Why the YouTube of AR won’t be YouTube

Comment

Matt Miesnieks

Contributor

Matt Miesnieks is CEO and co-founder of 6D.ai.

More posts from Matt Miesnieks

A couple of years ago when I was working at Samsung, around the time the GearVR was being launched, there were lots of ideas flying around regarding the services to offer alongside the device.

Many (most) of these ideas were related to hosting 360 Video content, and our boss David Eun (ex-YouTube) often reminded everyone that YouTube will be the YouTube of VR. He meant that the content on this new VR platform gave a similar enough experience to existing video content, that a new service couldn’t compete with the incumbent. It turned out he was pretty much right.

I don’t think this is going to be the case for AR. I think there’s a genuine difference in that AR represents a new mass-medium, not a new form of a current medium.

This means that the iTunes of AR, quite possibly won’t be iTunes. It will be an AR-Native application that changes the way we experience art & entertainment. iTunes may adapt, but that’s not guaranteed at all…

So why is AR different to VR Video?

The difference is that VR Video is essentially the same old 2D video we know & love but super-duper wide screen (so wide we have to look sideways to see it all). It isn’t a new thing. AR is a new thing. For the first time, the media is experienced as part of the real-world. Context is the new attribute.

It’s multi-sensory, dynamic, interactive and now can be in my living room or the street and a change in context changes the experience entirely. To illustrate the difference, if you experience Star Wars in the cinema or even VR, you are “escaping” to another galaxy where you are immersed in that universe. But it’s been a real challenge to bring Star Wars to AR in a way that’s not a novelty, because you need to somehow deal with the cognitive dissonance of “why is R2D2 in my kitchen”?

The context changes the experience.

If we look at music, the way we experience music will potentially change due to AR in a similar way to the way music changed when recordings were invented, or the walkman. In one stroke the context in which we experienced music changed entirely. Inventions like the iPod, Radio or streaming didn’t really change the medium beyond adding quantity, but going from live to take-home (gramaphone) , or from at-home to out-and-about (walkman) changed the experience entirely because the context in which we experienced the music changed.

With AR, we’re going to experience music and art (static or interactive) in context with our lives. AR can adapt the “real-world” to let us inhabit the emotional landscapes we imagine when we hear our favorite track. Katy Perry fans may see their world literally become a little more neon when her music comes on. The bass line from a song that happened at a significant time of our lives may subtly play in the background when we are near that place or if similar contextual conditions are triggered (a date/time, or a person nearby?).

In a previous post I talked about how AR + Blockchain has the potential to re-enable scarcity in the digital world. This is one of the most powerful economic disrupters that AR will enable, and still very few people are thinking deeply about it. This could play out through certain types of digital street art starting out pixelized and only becoming “hi-res” after a certain number of people see it (or the reverse, and it can decay over time as more people see it, only the first 50 get the full experience… ). Digital paintings (or sculptures) can be cryptographically certified as a limited edition “original” and all copies are degraded slightly.

This is going to radically change the way we experience (and create) art.

What will it mean to have our music and visuals in-context?

How we currently apply context to music to improve the experience. User Generated Context…

When we think about music or art and context, there’s an example that we’ve all experienced. Compare the difference between listening to music at home vs sitting on a beach overlooking the sunset and choosing a track that’s perfect for that moment. That’s the way in which context is a part of the experience, and emotionally improves it, and in a small way the resulting experience is a collaboration between you & the artist.

AR takes this to a whole new level. An AR device will have a greater awareness of the real-world than any smartphone can have. This means that the ability to match (either automatically or manually) a song or image (or visual effect) to the moment, is far greater than just selecting a track from a playlist.

Artists are now able to give more control over to the audience, so the experience can be far more personal. This could involve the stems, connecting sounds or visuals from an album to individual objects or subtly chaging the ambience of an entire room (imagine an iPhoneX style face-mask, but applied to your walls & ceiling). We have added context in the past through making a mix-tape (async creation) or a Spotify playlist/feed (near real-time) but when the context becomes applied in real-time and is shared, which is native to AR, then new forms of collaborative expression emerge.

I believe it opens the door for a new type of Open Source movement to emerge. For many years a coder (or company) would write the code, and release it under their name. You could buy it and use it, but that was it. Open source meant that creators could publish both entire products as well as the components that made up those products. The GPL licence meant credit was recognized (though payment was problematic pre-bitcoin). Further, when great creators (both famous & anonymous coders) were able to create together building on each others work, far better products were invented. Today open source software underpins almost the entire Internet.

Today art and content are created in a very similar way to the closed source model. An artist or label/studio produces the product & we consume it the way we are told. There’s very little scope for the audience to apply their own context, or to reuse components into a reimagined expression (sampling being an exception, and again credit & payments are a challenge to say the least). User Generated Content web-platforms went part way towards making creation a 2-way collaboration, and AR can complete that journey.

From Art being a static “created & done” process only involving the artist(s), it now becomes a living process involving artist and audience. The process itself, the system or the code and the assets, becomes the art.

The one area today where the artist and audience almost create together is at a live concert. This is where the context of the audience, current social environment, weather etc all come together to make something unique and greater than the sum of its parts. The massive opporunity for AR is that today there is no way to connect with the audience digitally in that moment of a shared heightened emotional experience.

The crowd all use their generic camera apps, but that information is “single user”. The potential to use an AR-enabled smart-camera app, that can provide additional layers of context (live data feeds, responsiveness to what others in the crowd or remotely are doing, augmented stage shows etc) and then capture all the data around that, and package it into a take-home experience is extremely compelling.

The fact that real-world context is the defining characteristic of AR, when applied to art & content, it’s natural that the difference between the creator and the audience will be far less clear in the future. Like open source software, enabling creators to easily build on each others work will mean even greater things are created.

Who is going to figure this out?

I can tell you who wont figure it out, and that’s the marketing arms of labels and studios! Nearly everything I’ve seen so far regarding music/art in AR has been using the medium as a novelty-based marketing channel to promote “the real product” which is a YouTube view or Spotify listen. A Taylor Swift Snap filter, or volumetric video of a piano performance replayed in my bedroom is just trying to squeeze the old medium into the new, like enclyopedias publishing on the web before wikipedia came along. It’s dinosaurs facing the ice-age. What are the AR mammals?

I think we’re going to see some rapid evolution as artists experiment directly in AR. The symbiosis between the artist and the toolmaker is going to be an incredibly important relationship over the next few years. I’m starting to see immersive toolmakers replacing steps of existing creative workflows, or artists struggling to express their AR ideas with crude tools, or (sadly) some high profile artists let their labels experiment for them. Occasionally I’ll meet someone like Molmol Kuo & Zach Lieberman from yesyesno who can both create the tools and the art, and they are doing ground breaking work.

Startups like Cameraiq.co are helping artists connect with new camera centric tools at both live events and in regular life. The GlitchMob in LA are also pushing new ideas around music and AR and fusing mediums. TiltBrush is finding cracks to escape from VR into AR. My wife Silka Miesnieks is also exploring this world of enabling creative and artistic expression through her work leading the Adobe Design Lab. It’s a cambrian explosion of ideas right now.

Fantom

There’s one startup that excites me more than all the others I’ve seen though, and that’s Fantom and Sons Ltd from the UK. In my opinion, they have all the pieces to natively adapt to this new medium. To me they look like the first mammal of the AR content/art eco-system.

Fantom launched a simple smartphone app last year that served as an experiment to validate some ideas around merging visual and audio components into an emotional sensory experience, and to support a preview of some new music. The company is still in semi-stealth mode, and will announce plans in some more detail soon, but I have some permission to share why Fantom excites me personally (without giving away any details of what’s coming in 2018!).

Fantom is co-founded by Robert Del Naja who is better known as a co-founder of Massive Attack.

While celebrities getting into tech startups isn’t a new thing, what most interested me in what Fantom was setting out to achieve was that listening to Rob share his vision, it was clear that he truly was interested in the new medium and how new forms of artistic expression could be enabled, to tip the power balance of the industry to more directly connect artist to audience (and in fact blur the lines ). This isn’t a marketing exercise, and the whole team had a very mature & realistic strategy that was incredibly ambitious. AR isn’t a gimmick, but one key enabler, along with music stems, the blockchain and several others to build a product that could become a platform for this new medium, to enable all artists. Musicians, visual artists and coders.

The other dimension which gives credibility was that Rob’s career has been defined by amazing collaborations, minimal ego, strong political values and fusing different musical styles and mediums to create art that has resonated globally. The fact that visual art has also been a big part of Robs life since the beginning just adds to the natural fit between AR and Fantom. There’s a lot of interest from high profile musicians around AR, but to me many of them seem to be chasing the next shiny thing, while Fantom feels like a natural next step in a long and successful creative career.While Rob is the creative director of Fantom (and not in the Will.I.Am-at-Intel sense creative director, but actually hands-on creating himself and directing other amazing artists!), this isn’t a celebrity project, and Marc Picken, Andrew Melchior, Robert Thomas, Yair Szarf, The Nation and the whole team are building a startup to succeed with or without any one individual and to serve the entire industry. Fantom’s mission is to build the platform to enable artists to create great art in this new medium, ensuring all contributors are recognized without limiting creative expression. Massive Attack will just happen to be the first band to build on the platform.

The list of collaborators and friends that are interested in working with this project ensures an amazing first few years are ahead. Far beyond Massive Attack. Not just in terms of guaranteed exposure, but in the ability of the worlds greatest visual and music artists to be hands-on defining this new greenfield medium, and new and emerging artists being able to work with the same tools and assets without restrictions. This isn’t going to be Tidal for AR, trying to succeed through celebrity licencing and commercial leverage, but instead a place for artists who want to define a genre to find like-minded collaborators and the best toolmakers to enable them.

There’s support from major industry partners coming together, including 6D.ai to help push out the limits of the AR experience. Fantom is actively looking for great technologists to work with (either coder-artists like Zach & Molmol to integrate their tools, or UK based engineers who may want to join the team full-time) and creative artists who want to create on the platform and explore what AR-Native means for their art.

AR as a new medium is both visual and auditory. There are very few world class artists who can do both

 

When a new medium emerges, like the Web did, it’s the artists who define the early interactions and successes, not the MBA’s. Fantom is special in that the coders are just as much a part of the artistic process as the musicians or painters.

2018 is going to be an exciting year. I’m excited as an entrepreneur at the prospect of dominant large companies like YouTube or Spotify becoming exposed to new forms of competition for peoples hearts and minds.

But I’m even more excitied that the way we experience the art and artists we love will be even more absorbed into our daily lives. Where once our “collaboration” with the artist was limited to choosing where to listen to a song, now it will be even more personal & powerful. The act of creating and experiencing the creations of others is one of the core aspects of being human that AI and Robots can’t replace. This is an area where AR truly can improve humanity and our lives will become richer through the work that we all can do on platforms like Fantom.

Thanks to Silka Miesnieks for help preparing this article

More TechCrunch

Welcome back to TechCrunch’s Week in Review. This week had two major events from OpenAI and Google. OpenAI’s spring update event saw the reveal of its new model, GPT-4o, which…

OpenAI and Google lay out their competing AI visions

Expedia says Rathi Murthy and Sreenivas Rachamadugu, respectively its CTO and senior vice president of core services product & engineering, are no longer employed at the travel booking company. In…

Expedia says two execs dismissed after ‘violation of company policy’

When Jeffrey Wang posted to X asking if anyone wanted to go in on an order of fancy-but-affordable office nap pods, he didn’t expect the post to go viral.

With AI startups booming, nap pods and Silicon Valley hustle culture are back

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

A new crop of early-stage startups — along with some recent VC investments — illustrates a niche emerging in the autonomous vehicle technology sector. Unlike the companies bringing robotaxis to…

VCs and the military are fueling self-driving startups that don’t need roads

When the founders of Sagetap, Sahil Khanna and Kevin Hughes, started working at early-stage enterprise software startups, they were surprised to find that the companies they worked at were trying…

Deal Dive: Sagetap looks to bring enterprise software sales into the 21st century

Keeping up with an industry as fast-moving as AI is a tall order. So until an AI can do it for you, here’s a handy roundup of recent stories in the world…

This Week in AI: OpenAI moves away from safety

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

2 days ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

2 days ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data

X users will now be able to discover posts from new Communities that are trending directly from an Explore tab within the section.

X pushes more users to Communities

For Mark Zuckerberg’s 40th birthday, his wife got him a photoshoot. Zuckerberg gives the camera a sly smile as he sits amid a carefully crafted re-creation of his childhood bedroom.…

Mark Zuckerberg’s makeover: Midlife crisis or carefully crafted rebrand?

Strava announced a slew of features, including AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, a new ‘family’ subscription plan, dark mode and more.

Strava taps AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, unveils ‘family’ plan, dark mode and more

We all fall down sometimes. Astronauts are no exception. You need to be in peak physical condition for space travel, but bulky space suits and lower gravity levels can be…

Astronauts fall over. Robotic limbs can help them back up.

Microsoft will launch its custom Cobalt 100 chips to customers as a public preview at its Build conference next week, TechCrunch has learned. In an analyst briefing ahead of Build,…

Microsoft’s custom Cobalt chips will come to Azure next week

What a wild week for transportation news! It was a smorgasbord of news that seemed to touch every sector and theme in transportation.

Tesla keeps cutting jobs and the feds probe Waymo