The Tech Haus
Season 2: Episode 1 Transcription
Listen to the full episode below:
Cutting Edge startups in fortune 500 all in one room talking about how emerging technologies are changing our world.
Swish Goswami: Today we have a very special episode, we're here with Dave Kim and Josh Gonzalves.
Dave is the Director of Strategic Partnerships at Cineplex Entertainment. His main focus is on building and implementing goals, market partnership strategy for Cineplex’s B2B e-commerce platform as well as managing business relationships with brands like Samsung, LG and Indigo. He's also responsible for Cineplex’s cultural transformation initiative. And Josh, on the other end is the co-founder and CEO of Contraverse. An en- to-end VR production and distribution company for innovative and story driven virtual reality. They provide and produce immersive VR experiences that put you in alternative worlds through the perspective of the characters in the story.
Virtual Reality is a term that gets thrown around a lot in the tech world. But before we get into the podcast, I asked Josh what exactly VR is and where we've seen it.
Josh Gonsalves: Virtual Reality is one of those things where when we go to define it, it actually gets expansive. What a lot of people are talking about now is kind of extended. Like extended reality, there's a lot to do with AR and stuff like that. So if we bring it down to just VR, it's really, you know, reality that's constructed virtually, that's computer generated.
So we've had VR since like the 80s on flat screens, and any of the games you've played is technically virtual reality. But modern day virtual reality is what we would think of as like head mounted displays. Here, you're thinking about putting on an Oculus Rift headset, or VR goggles in general. And it's the process by which you are completely engulfed by the virtual experience. And obviously, the step one of that is augmented reality, right, given the fact that AR is a mix between the real world and the programmed world.
Swish: Just to kick it off on VR, do you feel like we might have skipped by AR because I feel like there's definitely a boom around VR. We're living in it right now. It started maybe three four years ago, but there wasn't really a boom for AR unless it was like, Pokemon Go. And that was the big craze behind AR.
Josh: I think when most people think of AR they're thinking of mixed reality, like these Microsoft HoloLens, but I think we've had AR for a long time, especially with our phones, like we forget that this is technically AR, it's augmenting your reality. Maybe it's not floating, and you have to hold up this brick on your hand, but you can still get the information that is augmented on your world. So AR is generally more like a flat UI on the world. Whereas mixed reality, you get that depth and like 3D holographic type of effect, I would say we've had AR for a while.
Swish: And then what need specifically is Contraverse trying to solve then?
Josh: So we actually didn't really start off trying to fill a need. It was more like how do we tell a story in virtual reality? What came out of that was actually solving our own problem, which was it is really, really hard to show an audience 360 video or VR, so we actually developed a platform that synchronizes multiple headsets so you can have an audience of like 50 people all come in, they go into their seats, they put on their headsets and their headphones, and they’re put in a virtual waiting room. It just says your experience is about to begin and you have really cool graphics around you. And then an operator at the front of the room or a back of house wherever can control all the headsets with an iPad, they can select all the headsets hit play, and they'll all play at the same time. And then you can monitor where they're all at in the experience.
For today's discussion, I wanted to understand how VR is currently integrated in our daily lives, the health risks associated with this technology and whether or not it's going to change how we experience films and movie theatres.
So the three big challenges that I have with VR are:
- How expensive VR is;
- How inconvenient it is given the fact that it does take up a lot of space within your home;
- Adoption and how a lot of my friends aren't using VR, which probably is going to make me not want to go towards that option either.
Consumers are always looking for more immersive film experiences. It's why IMAX for example, is a thing, why 3D became a thing, people are looking to be immersed in the movies they love even more. I don't see why VR can’t be the next step. But there are a lot of spatial as well as price issues that they have to deal with. I wanted to explore more about where we're currently seeing VR and how it might impact the entertainment industry.
Swish: To kick us off, what are some misconceptions you both run into on a daily basis?
Dave Kim: You add strategic in front of any title and people get confused, really, it's depending on what your objectives are. So I always tell people mine is to make cool partnerships that ultimately will drive revenue regardless of whether that's today or tomorrow. So that's working together with a lot of OEMs like Samsung and LG, then also working with partners who want to utilize Cineplex especially the digital ecosystem to kind of heighten their brand. So we have a mix of marketing and sales.
Josh: I think people have no idea what I do, especially with VR because like right now I'm in like this flux for the last couple years I've been a technically a VR director, directing experiences. So I guess kind of an experience designer. And then now it's shifted more to straight up CEO product design role. So I think even right now I'm kind of at this crossroad of two things. But as CEO at the company, pretty obvious what I do, you know, driving the vision of the company and making sure that we're hitting goals, and we're on task and we're actually making some money and moving forward.
Swish: And then Dave, for you, I mean, I remember the first movie that I ever saw in 3D was Avatar. And now, there's so many new viewing experiences. So how do you guys go about trying to get audiences to feel comfortable with new viewing experiences?
Dave: I think people are realizing that especially younger people, now millennials and even the people younger than them, they don't go out as much. And when they do go out, what they really respond to is a cool experiential environment where they get to try things that are instagrammable, that are new and different. So things like 4D and VIP cinemas, for example, which really cater to people who want a little bit more of an intimate date environment. I think that's what Cineplex is catering to, it's kind of the experience rather than the plain going there and watching a movie.
Swish: VR obviously has been around for some time now, we've had a bunch of companies that have gotten into the space and are trying to build hardware around it. Obviously, the hardware to some degree is still quite expensive for the average household but for Cineplex, for example, do you envision going to movie theatres and having a VR experience entirely?
Josh: Yeah, I mean, just up until recently, even Cineplex was partnered with IMAX VR, and basically what they did is they had high-end HTC Vibes, and it was more of an arcade experience. There's definitely more gaming experiences than the traditional narrative. But I think the bigger thing and we actually spoke about this earlier today, Dave, which was we're kind of missing the point. Maybe it's right now to bring headsets to the theatre while people don't have it. But like you said, there are very big players like Facebook out there that are really trying to get everybody in this world to own a headset and I think it will eventually happen less and less people are going out.
So it's not so much how to bring headsets into the theatre, it's how do you bring the theatre to the home. I can just be sitting in my living room put on this headset and I'm instantly transported into an IMAX size movie theatre. So that mixed with some social aspects I can have my friends log-in and sit virtually right next to me, we can have that same movie theatre experience, but at home on a massive screen and now on planes like I don't fly without an Oculus Go headset now because it's just much better to watch a movie in a theatre, which is kind of the whole point of Cineplex. But now you can almost give that to everyone at a very, very low cost.
Swish: I remember there was a photo when Oculus came out. I think it was one of their launch parties where Mark Zuckerberg was walking down, everybody's wearing an Oculus headset and people were like, this is weird. How would you get around the paradigm shift of getting people to feel comfortable wearing a headset even on a plane?
Josh: Yeah, I remember that, that was the Samsung launch. So like one of the very first consumer headsets that people like, oh, this is new. This is weird. Oh, and also like a new season of Black Mirror just came out. So this is all weird, right? But I think it's the same thing with people who were like, oh, no one's gonna have computers in the home. Why would you ever want that? What's the internet? No one's ever gonna need that, you know, it's the famous Blockbuster versus Netflix story.
And the experience will outweigh the hardware and the hardware is changing all the time, right, every couple of months, we're getting new hardware. So I think it's time like people will just kind of figure it out. Like no one really liked the Google Glass wearing cameras on their face. But now everyone's wearing those Snapchat Spectacles. And that's fine because they look more stylish. So I think that'll happen with VR as well.
Swish: And then Dave, Josh mentioned blockbuster. Obviously, we've gone through a paradigm shift in the movie industry. From a partnership perspective. Do you see Ott platforms like Netflix as competition or do you see them as a potential partnership?
Dave: And so I work really specifically for Cineplex Store. So that's a TVOD environment, which means it's kind of a pay per view more like an iTunes or Google Play. Netflix is an SVOD, so that's a lot like Crave here in Canada, Disney+, and there's a lot of those coming out.
They're definitely a competitor, they're not just a competitor to us but a lot of the production houses, they're making their own content. They're even purchasing content and then in other countries kind of making it look like it's their own content by saying, you know, Riverdale in Canada is a Netflix Original. So they kind of change the perception of a lot of this high quality content that people now think Netflix produces, when in reality, they're just acquiring it the same way that a CTV or like licensing the rights for a particular region. And they're keeping it kind of generic enough, just with the Netflix logo that almost looks like they're producing more content than they actually are.
So that's really interesting. But I mean, I think as the SVOD world becomes more disparaged with Disney+ and, you know, probably a bunch more that are coming up, we're gonna run into the exact same problems we did with broadcast and people subscribing to broadcast subscriptions because nobody wants six different subscriptions to different areas. So somehow those are going to have to come together and there's going to be a new middleman that kind of forms in between us and them.
Swish: And is that a plan for Cineplex to try to be the middleman that encompasses a bunch of suite and tools that can be put together?
Dave: Where we win and where even an iTunes and Google Play would win is, if you don't have all six subscriptions and you want to watch one piece of content that's on one specific service that you don't have, you can come to Cineplex Store and you can purchase that one movie that you really want to watch. So I think it's a bit of an advantage. I don't see a vision of being that middleman right now. That's more like the broadcast model. I think we're looking at the Bells, the AT&T’s and the Vorizons and those guys, right, who might just kind of leverage that sort of environment because they're pros at it already.
Swish: VR, Josh, obviously, it's more participatory. Do you see that as a disadvantage or an advantage?
Josh: Oh, I mean, huge advantage. Even if we were talking about a virtual cinema now it's social. I have a home theatre and my friend in the UK also has a home theatre and we can go into the same virtual space and we can sit next to each other and we can speak and we can talk and maybe why these apps even have the option to screencast whatever's on your laptop on your phone to the big screen. So now we can play like esports parties like they do at physical Cineplex locations. Now you can blend games and movies as just creating a space.
And then I think having that space as like the platform, the pay per view model works really well. And again, it's like you're purchasing it so you keep it so it's not like Netflix like, “oh, I love Friends... oh, and it's gonna be gone next week”. If you love Netflix, and you just want to pay for Netflix and you love the Avengers movies... well, too bad, Disney's coming out with their own and they're gonna take it off. So I think with the iTunes model, my girlfriend, she was just setting up movie night for us. And she went into iTunes, I'm like, “wait, what?” and she’s like “no, I purchased this like years ago”. I'm like, whoa, that's crazy. So like she owned it technically, I mean, you're still borrowing it but because she paid for it, she has access to it as long as Apple exists and iTunes exists. So that might be the way of the future especially if people are kind of weary about all these different streaming channels.
Swish: And then for you, Dave, when it comes to partnerships specifically for Cineplex, what sorts of partnerships are you guys currently excited about that are keeping Cineplex innovative and relevant to an audience?
Dave: We're doing a program at Samsung right now where when you buy certain Samsung televisions, that comes with a year worth of free movies at the Cineplex Store. So pretty simple back end integration where you know, you buy that Samsung television, have the Cineplex Store loaded, and it knows the model and it knows the time frame, so it deems you eligible for these free movies. So that's kind of a really basic gift with purchase kind of model.
I see us having to keep an eye on Roku, which is growing in Canada, all the different streaming services, everything that gets long form movie content into people's living rooms and on their phones when they want to.
Josh: Yeah, I actually have a question about that, about the Roku and they're kind of becoming the go-to like operating system for smart TVs, like you mentioned Samsung, so would they be more of a partner because I've seen the Cineplex app have Roku on it, or is that seen as something to be worried about.
Dave: It gets interesting because I mean, they are definitely a partner, we're building an app on them. And it's in both of our best interest to build apps with content on each other, but they're also building their own content hubs, they're building their own apps, advertisement space, so they're building their own ad inventory.
So when Cineplex and let's say, Bell Media and Rogers and all those guys, their sales teams are going out and they're selling advertisement inventory as well. So it's funny because we're kind of partners, but then ultimately, we're still vying for the same advertisement dollar. We're both friends and frenemies.
Swish: Are there any health risks associated with VR? Because some people, of course, are skeptical.
Josh: I need to look into more of the health risks. When you do start up any of the headsets there is an “I accept the risks” warning. It seems to be more with the eyes, I don't think there has been too much research into it. The only thing that I know of is for young children who use VR because their eyes are a lot closer together than ours are. So the lenses are built obviously further apart. The other thing that I would be more concerned about other than the technology itself is actually the radio waves. The thing that most people are banking on with VR to become mainstream is actually 5G technology which is a higher frequency than obviously 4G, LTE and stuff that we're using. And I need to do more research on this as well, I don't want to be spewing stuff that I don't know fully about, but from a few things that I have read is that 5G can be cancerous just because of the higher frequency. So it's definitely worthwhile to look into that and see the health risks more of like those radio waves more than anything.
So VR is being implemented into our viewing experience pretty seamlessly and it doesn't look like it's going to be taking over the traditional 2D or 3D film industry anytime soon. So how can we optimize on VR’s unique capabilities? What does the future of our viewing experience look like?
Currently, there clearly is a buzz around VR. I don't know if brands are going to start using more VR in their marketing right now. But as VR becomes more accessible as it starts to become adopted more by customers, I think that it’s only going to trickle into a brands marketing department, but I wanted to hear what Dave and Josh had to say.
Josh: We're mainly working with film festivals, but we're seeing a lot of brand activations really wanting to use VR, especially for trade shows and conferences and stuff like that. Because tradeshow booths, you know, everyone kind of has the same thing. They're either giving away free stuff or there's like a little screen playing, but there's so much going on. You're always listening to other people talking and you're looking at your phone, and then you're doing this, you're doing that but with VR, you're completely shut off from all that, you have full control over the perceptions. So you can have them put on the goggles and the headphones and until you play it, they're basically blindfolded and ear muffed. So like they can't hear or see what's going on around. So what you have now is their full attention, and you can put them in whatever world that you want. And what's really, really interesting about VR and 360 video is the way that people have those experiences imprinted into their brain. It's not the same as television. When you watch something on TV, you remember yourself in this space, like let's say your house and you're watching the television, you remember yourself watching, for example, a car commercial.
But in VR, if you're watching a virtual car commercial in 360, you actually remember having that experience, you don't remember watching an advertisement, you remember having that experience, it's the same as reality, right?
Even though your brain obviously knows, to a certain extent that it's VR, and what you're seeing isn't technically real or happening, you know, we still have the lizard brain, we're still not as evolved as we'd like to think we are. So your brain actually experiences that as actually happening. And I can only imagine that even in VR, the advertising experiences are infinite too, right? Like if you're in a car commercial, you're probably watching in your living room, if you're watching it in VR, I mean, by the end when it says Hyundai, I could have fireworks going all around, right? Like you can basically do anything to paint that story and put them into an immersive environment.
Dave: How do you get everybody to want to be immersed in that never mind the quality of content that will make people put the headset on before they realize that it's an advertisement, right? It can't just be an ad, it needs to be content.
Josh: I totally agree 100%, it’s definitely hard, especially these days. But what we've actually found is that at these expos, people are lining up and so hungry for this content it’s actually really good because the thing is that when you watch an advertisement on TV or YouTube for whatever reason, you automatically want to skip it. Like I don't want to look at it. Your brains like someone's trying to imprint me, I don't want to see it, it's annoying, I don't want to see this. But in VR, you're like, “hey, I'm having this awesome experience”, you're having quality over quantity of potential leads.
Dave: I mean, I would love to see the numbers on that sort of research. And I would say that's probably 100% true, ride that wave, you know, one of the immutable laws of branding in PR is how you start a brand and that's how you get people engaged. And I think you're riding this wave right now of this new technology. And VR has been around for a long time, but it's kind of taken leaps. So all the brands that just want to say that they're doing AR, that's a very time sensitive wave to ride.
Once the buzz and the PR worthiness of that is over, you really need to make sure that your platform and everything that you have is sustainable and that you're actually going from this is so cool, I'm going to share this on my Instagram Story to - I actually have people using this technology in their homes in the right volume.
Swish: Yeah, I agree with that entirely. VR to a degree, it's still the little gimmicky at times, right? But I think what Dave's trying to say and I agree with that is how do you bring it mainstream to the point, you know, you're not doing it like once a month or once in a week to take an Instagram Story. You're doing it everyday because it's a necessity. Like you're addicted to that experience, and you want it every single day.
Dave: Yeah, 3D televisions and 3D in-theatre viewing is still fairly popular. Remember, when Samsung and the LGs all came up with those 3D TVs where you needed glasses, they rode that wave, I think everyone thought that that was going to become really big, but I don't really see those on the market anymore. I think there was something about that product that just didn't work. I like VR, but I think you guys are gonna run into the same sorts of challenges and how do you make this sustainable
Josh: I suppose but I mean, we're not creating the hardware right? So we're not the Facebook's, that is definitely a Facebook problem. And you know, we're here to support and use it for what we want to use it for, and there are specific use cases.
There's a lot of these vertical markets that we're also tackling that can use it in an industrial sense. And I'm definitely seeing Facebook kind of ride that wave bringing it more from okay, this can be a mass market consumer to like, how can this be used for business and very specific use cases. I just watched their Oculus Connect six, which is like their annual conference Mark Zuckerberg got on stage and it really seemed like two things are happening. One is that they finally have the iPhone VR headsets, the Oculus Quest, highly recommend checking it out. It's a miracle device. And two, they're really focusing now on business. So it's like they have the Oculus for business program, they have specific partnerships with vendors and software vendors to get this rolling for businesses. So I think the business use case will be the first thing you know, just like computers, right? We only used them in the workplace for a very, very long time. So they're kind of seeing what they're building today as the Palo Alto, which is like, you know, pre pre Mac way before Apple 1 apple 2, this is like 20 years, right? So I'm definitely seeing the long term future where we're all going to be working in VR, there's going to be no doubt about it, it makes way more sense for us to put on a headset and have these gloves or controllers. And we all are in a physical 3D space together and you know, we can collaborate, moving from the hardware side, then more of the content side.
Swish: Remember the last Star Wars movie, it had Carrie Fisher in it. And she had passed away, I think about seven, eight months before that movie released. And also many of the scenes that were shot with Carrie Fisher in it were programmed, it wasn't actually her acting, it was a programmed CGI effect. And a lot of people were very amazed that we now live in an age where we don't really need actors. You know, we could get a Brad Pitt or a Leo and we could have them on screen and make them do anything we want.
So what are your thoughts from a content creative perspective? Did that take away from human expression? Are you a fan of it? Are you not? Where did that kind of fit with everything that Josh was just saying and that are just examples of us, kind of losing touch with each other.
Dave: I think we've already hit a place where we can wake up in the morning, we can order breakfast from McDonald's and we can go to Starbucks and not talk to anyone. So as somebody who is an extrovert and really enjoys the company of other people, I hope that's not the direction we keep going. I like to think that human actors are always going to be a thing. I think there's something about an actual human being that people really connect with and knowing that the Lindsay Lohan’s... that just dated me like crazy, hasn't been relevant in a while… but knowing that they exist. Like, I'm really hoping that never goes away.
Josh: Oh, I totally agree. So I'm actually doing a lot of research in virtual production. I have a friend that’s doing a lot of R&D at another company, and I think we eventually, the plan is for me anyways, is to eventually open up some kind of virtual production studio in Toronto. We have a bunch in LA, but I don't think we have any here yet. And what's really, really cool is that all it really does is it reduces the cost to produce content. So you can have student films now that have crazy CG actors and stuff that you could never do before. And I actually know of a few smaller production companies in Toronto that are working with really big name actors, and the only reason they can actually hire them and pay them is because that actor can be in their LA apartment, just hold up their iPhone 11 or even Xs that has face recognition and they have an app that they don't have to wear anything. They don’t have to wear those stupid little white dots all over the face, just the phone itself and it can track their face and then they just use that data and put it onto a virtual version of him. Now you can take that same data, Benedict Cumberbatch did this, they turned his face into this crazy alien. And you've seen it with like, The Hobbit and stuff. So yeah, I think it's cooler to be like, yeah, it's not just replacing humans, it's like, hey, can we turn the human into something completely different?
Swish: And it's crazy, like my mind immediately also went to a tangent. There was recently news about the first virtual influencer named Spark, signed to a major talent agency. And she's entirely programmed and brands are like literally paying money to her because she's grown an Instagram following. Like, that's crazy, though. Dave, you're probably not a fan of stuff like that.
Dave: Well, I mean, just be careful for that fallacy again, guys. Like that's a big PR thing there. That's a big buzz, doesn't mean this is sustainable, right? It's first to market so all brands want to be there. And just I'd be careful in thinking that that's, you know, gonna stay happening.
Swish: Yeah, then where do you think the future of viewing experiences will go towards? Like, as someone who's kind of on the inside? Obviously, it's not your day to day work all the time. But where do you see the future of viewing going?
Dave: When you look at where viewing has gone right now I think you split it up into kind of what screen you're using and where you're at, I think comparing virtual reality to cinema viewing is comparing apples to oranges. Not knowing too much about VR, I think that you guys are more going to steal the market share from the gaming world, that sort of demographic of people who kind of want to be hands on and want to get off their butts. But from a viewing experience, what I've seen is a lot of short form content, and then you have that paradigm of short form versus long form. You have grassroots versus highly produced and then you know, you have a couple other paradigms. So I think really what's going to happen is that is going to become a lot more specific, we're going to have more TEDTalks, we're gonna have a lot more user generated content for short form, and I think a lot of the high quality content is going to continue. I'm thinking there's going to be less really, really high quality content. Don't think the dollars will get them as far as eyeballs kind of shift to this kind of lower grassroots kind of content with the younger people watching, you know, user generated content.
Josh: I totally agree. And what I think will be really cool on top of that would be like, there's all this grassroots stuff happening, these TEDTalks and short form YouTube, what's really crazy is with AR technology and stuff like that, they will be able to produce higher quality content I think.
Dave and Josh both brought incredible perspectives about the integration of VR and the experiences that it creates for users. VR gives us the opportunity to collaborate with each other in person without physically being together, we have another way now of connecting with human beings and other parts of the world. As you heard about in this podcast, more and more brands are beginning to use VR for marketing experiences, brands have full control over their customers experiences.
VR experiences are also imprinted into the brain differently than TV ads or any other visual ads are. And this is something that I didn't know about before. VR could literally change traditional theatre. Because as you heard in the podcast, it's not about how you bring headsets into theatres. But how you bring the theatre into your home. And that can be done in a much more social way. When you think about the fact that I can go to the theatre now with my friend in another country, all through VR.
Swish: Now we're going to get into my favorite segment, which is the rapid fire round, I want your answers to be rapid and full of fire. Dave, let's start with you. What do you want to see invented in the next 10 years,
Dave: This is gonna be the most boring answer… I want to get rid of social media but I still want to be invited to things. So I want not like an Eventbrite because I know that's a thing as well but something that helps you connect with your friends on a less intense kind of scale than all the social media apps that are out there.
Swish: What technology should we fear the most?
Dave: 5G, I don't know much about it but I know that there are a lot of theories out there that it's incredibly dangerous.
Swish: Best advice you've gotten in your career thus far?
Swish: How do you handle failure on a day to day basis?
Dave: If something bad happens in their career, something doesn't work out, how do you respond? You dust yourself off.
Swish: Your favorite movie of all time?
Dave: Fight Club.
Swish: Perfect. That was your rapid fire round. Dave. Are you ready there, Josh?
Josh: Oh, yeah.
Swish: All right, number one, what do you want to see invented in the next 10 years?
Josh: I want to see new battery technology, you know, the batteries that we're using, and everything is the same technology that we've been using for years.
Swish: If you could watch any movie in VR, which movie would that be?
Josh: Maybe like the Lord of the Rings trilogy, something epic.
Swish: What technologies in your opinion should be feared?
Josh: I think two things. One is actually antiquated and old technology like combustion engine stuff that is harming us and our planet and then military drone technology like literal weaponize technology.
Swish: Your thoughts on the necessity of going to college for success in today's world?
Josh: You don’t need it for sure.
Swish: The worst and best thing about being an entrepreneur?
Josh: I’ll start with the best thing, get to work on what you love. And the worst part is, you know, uncertainty.
Swish: And that's a wrap. Thank you, Dave and Josh for coming on The Tech Haus today. I've had an awesome time chatting with both of you.
You guys have been listening to The Tech Haus podcast where we bring cutting edge startups and Fortune 500s to the table to talk about their contrasting views on how tech is changing our world. Stay tuned for our next episode. This is your host Swish, signing off.
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