LumièreVR’s Jenny Guo is building bridges between the East and West through virtual reality. She’s producing 360 content for the Netflix of China, & she’s a consultant building cross-cultural collaborations & helping companies navigate the VR ecosystems of China & North America.
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[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. So Jenny Guo is somebody that I had a chance to talk to in Qingdao, China. She is living in Toronto, Canada right now. She's a co-founder of Luminaire VR, and she is a recipient of funding from the ViveX program, and she's originally from Beijing. And she's doing a lot of trying to bridge the East and the West in different ways. She's both trying to create these location-based experiences that can work both in the East as well as in the West. And so she's been doing a lot of different trips over to China and trying to mediate different conversations and really sees virtual reality as a medium, as a chance for the East and the West to collaborate in these very specific ways. had a chance to talk to her in Qingdao, China at the Sandbox Immersive Festival, just to get her take of what's happening in China and her perspective of how she, through her work and through virtual reality, is creating this bridge between the East and the West. So this interview with Jenny happened on Tuesday, June 26, 2018, at the Sandbox Immersive Festival in Qingdao, China. So with that, let's go ahead and dive right in.
[00:01:22.698] Jenny Gou: Hi, everyone. Very happy to share my journey in VR. My name is Jenny Guo. I'm the co-founder of Lumiere VR. We founded the company in 2015. Right now, we focus on location-based distribution for VR content in North America. We just opened an office in Toronto.
[00:01:43.968] Kent Bye: Great. So you live in Toronto now, but you also, I guess, have been interacting also with the Chinese ecosystem. Maybe you could talk a bit about how you're kind of bridging both the East and the West here with the work that you're doing.
[00:01:54.973] Jenny Gou: Yes, so VR is really interesting. It's actually the first time from China's side and US side are quite close in terms for technology, in terms for distribution and the ecosystem. So if you look at the history in film content or even in gaming, China is a little bit behind in terms because they're not industrialized. They don't have that kind of Historically, we don't have that kind of process. That's why if you look at VFX or even animation, China doesn't have that kind of pipeline. But for VR, it's very different because China got in the emerging tech very quickly, such as AI, blockchain, and also VR, AR. So this time I think we see lots of collaboration. And if you look at in the US, lots of companies are actually backed by Chinese VCs, which is also quite interesting because now if they want to come to China or have partnerships in China, it's way easier for them compared to like 10, 20 years ago. So we do see this difference between East and West. For instance, in the United States, they see content creators are really, really passionate about creating content, really building a strong ecosystem. And China-wise, the market is a little bit different. It's a little bit more about how you survive, how you generate revenue right away, when there is not really a mature ecosystem or a complete ecosystem being set up. So you see the lack of content, but tons of distribution channels in China, but in the U.S. it's the opposite. You see lots of content and high-quality content, but there's nowhere to be distributed. So you do see this interesting dilemma from East and West, which potentially could be fixed if they collaborate or form a certain type of partnership.
[00:03:45.414] Kent Bye: Well, in the United States, they have, I guess, relied upon the big players, like either Valve has Steam, you have Oculus has Oculus Home, and then you have the Google Play Store. So there's existing channels that you have to get out there, but there's less of, I guess, publishers or distributors. I think there may be more people that are leaning towards doing publication and distribution. But in terms of VR cinema, there's YouTube, which you can put it up there. But you're basically thrown into the wolves of the algorithm of trying to do AdSense. So basically trying to generate enough views to get that. But there hasn't been that critical mass to be able to actually make it viable. So a lot of those distribution models that have relied upon that advertising I guess, how do you see the distribution channels in China being different than what we have in the West?
[00:04:38.290] Jenny Gou: I think U.S. definitely, they're very strong in terms of distributing content, but VR is quite a different medium because you may need to use VR headsets to watch content. And we all know that headsets adoption right now is its infancy. And that's why this year, you know, we have standalone headsets such as Oculus Go coming out. which is easier to use for consumers. But if you look back in two, three years ago, China already have standalone way back, right, in front of a distribution channel. So the market is quite different because, as I said, China is a country, people are, they work really fast, and also at the same time, they're trying to be efficient, and they are very money-driven, means they want to monetize when Clearly, we don't really have the infrastructure for the industry yet, but people are already trying to monetize. That's why if you look at in 2015, even 2016, there are tons of arcades coming out. And not necessarily going to supply really good content for audience to watch, but you see tons of location-based type of entertainment coming out. For a reason, because people feel like because VR was hyped, and people come here to see VR and they can start charging. But in the US, if you look at it, there were hardly any location-based in the past two, three years. And you only probably see some sort of location-based at film festivals, that's it. And usually the throughput is pretty low because the headsets, the synchronization went there and we see lots of problem and now it's all getting better. But I think in China-wise, they're so good at figuring out how to make people pay. So that's like the driven force behind the business compared to U.S., the hardware company like Facebook trying to build that kind of ecosystem. So most people focus on online, like VR, and for instance, China, they focus specifically distributing to location-based entertainment, like all kinds of arcade, they integrate all kinds of arcade. So as you can see, even for a one SIM company, they have very different strategy in China and U.S.
[00:06:40.748] Kent Bye: Yeah, I'd say one other difference that I see that I would imagine is that in the West, I think there's been much more focus on the four different types of VR in terms of there's mobile VR, then there's like the standalone console or like the PlayStation VR, and then there's the PC VR, so the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, and then we have the sort of location-based entertainment or the VR arcades. And so we've had like a full ecosystem where each of these You know, they're kind of mirroring, in some ways, the video games, where the video games have mobile gaming and they have console gaming and PC gaming. And there's still arcades, but the arcades, for more or less, have become functionally equivalent to a lot of what you can get with a PC game. So, with VR, I see that the VR arcades are coming back, and in some ways, The West is really starting with you know having people own their own devices and and relying upon building up a critical mass so that you could Operate at scale of being able to release a single title with Beat Saber coming out on May 1st It was sort of like they sold a hundred thousand copies as a three-person team that is more than enough for them to be sustainable But it's a little bit you know faster famine where you're either in You make it big or you don't, and I think that is difficult to be in a content ecosystem that doesn't have that scale. But it sounds like what I'm hearing from you in some ways is that in the East and China, there's just a lot more of focusing on the VR arcades first, and then eventually maybe putting the headsets into the homes.
[00:08:03.102] Jenny Gou: Yes, I think right now China focus a lot on this B2B2C market, means they do more location based. Because demographically, if you're targeting Beijing, Shanghai, those big cities, large population, people are all into like new ways for entertainment. So they're actually revolutionizing the arcade model. So in the past two years, you can see lots of arcade are not really generating revenue because just the whole experience is not good. But for instance, digital domain this year is going to have, I think they were saying 150 theaters, VR theaters that's going to be built within cinema and providing content with high quality content with motion chairs. So that's more interactive. compared to just a passive 360 video, which you saw probably in the past at some sort of arcade. So I think China right now really trying to improve the quality of location-based entertainment. At the same time, because the limited supply of content in China, this is also a chicken-egg problem. It's kind of tricky. Right now we do have Tons of distribution channels in China, but the content side is really really what we're missing in China because you hardly really see any studio survived and like the conference they just talk about how to finance in your VR content, which is extremely hard in China because most of the government grants doesn't really support that and you have content creator who actually make decent in the traditional film market or gaming market but end up not really making any in the emerging tech like VR market. So what that leads to is content creators don't want to create content. And you hardly see any studios in China that's dedicated to VR anymore. And that's really caused a lot of harm because lots of people say you might can distribute foreign content to China. Yeah, that's true. But that's only to a certain extent because it's very different culture. Culture is also a big barrier in terms of how you do distribution. And in China, the content needs to be localized. And many companies trying to aggregate content, licensing content from the States, I think game does work because you don't have the language barrier, but any film content, video content, you want to distribute to China, you need to think about how to localize that. That's why last year we did a test in terms of doing co-production, like the conference that people were talking about. Co-production is interesting because right now, I think the China side, technology-wise, technically, they're strong, and from the Western, like North America, people are really creative because the environment allows you to have more creative juice. But you collaborate and you actually save a lot of labor costs in terms of having a full production in Hollywood. So last year we did this collaboration with Hollywood directors, the team also working with Chinese production team, and we make this Victoria's Secret VR experience. I'm going to launch it now. IT equivalent to Chinese Netflix, to try to see if that can potential an IP that potentially could be distributed on both sides. So mainly the target audience are in China, but since the piece is about fashion, it could be distributed to the West. So one content IP, you have a global market to have that kind of, and I see a couple of directors are trying to do that as well, in terms of doing co-financing or co-production for something that's Because China, definitely, the market is huge. Once you do something that's big and go viral, and you have a way more bigger market compared in the States.
[00:11:43.396] Kent Bye: Well, there seems to be a focus of sovereignty within China in terms of creating a almost self-contained ecosystem. It's very difficult for, let's say, the Oculus Rift to sell their headsets here. Now they do have the Oculus Go, and they collaborated with, what's the name? Xiaomi.
[00:12:00.824] Jenny Gou: It's a really smart move for Oculus. I think Mark Zuckerberg always wanted to enter China in trying to facilitate that kind of partnership. So this time is really good. The Xiaomi sold out within three hours. All their headsets, probably more than the Go. So you can't clearly see large demand here, but as what I said is the supply of the content is so limited. What make people stick on your platform or you're using your hardware is the content itself. But right now the whole UI UX and how they aggregate content, how platform aggregate content are quite limited. So people don't find those content are good enough to make them to come back to use the device. So even they pay like $200, which is not necessarily a lot compared to the Previous has said like rift all that but still people are not really gonna use it And if you don't have user come you have you don't have retention and you end up being the same dilemma That's why location-based might work because people don't own a headsets But it's all based on the experience people go there to try one experience and also you can charge them based on the location, right? So we did this distribution channel in the U.S. in the last two years by working with a Korean museum and Zeus under one big umbrella. And what works there is you show one content, you don't need to worry about retention rate, and usually it's family-oriented. It will come to the aquarium they won't see fish and we are really allow them to Enjoy the experience with dolphins with fish and and you monetize and you you're not even like paying for the real estate cost Like most arcade they have a very high operation cost because it's a poverty management at the end of day and So in China, a big company like Digital Domain, because they have the resources to do that, a startup couldn't be able to afford that. They probably can run one arcade, like there's one in Toronto called the House of VR. They do lots of content and trying to attract people, but that's just one location. If you want to do something scalable, it's really, really hard for a startup. So you need to really find a market fit. type of environmental scenario, the location, then you integrate whatever content that's gonna work on that specific location. Then you could potentially monetize.
[00:14:19.498] Kent Bye: You mentioned the cultural differences, and I know that in order for a lot of pieces to actually get distribution into China, there's a certain number of content standards that have to be met in terms of meeting the guidelines of trying to create basically up to the ethics and the law, because it's actually embedded into the law here in China. that there's these different guidelines. Whereas in the United States, we have the film review to be able to have reviews, but in here, in China, there's a different process by which you have to meet these different guidelines. And so maybe you could sort of describe to me like what those guidelines are, what the best resource is for people to learn how to navigate these cultural differences.
[00:14:56.850] Jenny Gou: So there are definitely very different ways, because China doesn't have a film rating system. So it means all your film comes, you have to go through this censorship thing, which they evaluate if the content is going to work or not. They don't have a rating system like PG-13, PG-18, they don't have that. biggest problem. But for VR, actually, because the industry is so new, right now government is very open with what type of content coming in. So it's not really about censorship. It's more about lots of the content doesn't have a market here. Means that demographically, if you make some content that might be very popular in the States, not necessarily gonna work in China. So be able to really finding a team or having a local person who understand the Chinese market then do distribution might really help if you really want to distribute content because culturally people consume very different content like in West maybe very into high art or high concept stuff and that's why you have indie films in China indie film is such a niche market you don't even have anything like FC to play indie films so Everything is very commercialized. So even you work this big platform in China, they end up making the film very commercialized. So it's become commercial film, commercial content, and not necessarily all content creators want to do that. So there is a huge gap in terms of the market demand, what type of content audience in China want to consume. When you first make something, think about what type of IP you're trying to create, what type of story, if you want to distribute globally. I talked to this director, the red elephant, I don't even met him. He's filming something that I see could be potentially distributed globally because he's filming a story that's about China. and going to distribute in China. But at the same time, that topic is fascinating enough that I think Western world will think it's a great content as well. So things like that is worth consideration in terms of making if you want your market for distribution to be larger.
[00:17:07.827] Kent Bye: Yeah, and I've been looking to Chinese philosophy a lot, to the metaphors between the yang and the yin, to sort of understand how just in life there's this balance between expressing your agency outward and also with the more yang elements, but also being able to listen and receive with the yin archetype. And so the Yong seems to be like a lot of films in the West tend to be the hero's journey. And in that, there tends to be a lot of conflict and a lot of violence. And I know that here in China, that's part of their guidelines is to minimize a lot of that violence. And so I would expect that given that there may be the medium of virtual reality that it's really, really meant for you to be present as an individual, which I think is much more of a Yen experience of creating these environments and making you feel like you're emotionally engaged and you're embodied within an environment. trying to see how you as an individual or how individual things within the experience is collected to a gestalt or something larger. So I'm just curious to hear your thoughts on this sort of Yong and Yin polarity and how, you know, the West may be biased towards the Yong and the wave shooters and the video game aspect, but that we're trying to figure out ways to kind of combine both of these to find, you know, these new storytelling structures.
[00:18:14.179] Jenny Gou: Are we talking basically about games?
[00:18:16.300] Kent Bye: Or just any experiences, yeah.
[00:18:18.881] Jenny Gou: For the content preference-wise, if you look at Chinese films, they don't have many superhero films. It's never a thing here. Even Star Wars might do well in China because it's a Western content. But if you translate that into something Chinese, local about a hero, I think politically, culturally, the whole upbringing you're being taught is not to really worship any sort of superhero. So that's why you don't see that much of sci-fi or very heroic type of, you have a protagonist that's a hero. type of driven. So Chinese films are very subtle. It's usually more family drama or some sort of story that's reflecting the current society, either a love story or anything. If you look at those popular ones, it's often not really an action movie. I mean, if the action movie we're talking about is a contemporary action movie, usually people are not particularly buying into that. But people are into like Asian stuff, like historical stuff. And China right now are going really, really strong on sci-fi. So that's a really interesting angle to if you want to make a sci-fi and how to localize that sci-fi film potential can distribute in China, because not all sci-fi works in China. So that's another thing I think. And VR will be great for anything that's related to fantasy. So I think that's also an angle to look at it. So I think the market is changing in terms for its taste. Before it's more like you say yin and yang, it's like more yin, like very different type of content. But I think right now people are trying sci-fi films. It's really hard, but people are experimenting with a lot of different elements. So I think these elements really help to break that kind of culture barrier because it's about content is supposed to help to deliver a certain message from your culture to another culture. without forcing it. It should be something universal and be able to share among humanity. So I see there's a lot of great stories in China to be able to make into VR content, even from a Western perspective. But I don't see many Western filmmakers coming to China exploring this location. China has 5,000 history, right? There's a lot of interesting stories here. And this type of content could be distributed to China because it's a local content, but also I think it's very appealing in the West too, especially in VR, because VR is about being present and being present in some sort of world or location or story that we would never be able to experience. That's why documentary works really well. So I think there's a lot of possibility for Western filmmakers to come to China to explore the market. Because China, locally, not many studios are doing VR anymore. So that's a bad thing. But here has a great resources in terms to translate, I mean, eventually into some great VR content.
[00:21:19.905] Kent Bye: Yeah, and I keep hearing this theme of that there's a lot of distribution channels here in China but the content creation is maybe not as evolved as it is in the West and that in the West there's maybe not a critical mass of people to have headsets and so I've found a lot of different studios that have been coming over to China to get investment in different ways or they've been making a pivot from entertainment into something like either enterprise training or medicine or architecture, engineering, design, enterprise sort of applications. And so you have this trying to find the ways that are going to really carry virtual reality into becoming a much more widely distributed and robust and sustainable ecosystem. Because I feel like right now there's a bit of a waning that's happening, but yet I see this sort of cross-pollination of content creators from the West potentially going over here to China and the East and find ways with the location-based markets that are here that are potentially hungry with content and finding ways to collaborate. So I don't know if that's what you're seeing as well.
[00:22:16.614] Jenny Gou: Yeah, I do see that, but China also is about sovereignty. So they have a tendency to, for instance, for the Hollywood pipeline, for the traditional VFX or post, they don't want to copy that right away because they don't think it works in China. So in terms for, you know, even for content creators coming to China, they need to be very open about what China really means. I mean, how Chinese people do production. That's the most challenging part for Western filmmaker to come here, even to be a supervisor on any sort of VR project or traditional film project. But the good thing is right now VR is very early, so potentially you can find collaboration really quickly because people right now who are in VR in China are usually people like myself being studying abroad for more than a decade and coming back even for this Qingdao Sandbox VR Festival is trying to facilitate that kind of conversation between East and West so gradually we can merge and do some collaboration together. So I think there's a lot of challenges we're facing, but also lots of new possibilities. Because young people now who are in VR, they are educated in the West, so they do understand how Western production works. Also, we come back to China and we're trying to learn about the market, learn about how people do business, how people do production here. So eventually, these people will help local Chinese people, production, filmmakers, directors, and also going to help to be a mediator between the East and West. For instance, film production from the West want to come to China, they probably want to work with a Chinese team that's a little bit international, can understand to kind of facilitate that kind of smooth production line, the pipeline.
[00:24:09.873] Kent Bye: And so you're someone who was born in China, and then now you're in Toronto. And so maybe you could talk a bit about why you've decided to do this type of virtual reality work in Toronto, but also kind of be this bridge between the East and West.
[00:24:24.535] Jenny Gou: So I'm really, really about really trying to bridge the gap between China and U.S., even for production or even for distribution, because I really see potential in the next decade. We're going to merge in some way in terms of content distribution. If you look at Hollywood films, all those big budget films right now, they have a huge part that's financed by China, like Wanda, who financed a lot of films. And potentially you see Chinese actors in those films like Pacific Rain, right? And that's really appealing to Chinese audience. So you have another piece of the pie in China. That's why it works. And so for market wise, I really believe eventually VR will be like that too. We'll be having one IP and potentially be focusing maybe on the China side or the US side, but also could be distributed on the other side because the content itself is when you start creating the content, the IP should be appealing to both sides, rather than just about China or just about the US. So also for Toronto, we moved to Toronto for a reason, because I think right now VR, the whole industry is kind of in the winter, and Toronto actually government is very supportive in terms of changing Toronto into the next Silicon Valley. And also Vancouver, you look at it, we have a lot of film production all happening in Vancouver. So Canada is actually this great hub, like a sandbox for you to test new ideas. That's why we moved there in terms to doing lots of R&D on volumetrics production for the future. And also it's very easy to work with, different labs, engineers, it's a little bit cheaper than compared to Silicon Valley. And Montreal has great artist assets and resources there. So I think Canada is actually really, really good market for VR because Creatives can really, really having support from government, you potentially can get grants. I know a couple of directors who are Canadian, they have grants by the Canadian Media Fund or other resources to make great innovation content compared to the States. That's why I think Canada for us is more like we can test our ideas and we can do business in China and US and quickly scale things up, but without having such a high burn rate.
[00:26:42.488] Kent Bye: Yeah, I was just in Montreal at the Symposium IX, where I ran into you there and talked to Luke, one of the programmers of the Symposium IX. And one of the things he said is that the government of Canada was seeing culture as an investment into infrastructure. And so they're doing a lot of these investments into these cultural institutions. And you mentioned that China, it was difficult to get content grants from the government. But yet, I've also heard people talk about China adding virtual reality as one of their strategic initiatives for the next five to 10 years. But also, they've been doing a lot of investment, both in supporting different tech startups and just trying to really bootstrap the industry in different ways. So what is it that China is doing to really support and push forward this immersive technologies?
[00:27:24.264] Jenny Gou: China is really good at, so all the government are definitely into VR, AI, blockchain. But the thing is what kind of segment they're looking into. Content is always really tricky in China because usually it's hard to calculate the return. That's why less funding investment are going to the content, but doesn't mean VR as a whole industry is not. So I just finished this trip with Hollywood Production Center, a company that helps facilitate the relationship between Hollywood, lots of good studios who want to come to China and trying to have a company in China to help with that. So we talked to tons of government, like from Hunan, from Wuxi, from Hangzhou. These governments are very supportive in terms of building the infrastructure for the new emerging tech. But for them to invest in content that's, especially individual projects, not really on their agenda, they usually will invest in something like the festival. So I think if China has more film festivals like that, and more content creators coming here, showing content, really can help with creating the new hype, creating the new excitement for content creators in China to create content. Because right now it's not about how expensive it is to make a content. People don't understand why I should make VR content. And there's not that much excitement or passion. from the China side and also lacking of resources and funding towards specifically to the content. So I do believe in if they are really dedicated to build the VR ecosystem in China with the government support. For instance, they gave tons of space for location-based and tons of space for film festivals and potentially these all can lead to content creation or can lead to some funding towards. But right now if we're not facilitating the film festival, we're not facilitating any sort of event or bigger strategy in terms of what VR is going to be like. Government is not going to just invest some money on some 50 films, which they did in the past two years and they don't see any sort of return. And one type of content they did invest heavily on was tourism. Any tourist content, back then Shanxi was trying to do 200 360 videos just because Shanxi has tons of resources and tons of historical assets so they want to make it into VR and that helped them to have more tourists coming to the city and things like that it's all b2b but anything that's like specifically b2c like You create a content just because you're passionate about one story. I don't think right now there's any funding for these. And even for the big platforms in China, for instance, IT, the Chinese Netflix, they're a very data-driven company. They want to have eyeballs. And if a creator comes to them and pitches ideas, they think it's going to generate not revenue, but they're going to have eyeballs on the content and they might invest. So there is a possibility. But right now I think VR is too early to even to say what type of content works, what type of content doesn't work. So before people all think it's going to disrupt films and tons of people are making narrative VR. And it might not be the best way. There's tons of ways to think about what content means in virtual reality. Are you doing interactive content, or are you focused on isolation? It's all different. And potentially, it's all going to work. So trying to explore the possibility and trying to diversify what content means really helps the industry. For instance, lately, I've been doing lots of research looking into the contemporary art space. Because before I got into VR, I was an art dealer and working at an auction house. So I found that space really, really interesting. So stop thinking about VR non-gaming content as film, just VR film. Think about VR content could be a VR world, right, created by some sort of artist. And the funny thing, they do monetize. So you see the film content in VR, people have to license their content to different distribution. So how VR art works, they actually are selling their art. So you could have five copies of my VR world I created, and there are collectors collecting it. So very different models, and it was worth people to look into and exploring it, rather than just stuck with the idea of VR films, because I think there's no standard definition what a good VR content means, and potentially could be a little bit about game, a little bit about film storytelling, a little bit about, you know, visual art. So I think that's something I really recommend people look into and also just go to different countries and to see different stories and you might get inspired. Even you're a content creator from US, if you live in China, you might get some inspiration and your content might work both sides.
[00:32:30.737] Kent Bye: Yeah, you mentioned a couple times the Chinese Netflix. And I know that in the United States, there's Hulu that has produced a couple of 360 videos. And there's also, they have their apps. And Netflix has VR apps, but it's mostly to go into VR and to watch like a 2D experience of a film. I've certainly met people at different conferences that were representatives of Netflix, but I don't think that at this point there's been anything announced as any initiatives that they're doing officially. So, I guess, what is happening with the Chinese Netflix? I mean, to me, that's a little strange because there has been a lot more focus on getting headsets into hands within, you know, the United States, but yet, is there enough, like, headsets and eyeballs within China to even justify them producing this content? But it sounds like you're in the process of actually producing some content for, so what is, what is happening with, and what is the name of the Chinese Netflix and what they're doing?
[00:33:19.729] Jenny Gou: So iQIYI is the IPO this year and they're the Netflix in China. So they own a bunch of original IPs traditionally. They're really bad on VR. I think that's why they actually consider other platforms not spending that much money on VR. big department that's focusing on doing VR co-production or VR game development. Because I think they really believe the next 10 years, if they want to own the market, they have to get in really, really early. And in China it's really hard because the burn rate is quite high to make any VR content without having a return. But I think the reason they are willing to do it is they really see the potential of the future of immersive media because they're a tech company. They were like very data driven and be able to get in early and understand the user behavior in VR is quite crucial for any sort of platform. So how they do their VR is about IP. So what they do is they will evaluate what type of IP for their shows or films that's popular and when they're having the production going on, they will have a VR crew going in and do a teaser or a co-production. So it's kind of reusing the assets from a traditional feature, traditional TV show and to just make it into VR. For instance, the Victoria's Secret one is they had a reality TV show and we are working with the models. So I think potentially if they continue doing that, working with different content creators, all that, I mean, they will have tons of at least expertise in what content works. So I think that's really important. Right now, we don't really know what content works in VR because just not enough eyeballs or enough content to even do data collecting on that.
[00:35:13.362] Kent Bye: Yeah, and one of the things that I've seen another trend potentially happening in China is the VR has applied to education. Because we're talking about film and entertainment, but I think that I would imagine that part of the reason why the Chinese government has put VR as part of their 10-year plan is that there's this vision for how virtuality could potentially change education and how we learn. And so what is happening in terms of VR and education in China?
[00:35:38.208] Jenny Gou: Education certainly is really big and HCC Vive is really pushing it. I think they already have a couple experiment centers with either school institution are teaching in using Vive Focus. So there's two sides. One is K-12 which you probably potentially those kids gonna use VR for education. Another one is more for professionals like vocational school like they learn about how to fix the car, how to fix the plane, and another one is training in terms for engineers, how to train engineers, how to train doctors. So China's, anything in China that's B2B grow really, really quickly. That's including the education we're talking about now, and also include the, for instance, not education, but the real estate. Real estate was like one of the biggest application. They use VR as this, the VR was like a biggest application for real estate here. So every time you're bidding a property, you can do a pre-visualization in VR, showing the government. It helps with that and also help with like tons of real estate development. So these are all good things. So I need B2B. I think people do find their niche market and be able to monetize but right now we're talking about B2C which is way harder to do anything with entertainment all that but education I really see great potential because think about the users for VR we're gonna be you know, the generation that's born with technology. I'm born in the 90s, but the thing is, we didn't grow up with technology. I didn't have a phone until I was like seven or eight. But think about now, everyone's like using their iPad when they're two-year-olds in China. So they're the early adopters. And we did lots of experiments. Like, people are watching a piece in the theater, and if they're kids, they can watch for 40 minutes without complaining anything. It seems like they don't have any knowledge of the problem, they don't have motion sickness, and they enjoy the content. So I really see that kids are the next generation for VR. And especially in China, it's huge in terms of how you do interactive education. And I think Harvard does lots of tests. So Harvard, for them to teach geology about Egypt, they have a dome. So people put it on their 3D glasses, but it's a dome. It's kind of like VR. And the professor will talk about what's going on there. It's very immersive. So content like this could be created in the West, but also distributed in China for education, because you only need a voiceover, right? So it works both sides. So that's why I'm saying diversify the content is really, really important at this stage to figure out what market will actually consume your content rather than just go ahead and make something you're super passionate about. I mean, that's great, but eventually the backlash is content creators don't monetize or they don't have eyeballs on their content, which we're going to stop them from making the next one. So you want to figure out your market first and figure out your demographic first and go ahead and create whatever you want to create.
[00:38:51.133] Kent Bye: Yeah, and I'm wondering if you could explain to me how you spend your time, because you talked about interfacing with Hollywood and helping them become a bridge to the East. You're working on these different productions for the Netflix of China, but you're also doing location-based entertainment. So what is it all that you are working on right now?
[00:39:07.256] Jenny Gou: So basically right now we're trying to deploy our new product, the Moot Pod, to different co-working space and offices in North America. So we're testing that in terms of we want people to watch VR content once a week in their office, and we're trying to diversify content. Rather than just distributing film content, we're trying to try meditation. right, trying to find the market fit type of content that works in office space. And if that model is going to work, potentially we're going to sell to galleries. There's a lot of possibility once you have some sort of physical product. So my time will be, we spend most time doing that. But for China, because they're lacking content, They don't need distribution channels in China. But we also want to always keep an eye on what China is up to. That's really, really important because China moves so quickly and from market-wise, they have great market sense in terms of where the demand is. I think that's one thing US should learn from China. If you look at any Chinese business, they're not particularly good with 0 to 1. They're so good with 1 to N. So they can quickly sell something that's not necessarily a best product to like 10 million people overnight. Look at WeChat, right? WeChat was considered a bad product in 2010. People didn't like using it. Within the next three, four years, you have more than 1 billion people using it, right? So that's the power of sales and the power of having a great market sense can find that niche market and really own that vertical in China. So that's something we really want to learn here. And we're learning how, for instance, digital domain are doing their theater, how IT are distributing content and potentially learn something and you can learn that and do the similar model in in U.S. Right now you see lots of arcade in U.S. that was kind of probably inspired by China, the egg chair, for instance, the beginning, right? So even for the standalone, China had the first standalone headset. They were working with Idealist, which is a standalone headset. Since 2016, when U.S., everyone's using Samsung Gear, and you overheat 45 minutes, and our system was like run eight hours, doesn't overheat, and synchronize. That's why you really help with the throughput at festival. That's why TIFF, We sponsored TIFF last year, and we did all the theater installation. So, yeah.
[00:41:30.864] Kent Bye: And so, what do you personally want to experience in VR?
[00:41:34.183] Jenny Gou: So how I got into VR, because I remember I tried this piece, was shown by John, VR's investor to us. And it really was mind-blowing, not because the piece, it's just the medium itself. I really see the future. If you look at now, the growth rate of the phone is less than 1% for a reason, because people need more immersive interaction, immersive world. We want to be in the virtual world. That's definitely the direction we're going. So what I want in CVR is to see how people can connect, can really relate to each other, and can break that kind of cultural barrier. I can right now go to Ethiopia and understand Africa better. And that really helps humanity. I really do CVR this. That's like the first technology, at least from my perspective, that really connects humans in a good way. And it's not a cold technology. It's heavily relying on content. And content, by definition, is created by humans. And that's a huge part about who you are, which culture you're coming from. what you have experienced, what kind of message you want to deliver to the world. So any platform that's focused on content really has that kind of huge part that's helping humanity. So I do see the greatness that VR pretends it's going to bring to the world. Especially for education for kids to understanding the world better without even need to travel so when I was younger I didn't get to travel right now I moved to us when I was like 15 myself and you went through a lot of you know up and downs all that then make who I am and I consider myself a third culture kid because culturally I'm not like complete American but also not completely Chinese but think about how do I explain that to people right and kids knowledge can't really go to places without even leaving their house to experience culture and I believe in breaking that kind of culture barrier really help with communication and help us a lot of things you know like misunderstanding I live in Ohio for three years I was the first Chinese you have to think about how many like racism I face and because it's not because people being racist people was quite ignored because they're living in their bubble But maybe with VR, they get to experience China when they're like five year old and they get to see panda and all that. So it's a really, really interesting medium. And I'm just hoping we hit that kind of inflection point and the community and also the whole industry, people can collaborate and work together towards that kind of inflection point when actually VR can take off and more content creator can really use this medium to tell great stories.
[00:44:19.518] Kent Bye: Great. And finally, what do you think is kind of the ultimate potential of virtual reality, and what it might be able to enable?
[00:44:28.002] Jenny Gou: I think it's a metaverse. I really believe in it. I don't believe in VR will become a platform. Right now, we all say we want to become Netflix for VR, all that. I don't think it will be a platform. It will be a world, kind of like Oasis, like the Spielberg's creating. You can go into that world, and you can interact, and you can experience reality within the virtual world. And I think it's ultimately really the best communication tool between different race, different gender. We can understand each other better. I think that's how I see it. Yeah. But hopefully we also have in-person interaction. That's another story. Yeah.
[00:45:09.202] Kent Bye: Great. And is there anything else that's left unsaid that you'd like to say to the immersive community?
[00:45:14.425] Jenny Gou: Yeah, so I focus a lot on understanding China and the US. If anyone has questions, feel free to contact me because I think it's a really interesting topic. And it's the first time I think China plays such a huge role in those emerging tech. And it's really interesting how the strategy and the tactic they use to tackle the industry. And it's still a very strong community in China too. I mean, they're very strong in blockchain at the same time, but I really see a lot of people are requesting, I mean, just showing interest in China, but they don't know that much about it. So even they want to do business, I'm willing to share more of the insights. how to bridge that kind of gap is kind of my calling. And also another thing I was like, this film festival is really great because you actually see lots of women speakers. Another thing I want to touch on, in China it's very hard to be a female in tech and entertainment because it's always male. Like you hardly see any conference that have women speaking. Even for this one, you see probably two Asian women. One woman from the VR course speaking, that's it. So another thing I think having events like that really showing like women in tech is really really important for China to learn. Because China is like, for that part, is not doing the best job at promoting female founder of women in tech. So I'm really trying to help with that too. But you know, even for HTC Vive, their whole teams are very male dominant. Every time I even them, they're my investors. I'm the only girl. So I really help us, trying to help us to have, promote, advocate more women and to not be intimidated by this industry and to be able to jump in this new trend. And they can learn. So I thought about doing something like a podcast about facilitate the conversation between Chinese female entrepreneurs and also the U.S. one, how they share about their challenges and difficulty. I think it might really help China because it's really about education. Here people, we don't really have that kind of feminist movement in China, but you see this great gap also. You see tons of Chinese founders, female founders, amazing. But you see lots of people, there's a huge gap. There's tons of people are being discriminated by the industry. Because I'm Chinese, I always care about how to change that a little bit, step by step. I think it's a good thing to show some really positive forces from the West, that women can do a lot more in tech and entertainment.
[00:47:52.622] Kent Bye: Awesome. Well, Jenny, I just wanted to thank you for joining me today. It was a fascinating exploration of the east meets west. I think there's a lot more overlap and collaboration that can happen in the future. And I just want to thank you for helping to lay out this landscape of what's happening. So thank you.
[00:48:06.650] Jenny Gou: Thank you. Thank you. I had great fun here, too.
[00:48:11.187] Kent Bye: So that was Jenny Guo. She is a co-founder of the Luminaire VR and she is, through her work, trying to make these bridges between the East and the West. So, I have a number of different takeaways about this interview is that, first of all, it's interesting to hear Jenny describe the differences between the different content ecosystems between the United States and in China. It really rings true what she was saying about the Chinese companies of how they will try to really quickly iterate and get to a profit very quickly. And so even though their first iterations may not be all of that great quality, I think over time they keep iterating and changing and try to, at least at some point, get to a place where they're at least on parity to a lot of the other VR headsets. Think that just looking at some of the VR hardware that is there. I think that it is getting better It's not quite at the same level of quality that you might see from any of the major players in the United States But you know some of it is getting to a point where it's getting good enough And I have some interviews with some other people from China where they talk about how you know China is a huge country and that not everyone is going to be as developed as something like a Beijing or Shenzhen and So there's kind of like these different tiers of cities. And so it's just interesting to see how, because China is deciding to become such an insular ecosystem, how things that we may look at as not being all that interesting here within the context of the United States, you have to also recognize that in China, they're kind of their own hardware ecosystem that is evolving, and that something that may not be as interesting or compelling, just as an example, the Nodal VR, which I'll be doing an interview here, with one of the co-founders and COO, you know, that's something that eventually the Oculus Go is going to turn into the Santa Cruz and it's going to have their own six degree of freedom hand track controllers. But in China, they're already having the six degree of freedom add on so that they're able to, you know, do things like use these mobile platforms to be able to potentially play games on SteamVR, for example. But that there's this sense that in the United States, that because we are much more focused on having people owning their own individual hardware, that there's existing kind of content distribution mechanisms that are out there through these different stores, whether it's from SteamVR, Oculus Home, or the Google Play Store, or the PlayStation VR. And that beyond that, VR arcades are something that a little bit more nascent. There's just a number of different location-based VR players that are here. But in China, I think that there's a lot more distribution outlets that are available. But at some point, I'd love to make it back to China and maybe have a chance to check out some more of the location-based entertainment. have more of a sense to see what is happening within the context of these different ecosystems, but that my sense from what Jenny is saying is that they have a lot of content distribution that is available in China, but perhaps not as much depth when it comes to the content, that they're really hungry for the content, and that one of the things that Jenny is trying to do is make these collaborations between the East and the West so that there might be way to do these co-productions that to be able to create content that may be localized and sensitive to a lot of the cultural needs for the content of China, but also may be able to, you know, be abstract enough to be able to work also in the West as well. And, you know, there are a number of different restrictions that are, you know, from the content guidelines, and those are set forth by the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television. You can find online some of those specific guidelines in terms of what content is gonna pass what is essentially their censor board that they're really trying to protect their sovereignty and what content that they want because they don't have a ratings board like we do have here in the United States. It's kind of up to their state to be able to decide what does and does not get shown within the country and get distribution. Because of that, I think that there's a little bit more restrictions that are in China. There's the Great China Firewall. And it's a little bit harder just to have open access to things like YouTube or Netflix or some of these other content distribution channels that we have in the United States. And it's kind of its own little insular bubble that is being developed. It'll be interesting to see how that develops over time and whether or not as there's more and more of an opening up of collaborating with Western companies and if there's going to have a natural inclination for the youth to want to have a little bit more openness and freedom and some of these different things. I don't know, it'll be interesting to see how they'll be able to maintain the integrity of the backbone of their culture and the communist government that they have there and to see how are they able to do this balance of being able to have Western influence and give their citizens more and more opportunity to express their individuality or to pursue their economic interests. There's this kind of interesting blend that's happening right now where it's like really these two cultures that are kind of mixing together in really interesting and different ways. So WeChat is something that I think is an interesting place to connect to some of the people that are there in China. When I was there in China, there was people that were definitely like, this is their number one way that they prefer to keep in touch. And so it's kind of like their social media, their Skype and their Google Maps. It's pretty much kind of all rolled into one. And so I've been able to make some connections and I'll be able to keep track a little bit more as to what's happening in China. Perhaps, you know, learn more about the language and learn more about the culture and look forward to perhaps making more trips in the future. It was really interesting to get Jenny's insights and her perspectives. And, uh, you know, she's really on the front lines of, you know, helping guide people through these different cultural dynamics. She's working with the Netflix of China to be able to produce these co-productions about, uh, you know, Victoria's Secret 360 videos. So she's in the process of not only creating content, but also trying to be a bridge and a mediator and a consultant to other companies. And so. If you are somebody who is interested in perhaps getting more connected into the Chinese ecosystem, then reach out to Jenny. That's part of what she's doing as her job is to serve as a consultant and to help serve as a guide and a bridge between the East and the West. So that's all that I have for today, and I just wanted to thank you for listening to the Voices of VR podcast. And if you enjoy the podcast, then please do spread the word, tell your friends, and consider becoming a donor to the podcast. This is a listener-supported podcast, and so I do rely upon your donations in order to continue to bring you this type of coverage. So if you enjoy that and you want to see more, then become a member and a donor. You can donate today at patreon.com slash Voices of VR. Thanks for listening.