creating interactive experiences in order to provide customers an opportunity to participate in the story of brand that has a deeper purpose and mission that they’re trying to achieve. Immersive experiences provide brands a way to engage their audience with interactive experiences that cultivate a sense of embodied presence, but also evoke emotions from having deep and meaningful interactions that reflect the larger metanarrative of the brand’s story. I talk with Empact Labs‘ Christopher Pitcher about the design frameworks that he uses in order to create experiential marketing experiences for brands.

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There are many different experiential design frameworks from the world of Human-Centered Design and Experiential Marketing, and here’s a small sampling of frameworks I came across after this interview:

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Music: Fatality

psychedelics-panel-vrto

I had an opportunity to moderate a panel featuring six psychonauts who are exploring the intersection between Psychedelics, VR, and consciousness transformation at the VRTO conference in Toronto, Canada on June 16th, 2018. The participants from left to right were myself as moderator, Tina Madry, Brett Leonard, Scott Mason, Elliot Edge, Audri Phillips, & Jeffrey Lynn Damon. We explore a wide range of topics around VR as a new communications medium to communicate inner, noetic, psychedelic and phenomenological experiences, as well as how psychedelics is a tool to explore the capacities of the human mind and what sorts of experiential and neuroscience insights we gain from psychedelic research and experimentation.

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Photo by Christian Bobak

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Music: Fatality

healium-xr

sarah-hillI talk with StoryUp XR CEO Sarah Hill about an experience that they collaborated on called Healium XR in order to use biofeedback with VR to train positive thinking. They’re using a commercial, off-the-shelf EEG Muse headband to detect the asymmetrical gamma activity that’s correlated to optimism, and they’re using this signal as a “story steering wheel” within a virtual reality experience where your positive thoughts controls a drone that’s flying up a waterfall. I talk to Hill about her experience, and the potential for biofeedback VR experiences to help provide people a brain break, and to relax and nurture some skills to be able to better cope with the enormous amounts of stress that are in our society today. The Healium Wellness app is available for the Oculus Go.

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Music: Fatality

idea-of-the-world
Is consciousness emergent from our bodies? Or is it a fundamental field of the universe? It’s possible that various quantum entanglement anomalies from Quantum Mechanics experiments could eventually provide some answers, but there isn’t yet a singular story that scientists all agree tells the consistent and coherent story of all of quantum mechanics. The mathematics of behavior is pretty consistent, but it’s the deeper questions of what it reveals about the story about the fundamental nature of reality that is still unresolved as there are many different interpretations of those mathematical structures.

bernardo-kastrupBernardo Kastrup is a philosopher who co-wrote on a Scientific America blog post with theoretical physicist Henry Stapp & Menas Kafatos on May 29, 2018 titled “Coming to Grips with the Implications of Quantum Mechanics: The question is no longer whether quantum theory is correct, but what it means.

They argue that the some of the retrocausal quantum entanglement anomalies seen in the delayed-choice quantum erasure can be explained with a non-local conscious Observer. In other words, human consciousness is quantumly entangled quantum systems to the point where human observations in the future can impact the outcomes of the present, and one way that this could be possible is that if the Universe is essentially mental and that human consciousness exists outside of the boundaries of space and time.

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John von Neumann’s mathematical formalization of quantum mechanics left it as an open question as what exactly the mathematical boundary between the observer and the system was within a quantum mechanical system. Henry Stapp expanded upon this view in his book “Quantum Theory and the Role of Mind in Nature” where he says, “John von Neumann reformulated quantum theory as a theory of an evolving objective universe interacting with human consciousness. This interaction is associated both in Copenhagen quantum theory and in von Neumann quantum theory with a sudden change that brings the objective physical state of a system in line with a subjectively felt psychical reality.” There are many different interpretations of quantum mechanics that make different assumptions as to what this boundary is and the ultimate role of an observer.

Bernardo Kastrup has expanded upon this argument in a forthcoming book being released on April 2019 titled Idea of the World where he expands upon this Mental Universe hypothesis that comes from Philosophical Idealism. Kastrup is building off of Carlo Rovelli’s Relational Quantum Mechanics framework, which argues that an observer-independent state of a quantum system is an incorrect notion just Einstein showed that an observer-independent time is an incorrect notion.

But while Rovelli introduces the scientific foundation for post-modern philosophy, he doesn’t expand upon these philosophical implications. He explains in his paper,

With a large number of exceptions, most physicists hold some version of naive realism, or some version of naive empiricism. I am aware of the “philosophical qualm” that the ideas presented here may then generate. The conventional reply, which I reiterate, is that Galileo’s relational notion of velocity used to produce analogous qualms, and that physics seems to have the remarkable capacity of challenging even its own conceptual premises, in the course of its evolution. Historically, the discovery of quantum mechanics has had a strong impact on the philosophical credo of many physicists, as well as on part of contemporary philosophy. It is possible that this process is not concluded. But I certainly do not want to venture into philosophical terrains, and I leave this aspect of the discussion to competent thinkers.

So Rovelli doesn’t want to venture into philosophical terrain, but this is something that Kastrup is more than willing to do. Kastrup’s work is unpacking the philosophical implications of Rovelli’s Relational Quantum Mechanics.

I reached out to Kastrup to talk about his The Ideal World book, the philosophy of Idealism as applied to the foundations of physics, how neuroscience research into Disassociative Identity Disorder provides a metaphor for individual consciousness disassociated from a universal mind, his philosophical ideas our perception of reality being a “Markov Blanket” from a universal consciousness, and what the philosophy of Idealism means in the context of human experiences in real reality versus a human-constructed virtual reality.

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Music: Fatality

nicolas-goyerNicolas Goyer is a writer and philosopher who takes a tour through phenomenology & post-modern philosophy, and how the can provide insights into immersion, embodiment, imagination, mythology, and the human experience experience for experiential designers using the virtual reality medium.

  • Aby Warburg: Warburg Institute
  • Antonin Artaud: Theater of Cruelty
  • Ernst Cassirer: Philosophy of Symbolic Forms (1965)
  • Henri Bergson
  • Edmund Husserl: Cartesian Meditations: An Introduction to Phenomenology (1931) & The Crisis of European Sciences (1935)
  • Martin Heidegger: Being in Time (1927)
  • Jean-Paul Sartre: Being in Nothingness (1943)
  • Maurice Merleau-Ponty: The Phenomenology of Perception (1945), The Visible and the Invisible (1964), Cézanne’s Doubt essay in Sense and Non-Sense (1945 – 1947)
  • Jan Patocka: Plato and Europe (2002)
  • Emmanuel Levinas: Time and the Other (1987)
  • Jacques Derrida
  • Alfred North Whitehead: Process and Reality (1929)
  • Gilles Deleuze
  • Friedrich Schelling
  • François Jullien: Process or Creation: An introduction to the thought of the Chinese literati
  • Nora Bateson: An Ecology of Mind: A Daughter’s Portrait of Gregory Bateson
  • Robert Musil: The Man without Qualities (1996)
  • Antonio Damasio: Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain (2003)
  • Gerard Manley Hopkins: “Sprung Rhythm”
  • Richard Sennett: The Craftsman (2009)
  • Bernard Stiegler

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Music: Fatality

This Metaphors of Presence & Experiential Design keynote talk that I gave at the Symposium iX conference in Montreal covers provides some concrete metaphors for presence, explores the connections between the Yin and Yang concepts of Chinese Philosophy, metaphors for time, the open questions around whether consciousness is emergent or fundamental, the philosophy of mathematics, as well as experiential design factors of context, quality, character, and how polarity points create tension in music and story.

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Music: Fatality