Why VR will change business to business marketing

Virtual Reality is not just for games, it can also be an important tool for business

For example; Waxworks has a long term client who expressed a pending problem to us. They were committed to attending their industry’s major trade show in Europe and they needed to display their products.

The problem is their machines are 3 stories high and could fill a warehouse.
To transport and set-up a working machine to the show would have cost around 800K. That’s a lot of money and resources for a 2 week trade show!

Their major competitors did spend the money and moved complete operating machines to the show. Our client, not having deep pockets like their major competitors, needed a solution. We suggested one. Soon after they contracted Waxworks to create a 3D 360 VR of their machine for them. It featured 5 viewing positions.The VR actually made the tour of the machine more effective and compelling than having the real thing there.
The VR allowed potential customers to view the inner workings of their machine from angles and areas where no human could go for safety reasons.

What a buzz they created at their booth, and the VR made them a “must-see” at the show.
“have you seen the VR yet”
“don’t miss the VR at the … booth”
“cool VR over there, you should check it out”
“I’ve never been that close inside a machine like that before”

What a great way to demo such a large product. Essentially they upstaged their competitors at a wee fraction of the cost. And of course they now have the VR to send out to potential customers world-wide. It’s a tour that can happen almost instantly.

VR is still developing in interest and has mostly focused on gaming. Wait until businesses start discovering the awesome marketing and training potential of this new tool. It will never be the same again.

Why would you ever call a company Waxworks

I can’t count the number of times I have been asked why we named our company Waxworks. Here’s why.

In the seventies when we were trying to decide what name to use we were only in the audio recording studio business. Someone suggested that, since the original records were on wax cylinders, and since we were in St. Jacobs (an old-fashioned kind of place) we should be called Waxworks. I scoffed and said that was terrible name,. After all, we were a high-tech studio, progressive in every way. But that night I went home  and looked up Wax in the dictionary.

Yes I found the noun wax candles, wax seals, etc but I was also reminded of wax the verb meaning on the rise, growing toward fulfillment, as in the waxing moon or waxing prophetic. Yes “growing gradually larger” is a good name for our company, and Waxworks was born. So now you know, we are a verb!

Connecting the dots, the birth of Motion Capture

Sometimes the best ideas come when you are not looking for them. Case in point. In 1995 I was visiting a company interested in having us produce a marketing video for them. They made precision measurement equipment for the medical and aerospace industries. They showed me their stuff, led markers they placed on an object and sub-millimetrically measured their positions in 3D space. They took these measurements at a high and variable frame rate to measure movement. OK. That’s interesting.

So I asked them if I could glue these markers onto a human being? They didn’t see any problem other than discomfort. So now my mind raced ahead knowing that the most difficult and time-consuming animations to produce were human motion, facial expressions, delicate hand motions, the familiar and subtle nuances of human expression.

I raced back to the office and asked my 3D animator if I gave him 3D coordinate data, X, Y and Z for a particular point at 30 times a second, could he attach that data to an animation wire-frame model. He said he could write a little program to do that and move the animation with the data. I quickly borrowed the measurement equipment, wired the hands of a stand up comedian/piano player friend of mine with a few dozen markers and every joint in his hands, set it all up and asked him to ad lib some piano playing. I insisted he make mistakes, fool around, do stuff that was out of the ordinary and recorded both the data and the audio of the piano and gave it all to my animator and left for the night.

The next morning I came in and asked if he had got anything from the overnight render. He suggested I sit down and played the video. Good thing I was sitting. I swear I actually levitated as I watched these goofy looking cartoon hands playing the piano exactly like a human would. We recorded in real time what would have taken a skilled animator several weeks to produce only a close similarity to the nuances of the human hand.

Today this is called Motion Capture. It is big in the movie industry with producers like Lucas film, Ron Howard, etc. Back then I thought we had invented it, only to later discover that mere handful of companies around the world were also experimenting different technologies for this purpose. We were certainly the first in Canada to make it work.

My point to this blog is look around, be observant, and don’t stop with the manufacturer’s intended purpose. Imagine how you can connect the dots and combine things to create something new. It works. Who knows, you might discover the next big thing.

Change is a good thing. Do not be afraid.

OK, I admit I’m an old guy. Actually I am a young spirit trapped in an old man’s body. This does have advantages such as experience and knowledge gained over many years. One of my first wake up calls was when I realized nothing stays the same, everything changes constantly. I soon figured out I need to either embrace change, or fade into oblivion.

I watched (and in some ways helped) the world change. I wondered why anyone outside of an insurance company would want this new invention called a fax machine. I marveled at a typewriter that could correct mistakes, I produced radio commercials for one of the very first cell phones. It was the size of a brief case but you could take it anywhere, even in the car. Amazing., I think I still have it somewhere. (Does anyone have the number for the Smithsonian?) My first business computer in 1980 was a blow away! It’s where I discovered spreadsheets and word processing. Yup, I’ve seen the world change and I still drive hard to keep ahead of it. Change has never hurt, it has always improved my life both business and personal. I say bring it on., and if you don’t have anything new, then I’ll do it!

Connecting the dots, flight and videography

In 2005 I discovered the hobby of building and flying radio-controlled aircraft. What a gas! It combines my interests in technology, craftsmanship, and my fascination with flight. Back then the use of electric motors over fuel engines was in its crude infancy. The advances since then have been nothing short of amazing. Better batteries, improved electronic systems, and the advent of autonomous flight. Enter quad copters. Drones.

Now I loop to my “day job”. We have produced business videos since the early eighties and one of the limiting factors was imaging a shot but with no practical way of getting the camera into that position. Aerial footage was difficult and expensive hiring an aircraft, then only being able to descend to 500 or 1000 feet to take the shot. It was long distance and nothing but rooftops. Not at all what we needed.

One day a few years ago a buddy started experimenting with automated flight control for his models. After a few crashes he started to achieve success in not only auto f;light stabilization, but flying a predetermined course using GPWS and waypoints. Fast forward to the invention of the drones. Today they provide steady autonomous flight including take-off and landings, fly accurate waypoint guided routes, and carry high quality cameras fior stills or video.

Now our cameras can achieve virtually any compelling camera angle and distance to subject. It’s easy. How amazing is technology!!! What was impossible a few short years ago is now old hat. It stimulates my creative brain and some fascinating new ways.