Kristin Hope, Author at Pixo Group
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Virtual Reality
There’s a lot of talk lately about Detroit being a comeback city. Travel + Leisure and Bon Appétit are recognizing Motor City as a major travel and food destination. But what about technology? We’re right in the center of the Midwest, an area set to outpace the famed Silicon Valley for startups. And the exponential growth is happening in part because of another Midwest staple: hospitality.

Partnerships are forged between nonprofits, government agencies, startups and established businesses, because we believe in Michigan and what we can do. Metro Detroit’s economy today is made up of more than just automotive. From embracing autonomous vehicles to groundbreaking augmented reality museum tours, we’re proud to be part of this technological renaissance.

PIXO Group’s Marketing Strategist Kristin recently spoke on augmented reality (AR) as a tool for storytelling at the Michigan Recreation & Park Association’s annual conference. Sound like a strange fit? When you think about it, not really: parks benefited from an influx of visitors thanks to Pokémon Go. By combining existing geolocations, like historical landmarks, with the beloved cartoon, Pokémon Go proved AR is here to stay (even though it’s not technically AR – shh!). There’s a handful of AR developers in the state, and PIXO Group is excited to be among them.  

This week, Michigan business association Automation Alley held their annual Technology Industry Outlook at the perfect location: the DIA. The Detroit Institute of Arts became the first museum in the world to have an AR tour, so filling their space with drones, robots and virtual reality was a natural fit. Companies exhibited their technology, and after networking and demos, participants listened to Automation Alley’s talk on Industry 4.0 and how it’s changing Michigan business. See key takeaways and read the full report here.

Michigan State University is, perhaps not surprisingly, a strong supporter of the tech scene. PIXO Group was at their gaming conference Meaningful Play last year, where our Creative Director Ben spoke on a panel about how the local industry is evolving. And at the end of this month, we’ll be sharing a table with our good friends at the Mobile Technology Association of Michigan for CS First. This is an opportunity to engage primary school students with technology, so we’re packing up all the Google Cardboards we can find!

So what else is on the radar? May will be another big month for the Michigan tech scene, continuing the momentum from last year’s record-breaking Startup Week and innovative Self Conference. We’re hoping to speak on virtual reality and education with our friends at STEM.org. Keep up to date with our social accounts to find out who we’re developing tech with next (or just follow us to watch the robots).

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Virtual Reality
Last week, Business Leaders for Michigan held their fifth annual CEO Summit. This day-long event drew an enormous crowd from all areas of the enterprise: healthcare and banking to automotive and education. This year, BLM focused on some timely topics. The speakers discussed disruption, innovation, emergent technology and competing in a global economy. Here’s our Top 5 Takeaways from the day.   Sam Sesti, CEO of ONU One, spoke to one of the key concepts: differentiators. With an ever crowded marketplace, what are the tools companies need to succeed? How do you communicate loudly over the roar of competition? One way is with 3D visualization: engage your customers emotionally and give them an interactive, custom experience with your products. Sam said, though, it might not just be one way – it is the way. Fairly soon, all marketing, sales, service and training will be done using 3D visualization.   Even pizza companies are technology companies. CEO Patrick Doyle spoke about how most of their commercials aren’t about the product, but about how tech delivers it. Have you ordered a pizza with an app yet? What about via emoji? It’s time. Disrupt your Friday night dinner. 🍕   This fascinating panel, moderated by @ChristyTV, covered so many crucial issues facing business today. Another highlight was PNC VP Ric DeVore talking about bridging the gap between the older generation that will do all of their banking in the branches, and the Millennials that will never set foot in one. We are in transitory times indeed!   Steelcase CEO – and gamer! – Jim Keane spoke about how office furniture design is influenced by technology. His optimistic vision of the future of workspaces is one where people are no longer tethered to any particular location. Steelcase also uses virtual reality so clients can understand relationships between furniture and architecture. And, with the Internet of Things, offices will be as smart as the people who work in them.   These are words to live by. Make a desktop wallpaper, write it on a white board, tattoo it on your arm. If everything around you is changing rapidly, staying the same automatically makes you obsolete. This isn’t about failure, though – many tech leaders talk about the importance of failing fast. Taking risks was central not only to this talk, but embedded into the overall day. What makes this field so exciting and challenging is the opportunity to always push forward and innovate. The real risk is taking no risk at all.             Cover photo courtesy of www.TrumpiePhotography.com
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Virtual Reality
The Dev Team On: HTC Vive & Unity

This installment of The Dev Team at PIXO features commentary from Tech Director Vinh and Engineer Hasnaa  

The HTC Vive is the newest, and arguably greatest piece of virtual reality hardware on the market right now. While it has yet to penetrate the mainstream marketplace, those lucky enough to use one agree it offers immersion unlike anything else – some of the PIXO Group staff even call it a “religious experience.”  

Most likely, if you’ve already tried the Vive, you either: work for a tech company that develops for it (raises hand); work for a company that’s utilized it in sales & marketing efforts; or you attended an event where you were able to experience the Vive. Consumer adoption has yet to be widespread, but the exceptional experiences should propel it towards becoming commonplace.  

So what does it take to build experiences for this game changer? First, an awesome team. Here at PIXO Group we’re lucky to have awesome modelers, character artists, animators, sound designers, UI/UX experts and engineers. But if you want to start exploring on your own, the Vive’s plugins make development relatively simple for those ready to dive in.  

There are two main 3D game engines for the HTC Vive: Unity or Unreal. At PIXO Group, our history in Unity goes back to our mobile app games, so it’s the plugin of choice for our development team.  

Once you have Unity and the corresponding Steam VR plugin, the setup is straightforward and it contains example scenes. “To get started, you can drag prefabs that come with the plugin,” explains Hasnaa. Some simple first experiences can be things like hitting a ball with a bat. Once the physics of that are set, add in art to the scene to create an entire baseball game. If you’re already familiar with Unity, you’re basically ready to go.  

“If you’re a Unity developer and want to make virtual reality experiences, Unity is so well supported by the VIVE, developing VR is more simple than making an omelette,” said Vinh. (Editor’s Note: That depends a lot on who’s making the omelette. I am much better at omelettes.)  

Vinh and Hasnaa enjoy building worlds in the Vive because of the sense of immersion. Thanks to the high frame rate, there’s less dizziness, which is important not only for the end user, but for the developers during tons of testing. The depth of field feels really natural, the visualization of the controllers is excellent, and the sense of the room scale adds to the experience. Additionally, our team loves the opportunities the Vive afford them to play with physics.  

“When you place something down it feels like it, thanks to the haptic feedback on the controllers,” said Hasnaa. “It’s all very real, physics-based interactions.”  

So, for example, the controller can be replaced by a virtual bat with a collider on it, to hit balls or other projectile objects. The feedback extends beyond just the controllers, though. The Dev Team also wrote code that projects a collider from the headset to the ground. This simulates objects colliding with the players themselves.   The Dev Team wrote code that maps a point in space on the Vive headset and connects it to a point on the ground, so you’re experiencing a projection of yourself standing vertically. So when a ball comes at you and you swing at it with the controller, the accuracy of the experience creates that total immersion that is unlike anything else on the market right now.  

Beyond simple ball and bat projects, what can developers build in the Vive? Vinh encourages the exploration of fantasy realms: “If you ever wanted to be a space ranger fighting aliens, you can do that in the Vive.”  

Experiences don’t always have to be as grandiose as those, though. Vinh explains that you can put a real movie on a texture of an object in the world, so you’re watching a film in virtual space. While this has great implications for experiential marketing – like running promotional videos for a product within an experience – Vinh has a simpler explanation.  

“In virtual space, you can make the television as big as you want. Big screen TVs are expensive – just build one in VR!”
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Virtual Reality

If you’re selected to showcase your technology in the TEDxLabs at TEDxDetroit, you better bring something extraordinary. ONU One’s 3D visualization platform is already a disruptive force for ecommerce and sales on the web and mobile. But they needed to demonstrate their capabilities in a big, highly visual way to hundreds of attendees. Virtual reality is the perfect medium for big impact, and ONU One knew PIXO Group is the perfect team to create it.   Find out what we did for ONU One at TEDxDetroit here.

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Virtual Reality
By Shannon Bradley  

As marketers look for new ways to differentiate their brands from competitors, they are increasingly turning to virtual reality (VR) to create unique experiences for consumers and engage a global audience that is tired of traditional advertising methods. VR technology has the potential to drastically change how marketers promote their brands and products.  

Virtual Reality For Storytelling


Unlike traditional storytelling mediums, VR is a medium where the audience becomes active participants rather than simply passive observers. VR leaves a lasting impression on users long after the initial interaction. Often, users are so engaged they share their experiences on social media, thereby extending the brand’s reach. With so many consumers looking to social media to help make purchasing decisions, VR provides the opportunity for a brand to stand out. By blurring the lines between marketing and content, companies provide something of value to consumers while still promoting their brand.  

Recently, Six Flags teamed up with Samsung to create North America’s first VR Roller coasters, using Samsung Gear VR powered by Oculus.  VR turns Six Flags’ roller coasters into a fully immersive sensorial experience, synchronizing the action on the VR screen with the movement of the roller coaster, creating a ride unlike anything patrons have ever experienced.  On August 5, 2016, Six Flags announced a more interactive gaming experience, “Rage of the Gargoyles”, would be added to eight roller coasters in parks across the country. The new technology allows Six Flags to refresh a roller coaster by changing the VR visuals, rather than having to build something new.  

Virtual Reality for Entertainment


This convergence between traditional entertainment and virtual reality is just the beginning. Brands are also able to venture into nontraditional spaces to showcase their products.  For the 2015 Major League Baseball All Star Game weekend, PIXO Group created a complete Oculus Rift Virtual Reality experience for Chevrolet, where the user becomes a major league umpire and has to ‘make the call’ from behind the plate.  The VR game allowed fans to engage with the Chevrolet brand and the All Star Game experience.   Aside from entertainment, VR can be used by shoppers to design and experience their dream kitchen or bath with Lowe’s Holoroom.  VR also has a place in hospitals, where patients can immerse themselves in a therapeutic experience to relieve stress and promote healing.  

Virtual Reality Improves ROI


In terms of cost savings, just as Six Flags is disrupting the traditional roller coaster model with VR, so too did the United States Navy with their training. PIXO Group created an immersive underwater world where users pilot a ship, replacing the literal physical fabrication of a vehicle in a swimming pool. The VR simulation was more cost effective and portable for the US Navy.   As new VR headsets like the HTC Vive and Sony PlayStation VR continue to enter the marketplace, it will become easier for companies to add VR to their existing marketing strategies because of consumer familiarity with the hardware.  

It will be exciting to see how brands utilize this technology for experiential marketing to engage consumers. The possibilities for VR are truly limitless.
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Virtual Reality
Detroit Startup Week was a massive success! With more than 3,300 registered attendees, it was the largest opening Startup Week ever! PIXO Group was proud to sponsor the inaugural Startup Week in Detroit, and had a great time at the Masonic Temple during Happy Hour all week, meeting tons of people and introducing them to the creative tech we make here. Some highlights of Startup Week included drones, art exhibits, hearing from industry leaders like Chase CEO Jamie Dimon and local leaders like the City of Detroit’s Jill Ford, networking, and most of all, watching people experience VR for the first time! Download our free undersea adventure virtual reality experience we were showing off all week: Android | iOS   ccx-01
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