Reviewing the Applications of AR with Erin Reilly, ReillyWorks

This week on The Tech Cat Show…Erin Reilly

Erin Reilly:                              Welcome to the Tech Cat Show with host Lori H. Schwartz. Each week we hear from established leaders in the technology and consumer industry. Finding out the scoop should never be this much fun. Now here is your host, Lori H. Schwartz.

Lori Schwartz:                      Hey everybody and welcome back to the Tech Cat Show and this week we are continuing our monthlong deep dive or theme, if you’d like, on augmented reality and I’m very excited to have a good friend and a colleague and someone who I’ve always run into at many different events and we’ve never really had a lot of time to sit down and talk but lately we have, which is awesome. And that is the fabulous Erin Reilly of ReillyWorks. Let’s have a big Tech Cat hand for Erin Reilly everybody. Such a crazy, crazy studio audience.

So let me give a little bit of a background on you Erin, because it’s fascinating. Most recently Erin was on the founding team of the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Innovation Lab. She was the Managing Director there. The Innovation Lab is famous because it brought together media companies, tech companies, creators to really explore what the future of storytelling and content and all the things swirling around in the space that we so often talk about on this show. Erin recently left to continue doing this kind of work but in her own company, ReillyWorks, and she has a lot of interesting things going on in this space. But really the merging of physical and digital is Erin’s sweet spot and where she’s focusing the next chapter in her professional life. So Erin, give us a sense of your background, like how did you get to USC, and what was your background before then?

Erin Reilly:                              I think I’ve always been interested in merging the physical and digital. It started with my career as an entrepreneur when I built Zoey’s Room in the late ’90s. I’m showing my age right now.

Lori Schwartz:                      Tell us what Zoey’s Room was?

Erin Reilly:                              It was the first social network for tween girls. It went from 1998 to about 2010 and it was combined with a licensed afterschool program that I licensed to the YWCA. So again, right from the beginning, it was like this physical afterschool program to bring girls together to creatively engage in science, technology, engineering and math. But they interacted in a social network with my animated character Zoey and her friends. It was pre-Friendster, so we’re talking like early days of chatting and building video online.

Lori Schwartz:                      Oh fun. The pre-Friendster is definitely the dating part, but it’s okay. So you were from day one you were involved in this kind of world?

Erin Reilly:                              Yes. Yeah, I mean from there I went on and I built xDream, which was this, I was really into physical activity. It’s kind of coming full circle. I built this device that’s wearable that had how physically active you were in your day-to-day life [inaudible 00:03:20] or online character. That was 2003. So I’ve been trying, over and over again, I was probably five to ten years too early to get to blending the physical and digital. I finally moved into academia about ten years ago running a research lab under Henry Jenkins at MIT and then following him out here to USC to help found the Annenberg Innovation Lab. Where we were able to really experiment with storytelling engaging in emerging technology and kind of be on the cutting edge and help industry really think through where trends are going and even prototyping some developments in that space.

Lori Schwartz:                      Henry Jenkins was also famous in this space. Even me, when I was on the agency side, we loved his book. What was the name of the book that he wrote, the kind of famous book?

Erin Reilly:                              “Convergence Culture.” It’s like the bible for all of us.

Lori Schwartz:                      Right, right. The Convergence Culture.

Erin Reilly:                              He coined the term “transmedia storytelling,” by building off Marsha Kinder’s work.

Lori Schwartz:                      Yeah.

Erin Reilly:                              Which was transmedia. She came up with the word transmedia talking about kids and play. So, and we expanded that-

Lori Schwartz:                      Yeah. It was crazy. What was so funny about that is, I mean it’s not funny, but I was at an ad agency running a media group and a media lab and we were huge fans of Henry Jenkins but we were not academic at all. In fact, if you talked about academia the agency and brands would kind of like roll their eyes in back of their heads so we had to interpret the information in a way that made sense to everybody but it was really coming from all of that same ideology. You know that everything was converging. That tech and storytelling and platforms were sort of the future of everything. So that led you to USC and you were there for a while, right?

Erin Reilly:                              Yeah, I was there for eight years. From the very beginning of launching the Annenberg Innovation Lab and really got to help design the strategy that brought in a lot of, I would say about eight to ten, different sponsors a year to really think about the future of media and entertainment. It was an amazing time. It was a wonderful time under John Taplin, he’s like our Hollywood legend.

Lori Schwartz:                      Jonathan is another person who writes books and is well-known and is often quoted from. So you really have had the opportunity to work with some really big thought leaders and obviously become one yourself. When you were at the lab and you were working with these large sponsors, mostly were they media companies or were they packaged goods brands, or who was the type of sponsors that you had?

Erin Reilly:                              You know it really varied. It was from Havas Media has been a longtime sponsor. IBM has been a longtime sponsor. We had DirecTV. We had Spark44 which was kind of the marketing company for Jaguar. To Disney and Mattel to Warner Bros. So really the gamut of thinking about media and entertainment largely from the hardware to software to storytelling content engagement side.

Lori Schwartz:                      So, so exciting. And then what made you decide to leave your post?

Erin Reilly:                              The Annenberg Innovation Labs had gone through a change. John retired and a new executive director came in who was focused more on civic engagement and policy I think through emerging tech. It was kind of moving away from the media and entertainment space and I wanted to stay in that and wanted to reconnect with my roots. I was following the augmented reality, the virtual reality, space. We were doing some prototyping at the end of my time there, really kind of tinkering with tangible storytelling, and thought it was the perfect time to be like, “Wow, I’m not a traditional academic, I’m very much a hands-on practitioner, how can I actually….”

I helped start a lot of the entrepreneurial efforts at USC with the Blackstone Charitable Foundation, who funded the Blackstone LaunchPad, which was a USC-wide initiative that I was the Founding Executive Director of and so I was like, “Hey, I’ve been mentoring all these students and startups, might as well start one myself.”

Lori Schwartz:                      It takes a certain kind of personality and I think perseverance to leave a gig and to go up and say, “Okay, I’m gonna make stuff myself.” Right? Or was it something you were contemplating for a long time?

Erin Reilly:                              Well I mean I started my career as an entrepreneur and then ended up in academia. So I’ve always felt like an edge dweller, someone who can really move between those two spaces easily. People consider me a translator, someone that talks very practically and can understand how to get something built and done. So I wasn’t really afraid to start it and I felt like I could really finally have the network from working with so many different contacts over the years through the Innovation Lab to be able to leverage that and start thinking about exploring my own products. And some of the stuff that I was doing at the lab is now being applied at ReillyWorks.

So like, one of my own IPs that Shane Reilly, my husband and I developed, which is called Winklebeans. We prototyped some ideas in 2013 on tangible storytelling taking his little wooden monster toy and putting sensors into it and making it kind of dynamic AI-driven storytelling. It was too early then but now it’s like, “Oh wait, there’s possibilities here in that.” So let’s hold onto that IP and see where we can take it as we start developing into a phy-, we call it a “phygital” company. Blending the physical and digital and really focusing on families. Digital families is not going away and our kind of adaptation to connecting to the mobile device is evolving. It’s not just the object in hand right now. It’s really becoming kind of these screenless interactions and so how do we actually get into that space early and start developing some platforms that can be used for multiple developers. Be able to be licensed and taken up in order to have these new types of storytelling opportunities take shape.

Lori Schwartz:                      And did you, this is just me being curious, but did you meet your husband doing this kind of work or is it just a coincidence that he’s an inventor and a toymaker or did you guys meet professionally exploring all this together?

Erin Reilly:                              We met in film school 20 years ago at the Maine Media Workshop, which a lot of LA people know because it’s the place to go in the summertime to get away from LA. When it’s really hot here, it’s cool in Maine. We met there and he’s on set today as a gaffer. So it’s kind of like our home is a storytelling evolving door.

Lori Schwartz:                      Right. Like all sorts of different things to just get stories made. Whatever you have to do to get the job done, right?

Erin Reilly:                              Yeah, exactly. It’s like I love it ’cause we have very different heads. He’s very much a behind the scene’s production guy who tinkers and builds things and can put, you know, make light, make anything and I’m like more thinking about the future of, “Oh, let’s hack that.” Or “How can we make these two work together.” And kind of connect in different pieces that are part of our industry that maybe people haven’t thought about how they should work together.

Lori Schwartz:                      We’re gonna take a break in a moment but before we jump in I wanted you to talk a little bit or at least define in a moment just what ReillyWorks is focused on because we’ve been talking about virtual reality on and off for the last year. Not even on purpose. It just came up a lot and I wanted to focus on augmented reality. We had a great conversation with Charlie Fink last week who’s become a contributor to Forbes specifically around VR and AR, but we talked a lot about how AR has all this great potential in business and in life, you know, where you can put on, you can use some sort of camera and have some sort of digital content presented to you in a way that adds to the story but you’re looking at it through ReillyWorks in an even more robust way. Can you kind of explain your sort of threesome? Your three to one punch on this?

Erin Reilly:                              Yeah, so our approach with ReillyWorks combines three elements: story, augmented reality and Smart Objects to create experiences where people play together. So augmented reality by itself, there’s been a lot of great moves in object recognition but I feel like also it’s still a little clumsy and how can we actually make AR part of a larger ecosystem where it interacts with Internet of Things in order to allow for individual people to have individual roles and experiences. That’s why we focus on families. We focus on families to get them to play together and to foster intergenerational fun. Our first product is really demoing that. We built a product called CARPE, it’s actually an acronym, even though you know what CARPE is right, seize the day, right? But it’s a collaborative augmented reality phygital.

Lori Schwartz:                      Oh, I love that. All right. We’re gonna take a break and come back and carpe that diem in a moment. So we’re talking to the fabulous Erin Reilly of ReillyWorks who’s really laying down the law on the future of augmented reality and Smart Objects. We’ll be back in a moment on the Tech Cat Show.

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Speaker 7:                              This is the Tech Cat Show with Lori H. Schwartz. If you want to find out more about our show or to leave a comment or question, send an email to lori@techcat.tv, that’s lori@techcat.tv.

Lori Schwartz:                      Hi everybody and we’re back and we’ve been talking to the fabulous Erin Reilly of ReillyWorks and Erin sits with me on the Executive Committee of the TV Academy’s Interactive Media Peer Group. And that is really all about looking at what is the future of interactivity in television or content in general and so Erin’s really been a futurist for a long time and an entrepreneur. I’m really digging right now into the world of phygital, which is products that can combine the physical world and the digital world. So can you talk to us a little bit about what are some of the trends happening in AR and in this phygital world?

Erin Reilly:                              Sure, sure. So, I mean, you can go back to Pokemon Go, which was like this huge explosion for AR to finally get its heyday. It’s in AR and VR, both are really natural for gameplay, and you’re seeing it in every type of conference, people are starting to highlight it. But I feel like by itself AR has some real limitations even though we’re really advancing object recognition and being able to have your favorite character sit on the chair next to you and have a conversation. But you have to always hold the phone in front of you and so there’s a little bit of clumsiness and when you think about kids, that kind of clumsiness of always having to have that screen in between your interaction can be disjointed. It’s not putting humans at the center.

So things that I look for when I’m designing an AR experiences is you have to start with meaningful content. I think that’s why Pokemon Go was such a success. If you know the history of that it was built on Ingress, which a lot of us played. It built this whole entire AR game collaborative social game where you’d take on different locations, and it built the database that Pokemon Go was then layered on top of and that was a recognized brand. So that was important, but then you need interaction between the virtual and physical environment and this character was not done as well. Right? Because if you remember the AR overlaid with your camera, it would drain the battery. So how many people really actually used that over time. They just played it on their game and on occasion would put the AR on, so they could take a picture of Pokemon on your sister’s head. But it was not a key feature because of like the draining of the battery.

So I always think about like how can we actually fix that so that the virtual and physical environment interaction is really working, and it’s not a nice to have, but it’s a must. Then you want to think about the unique value that goes beyond what other screens offer. And that was a success with Pokemon Go because they really focused on location. And you could think about the value beyond what other screens offer and other more recent interactions such as Merge Cube. Have you heard of the Merge Cube, Lori?

Lori Schwartz:                      Yeah. I played with it at, I think Siggraph. Right? It was like a spinning cube, and it was a toy and there were different AR things on each of the sides of the cube kinda, is that right?

Erin Reilly:                              Yeah, and that’s all object recognition. It’s a nice, soft, squishy cube. It’s a good, easy to handle. And there’s some good things and then there’s some bad things. You know like layering games that already exist in other platforms and not really doing anything new and unique with them. To me that’s kind of a fail. But I like what Mighty Coconut did with the Merge Cube with 57 Degrees North. Where they actually put a story in it and they changed that cube into tangible storytelling. So you have to still hold the phone and hold the cube, which I think is a problem but as we get the AR headsets, I don’t that will be as much of a problem.

Lori Schwartz:                      And wait, you just named two neat companies that have really unusual names so can you say them again and tell us what they do?

Erin Reilly:                              Yeah sure. So Mighty Coconut, have you heard of them?

Lori Schwartz:                      No, but it sounds delicious.

Erin Reilly:                              They’re based in Austin and they are an animation creative content company that’s getting into this space. I believe they partnered with Merge Labs to develop some content for them on their Merge Cube. Their story was 57 Degrees North, which is an interesting tangible storytelling example of you step into the cube, and it’s a choose your own adventure of moving the cube up, down, left, right to choose the direction of the two main characters’ story and plotline. I think that’s interesting. I think that’s a neat way of actually making the object in hand serve a purpose beyond just layering something on it to look at as more of a passive approach to storytelling.

Lori Schwartz:                      God, I love it so much. Do you see that at some point there will be headsets for everyone like that because I know the VR headsets are pretty cumbersome. I know the new ones are coming out that will be more affordable for everybody and will have the same power as the ones that were tethered to processors but will AR glasses take a different turn. Will they be lighter and easier to use, you think?

Erin Reilly:                              I’m hoping for, I’m definitely more into AR than VR because I think it is a democratizing voice. It allows for anyone to be able to do it ’cause the cost will be lower in my opinion and eventually we’ll get to glasses like in Intel is working on smart glasses right now that look like the glasses I’m wearing on my face. And everyone has doubled down on Magic Leap, which you have like this kind of disk computer that you hold in your pocket, and you carry it around with you to really have that high end augmented reality. I mean, I don’t think for like the general, that’s great for gamers, but for the general layperson, you know, mainstream I’m seeing a lot of more affordable AR glasses starting to be developed. One of my friends is working, just finished his Kickstarter campaign to do an augmented reality headset.

I know that Ben and Matt who are USC alumni they started Miro Labs, and they launched the Prism in December, which is $99. That’s an affordable AR headset. So, it’s definitely becoming, as AR headsets become more prevalent AR is definitely being positioned to become a daily reality for the mainstream consumer. Even the market forecast is predicting one billion users, $60 billion in revenue by 2021. My only problem with it though is I don’t think until we get to the Intel-like smart glasses will everyone wear it so that you have this like, always layering, new storytelling on our everyday lives so retail and AR coming into play. I don’t know if you were an early Google Glass Explorer, but I was, and we were called “Glassholes.” There was a reason for that.

Lori Schwartz:                      Yes, yes. I remember, I had one.

Erin Reilly:                              Because we looked like a dork.

Lori Schwartz:                      It’s sitting in my drawer now.

Erin Reilly:                              Yeah, exactly, it’s on my tech shelf. You know, all the tech that we’ve all tried out-

Lori Schwartz:                      Yeah. I have big room of that stuff.

Erin Reilly:                              Yeah, yeah, exactly. That I think we’ve got to be careful with. It’s like the AR/VR, if they’re going to serve a purpose they’re going to be great for entertainment. There’s also a lot of other opportunities that it’s being used for in the workforce for example. But we’ll see as it becomes less and less like, “Hey, you’re wearing some crazy thing on your head.” For it to become really kind of a daily occurrence.

Lori Schwartz:                      You were talking about, when I [inaudible 00:22:52] us, about CARPE, which is your first phygital product. And it’s gonna have its own STK. Can you talk about that?

Erin Reilly:                              Yeah, so our goal is CARPE’s being built as a platform. It is a combination of mobile AR application with a software development kit that will work with our hardware, and the hardware it allows for, we’re thinking of three elements to this. One is you’ve got a Smart Kit, which in this case for our demo we’re doing in March is smart disks and they have LEDs and an accelerometer and those connect with Bluetooth sensors. The reason why we have two different hardwares at play is because one is like these rings, which we think of like a new type of physical Minecraft Tool Kit. That’s how we’re kind of keep on imagining this Smart Kit. It’s like these objects, rings, disks, blocks, that can be remixed, repurposed and reused. They can be reskinned for any brand or IP.

Then the Bluetooth sensors is a chance for us to really address the design question of right now when you use AR or VR it’s very much individual play. Everyone needs a mobile device. Everyone needs a headset. Then you get into the digital world to play and socialize together. But its not taking into account that, yes, by eight years old most likely a child has a phone. But it’s often a hand-me-down. So the AR/VR that’s being developed now is very much on high end phones. That maybe there’s only one in the family. So our design question with these Bluetooth sensors was, “Well, how can we actually create a social collaborative experience where not everyone needs a mobile device?”

That’s where these sensors came into play because we created individual play pieces that allows for each player to be individually recognized in the experience. That’s another thing that AR with object recognition doesn’t do. AR object recognition, if you get in front of it, you lose it. You don’t have to have a phone, and we wanted to be able to let kids run around and play and not lose the AR that is the one role of the person using or reporting and having a different type of role, we call it the Captain, or some leadership role that you can then switch roles and play around.

The software development kit, this is answering a question that mobile app developers have told us it’s hard to do and that’s AR’s interaction with Internet of Things hardware. So we wanted to push beyond AR applications with object recognition and capture that aspect specifically.

Lori Schwartz:                      I love that ’cause you’re thinking about people making stuff with your kit, which is really smart.

Erin Reilly:                              Oh, for sure. Yeah. We just built a demo and we’re gonna test it on March 17, the Autry Museum of the West. Griffith Park has offered us their south lawn on March 17. We’re gonna hold two play test sessions. People can come test our mini-game, which is a combination of Simon Says directed by the mobile app meets Whac-A-Mole controlled by the Smart Rings. All in a Pokemon Go AR type world.

Lori Schwartz:                      Whoa, I love that. How cool that you’re launching it at such an interesting museum place. The thing is the physical environment is really important in AR. It’s not like sitting down in a dark room in a chair with a VR headset. The physical space is part of the storytelling, right?

Erin Reilly:                              Yes, definitely. We hear a lot from families when they want to get their kids outside the screens are left behind. But that’s not taking into account that we’re digital families. You just have to go to a park and you see all the parents on their phones, kind of edging the park as the kids play. Then the kids wanting to know if they’ve run enough so that they can get on their phone again. So we wanted to really rethink, like well how can we actually embrace this and also think about accessibility with only one mobile device and how can we actually allow for intergenerational play where grandparents that go to the park or parents or kids can all come together and have different roles. How do we customize it so like here we are, we’re thinking about a simple game in the park, but we also think about, well this is just a mini-game. But how could we do it with an immersive story world and take it into other places beyond a park.

Lori Schwartz:                      I love that you’re thinking so much about the family too. All right, well we have to take a break. We’ve been chatting it up with Erin Reilly of ReillyWorks. It’s sort of looking at another perspective of augmented reality and how it will infuse not only the physical space that you’re in but new technology to storytell and how we can get families engaged in that. We’re gonna come back and talk about some more trends in augmented reality with the fabulous Erin Reilly. We’ll be back in a moment on the Tech Cat Show.

Speaker 3:                              When it comes to business you’ll find the experts here, VoiceAmerica Business Network.

Speaker 4:                              The key point of contact between consumers and brands is technology. StoryTech, a boutique agency, empowers you to use that tech to deliver your message, engage your customers, and raise the bottom line. How do you track and exploit the trends? How do you stay ahead of industry disruption? And how do you maximize profit from content? From strategy to execution, the answer is StoryTech. Inform, innovate, create. Visit us at story-tech.com. That’s story-tech.com.

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Speaker 7:                              This is the Tech Cat Show with Lori H. Schwartz. If you want to find out more about our show or to leave a comment or question, send an email to lori@techcat.tv, that’s lori@techcat.tv.

Lori Schwartz:                      Now we’re back with talking with Erin Reilly from ReillyWorks. Erin is a former researcher, academic who was based at USC in their Innovation Lab, in their Annenberg Innovation Lab, and so Erin has a really deep, deep background in working with different brands and working with content creators and new tech companies and so, my question to you is, why AR now? Why are we finally talking about it? I mean last year was the year of VR, which you know, in some respects was really annoying because everyone I knew was like VR, VR, VR. I was like, come on, let’s stay grounded here in reality, regular reality. But AR to me seems much more interesting and realer. So what are your thoughts on why now on AR?

Erin Reilly:                              Oh gosh. I think AR, I’m right there with you. I love VR but AR to me is literally creating a Read-Write City. It’s allowing us to layer all new information added to our physical space. And I think it can encourage civic engagement, it can be a democratizing voice, it can really allow for voices that aren’t heard and it can change a lot of the ways we work. When we were at MIT Henry Jenkins used to always say that the research labs that we were running was really helping to prepare the students for jobs that don’t exist yet. I think I’ve always kept that in mind as I’ve looked at emerging media is, how are these going to shape and change and develop, change the workforce and how are we going to help create new skills using these new forms of media and storytelling?

And you’re already seeing it with AR. Like from a disaster relief perspective. Imagine being able to see, you know, if an earthquake happens, see things by looking through your glasses of areas that need to be fixed. From red to yellow. So like, from like, really important let’s get that fixed right now to yellow. And kind of create like a broader scan.

We’ve seen VR with surgeons and health care but what I think is interesting with the possibilities of the future successes of surgery is that we’ve really changed the way we think about health care. It’ll make it possible to really conduct more complex surgeries in a test environment using AR without the real risk on actual patients. I’m always following the health care field because my grandfather was a doctor and he always was like, “See one, do one, teach one.” Is the norm for surgeons. And it’s like, now it’s, “See one, augment one, do one, teach one.” We’ve created this additional layer into that kind of rule book for surgeons.

Then if you look at a lot of utility, new skills on the workforce, are really being able to cut down how much time it takes to train someone if they have augmented reality glasses that are guiding them through the process of you know putting, let’s say they’re an air conditioning repair company, and it’s very much like learning kind of a technology of how to fix those machines. Especially large scale, big corporations. That, you know, if you have a new person on the job, that can take weeks for the training and making sure it’s accurate and everything. But with the glasses they would always have kind of like a guide on the side, right there with them, mentoring them, making sure that they’re hitting the same spots. Then I think about retail, right? I see it as eventually, I don’t know if you watched the recent Netflix series, Altered Carbon. Did you watch that?

Lori Schwartz:                      No. I saw the write-up for it. It looked like something I would be into.

Erin Reilly:                              Okay. You have to watch it. It was a whole book series before and I’m such a sci-fi junkie but, the reason I’m bring this up is ’cause the main character, Takeshi Kovacs, he, right at the beginning, when he comes on, like say “on.” On, with his new skin. He turns off the broadcast ’cause the AR is just completely like bombarding him with information and so right now I think retail is thinking, “Oh, how can people walking down the street, I can actually, if they have glasses on, I can personalize, you know, what’s the latest or things that they’re gonna like, and make them walk into my store.”

And that could be like Takeshi in Altered Carbon, like, “Oh my gosh, this is way too much information and I need to turn it on.” But I think it’s getting to the point of thinking about, okay maybe not total overload but how can we actually, quietly, use AR to allow shoppers to envision a particular item in one’s home.” You know or to use it sparingly but effectively to personalize the experience.

Lori Schwartz:                      God, I saw a clip from Ready Player One. Have you seen any trailers from that yet?

Erin Reilly:                              Oh yeah, I’ve read the book.

Lori Schwartz:                      Oh yeah. The trailers from the movie are a mind-blow and you’re gonna see a lot of these different worlds that we’re talking about played out so well in Spielbergian manner. When do you think the first truly consumer-centric products will come out there so that not only those of us who are total new emerging media technology freakazoids talk about it, but when will, you know, Joe Schmo in Montana, be playing with AR? Like is it coming really quickly? Is it gonna happen really soon?

Erin Reilly:                              I think in a sense it’s already here. I feel like last quarter when Google and Apple and Facebook all doubled down on AR it’s starting to be moved into the mainstream and you just have to look at like the recent kid’s screen or the Toy Fair that just finished that AR is definitely being targeted to the kid’s market for sure. ‘Cause it’s easy. It’s a natural fit for gaming and storytelling.

I mean you’ve seen it with the Merge, right? You’ve also seen it when Hasbro came out with the Marvel Avengers Infinity War. It’s a Hero Vision Iron Man AR experience, which is kind of cool. Instead of having a traditional AR headset you get the Iron Man helmet, and you put your phone in the headset, and you get to hold like kind of these controllers and an Infinity Stone. So they even give you hand controllers. To me it’s still very much solo play and it’s a high barrier to enter. I always think about, “Is it a low barrier?” “Is it accessible for all or is it high?” “Is it expensive?” “Does it require a lot more than what you’re offering?” These are things for, you know, middle to upper class kids will be able to purchase and be able to use.

But it’s getting there, right? LEGO AR-Studio, probably is a little bit less. It’s definitely down on the not as expensive, and it allows for kids to see some of the AR big creations. I think it’s like let these big LEGO sets that are really popular, they now get this AR version that they can mix with their physical ones. So it’s like layering AR onto the building sets that you’re already building in your bedroom, but they’re not interacting yet together. That’s what I feel like it’s missing. It’s like I wish LEGO had combined the AR with actually some of their smart LEGO objects like we’re doing with CARPE. Then you’d get some interaction that I think is still not there.

Lori Schwartz:                      Right, right.

Erin Reilly:                              Of course, it’s a phygital.

Lori Schwartz:                      Right. Right. It might, and I think like-

Erin Reilly:                              [crosstalk 00:38:07]

Lori Schwartz:                      I think about how my daughter so quickly adjusted to holding her iPad over the Barbie Coloring Book to see the outfit she had colored in come alive for her on the iPad and it didn’t take any explaining. All I had to do was just show her once how you launch the app and you aim it over at the book and then it happened and she just got it right away. So it almost seems like the younger brains can grasp all of this and then the expectation is set, that this will be the very world we’re living in all the time.

Erin Reilly:                              Yeah, remember like ten years ago when my son was young he would literally touch the TV screen, right? And he’d be like, “Well, why is this not touchable?” The TV screen. And we’d all laugh. In 2012, we were doing some testing with augmented reality in trading cards and the one thing we learned in that play test was parents had told kids they need to leave the tablet on the table, to not break it. So they, it was really a force to be like, “Hey, you can pick it up, and put the trading card underneath and play with it.” And they were like, “Really, I can?” And now, what is that like, less than five years and we already are at a new point where parents are less concerned about leaving it on the table, and they’re like, “Yes, this is mobile.” And so mobile is not just the object in hand but the actions that we do with it and that’s what’s great about finally being able to like move through our physical environment with this mobile device that’s actionable and not just an object.

Lori Schwartz:                      And before we take a break I’d love to hear from you, you know maybe just, are there any books that you’re reading right now or have you moved past books and is it all phygital content that you’re consuming?

Erin Reilly:                              No. I’m totally a sci-fi junkie and I read with my 14 year old. So we always get together and read books. Right now the whole family’s reading A Wrinkle in Time to get ready to watch the movie.

Lori Schwartz:                      Oh, I love that. I love that.

Erin Reilly:                              Yeah, yeah. We always want to read the books before we go see the movies and we do it as a whole family. So those are my fun books but the other books I’m reading right now is I’m helping to develop a Master’s in Media Innovation Curriculum for West Virginia University and so I’m doing a whole course on ethics and algorithms.

Lori Schwartz:                      Oh cool.

Erin Reilly:                              And AI.

Lori Schwartz:                      You’re so geeky-

Erin Reilly:                              I know.

Lori Schwartz:                      You’re such a geek-

Erin Reilly:                              It’s a whole nother world.

Lori Schwartz:                      You’re such a geek and I just love that about you, ’cause there’re just are not enough of us. They’re not enough of us, girl geeks who are out there doing the thing. Do you have people from other industries calling you for advice? Like, you know, people in medical, or people in manufacturing who want to really understand the potential?

Erin Reilly:                              Not really, no. I mean, I’m always open to it for sure. When I run across people, like I met two physicians at a party and they were asking me all these questions. So informally, yes. Formally, no. But I’m totally open to it.

Lori Schwartz:                      I mean I’m sure when all of this-

Erin Reilly:                              I’m always looking for consulting work.

Lori Schwartz:                      Yeah, right. And also when all of this stuff starts to really launch and heat up people are gonna be looking for people that know what they’re doing and especially someone who’s creating products but who also, you know, has a strong base in academia so it’s not just you pulling an idea out of the hat. There’s real research and data backing up the decisions that you’re making in terms of product manufacturing.

Erin Reilly:                              Yeah, definitely. Definitely yeah. That’s how we designed CARPE, like I’m very much user experience focus first. And really thinking about human-computer interaction and really posing questions of like, “What are we not addressing?” So like when we came to AR our question was, “Well, how do we do AR with one mobile device and many people?” You know, ’cause that’s the question that I don’t know if people have really grappled with yet and we wanted to address that and that pushed us towards, “Oh, well we should merge AR and Smart Objects and give everyone a different individualized role, an identity.” And then we’re starting to create some really interesting conversations about what does collaborative play look like.

Lori Schwartz:                      Oh my god. All right, well we have to take break. When we come back I want to dig a little more into how people can find out about the things you’re doing and get more involved especially, you know, I am a mom of an 8 year old so I want to find out more about the toys that you recommend. So we’re going to be back in a moment with the fabulous Erin Reilly of ReillyWorks who I am dubbing the Goddess of Smart Objects and Augmented Reality. So we’ll be back in a moment on the Tech Cat Show getting more insights on the future of this emerging trend.

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Speaker 7:                              This is the Tech Cat Show with Lori H. Schwartz. If you want to find out more about our show or to leave a comment or question, send an email to lori@techcat.tv, that’s lori@techcat.tv.

Lori Schwartz:                      We’re back chatting it up with Erin Reilly who I have dubbed the Smart Object AR Goddess. And Erin if somebody wanted to dig more into AR do you have any influencers or websites or anything that you would recommend that they follow or read? Is there enough people out there publishing good stuff so that a beginner can jump in?

Erin Reilly:                              Well, I’m a big proponent for women in this space so one of my favorite Facebook groups is Women in AR/VR. A lot of them are posting jobs to their latest projects they’re working on to even has newbies coming in asking, “How do I get started?” It’s such a great group that people more experienced automatically, I just saw that yesterday, a newbie came in and within 20 minutes there were 15 different comments of like, “Go check here.” “Start here.” “This is what you should look at.” That was just fabulous to see.

Then I’m big into children’s media so I follow David Kleeman’s Children in Media Professionals Group, which is not so much marketing and promoting but asking these bigger questions of how to really, really strengthen play and learning for kids and family. So those are my two favorite ones. And then there’s tons of websites out there. Prototypr.io it’s about designing for mixed reality. That’s an interesting one. They do a lot of best practices and they’re starting to really talk a lot about physical and digital combinations. I suck up TechCrunch, you know like every day. I often miss TV because it’s kids and gadgets ’cause I like tech.

Lori Schwartz:                      Yeah, right, right.

Erin Reilly:                              It just varies, right? Every morning I go workout and then I literally drink my coffee and read, and just absorb our field and then I don’t really get to work until 10 a.m. I mean I probably am working but it’s really, someone taught me a long time ago that first start your day every day knowing your field and so that’s what I do.

Lori Schwartz:                      God I love that. I ask that question all the time. Are you someone that picks a specific time to absorb the information and I would say that the most successful people I know are the ones that do it first thing in the morning. Spend about an hour reading and absorbing and just being aware of everything that’s going on before they jump into email and everything else. I have tried to do that but of course then I get distracted but I think it’s really setting a good business example so that when you walk into a room you can share what you know. You know, you’re the person that knows everything.

Erin Reilly:                              Yeah, and people tell now I should, they’re like, “Okay, you absorb so much and when we sit and talk to you, you’ve got a lot of information. Why don’t you write that down?” Like everyone tells me to do that. “Oh, what are you writing this for?” And it’s like, “Should I start a blog post?” I do it on occasion. I coached on Medium, when I’ve gathered enough information I write something big and it will be on Medium.

Lori Schwartz:                      I know when we were talking about this too, ’cause you have such a wide network from your Annenberg days and you’re keeping in touch with a lot of people and purposely setting up meetings and picking their brain and talking about, like what the future of all this is going to be?

Erin Reilly:                              Yeah. [crosstalk 00:49:44]

Lori Schwartz:                      Is that something you would recommend people do, like reaching out to their network and having impromptu meetings to just dive into things?

Erin Reilly:                              Yeah. I feel like since I’m not holding weekly research groups meetings, being that’s what we used to do at the lab, we’d hold weekly research groups and it’d be open and you’d have 20 to 30 people sitting around talking about these ideas and without that I’m really making an effort to pick one to two people a month and meet, or hang out, or phone, or lunch and just discuss big ideas. Like whether they’re making something or whether they’ve written it or whether you know, you both were at a party and kind of realized there was some sort of like connection on similar interests. It’s just a great way to broaden your network.

Lori Schwartz:                      Yeah. I love that idea too. And again your operationalizing how to move through this space. So where can we find out more about CARPE and the other projects that you’re working on?

Erin Reilly:                              Yeah. So I just launched ReillyWorks.com so you can sign up for my mailing list right on the home page. The CARPE, our first play test is gonna be on March 17. There’s gonna be two sessions, at 10:30 a.m. and at 1:30 p.m. It’s open to the public. All are welcome. We say that it’s intergenerational, so from 8 to 80 and you can bring younger kids. We can try it with younger kids and see if it works. We have registration open at Eventbrite. So go to CARPELosAngeles.eventbrite.com and I hope to see you there ’cause I’m looking forward to a big crowd that day to give us tons of feedback.

Lori Schwartz:                      And you mentioned your husband has these really cool toys as well. Where can we find out more about them?

Erin Reilly:                              Yeah. Winklebeans. You can go to winklebean.com. Currently we sell the wooden blocks. They were sold out at last year’s DesignerCon that’s held in Pasadena every year and we’re getting ready, we’re putting together our content bible to start pitching it as a Transmedia Storyworld and thinking this is one of our big plays. Is, do we build out this CARPE platform and software development kit to show it as an example of how it’s not just for gaming, but it’s also for interactive, immersive story experiences.

Lori Schwartz:                      God you just, I just saw in my head ’cause my daughter is obsessed with My Little Pony and she got for the Holidays a big piece of plastic castle with the dolls. Now I can just imagine that being all AR and there not being any physical dolls anymore but it all being objects that she plays with in some sort of virtual world.

Erin Reilly:                              Exactly. Imagine that you put one of my sensors in the pony and so therefore you’ve got a controller in your hand to change that augmented reality world.

Lori Schwartz:                      God, that is so crazy. All right, we have to wrap up-

Erin Reilly:                              [crosstalk 00:52:54]

Lori Schwartz:                      The show, but we’ve been having a great conversation with Erin Reilly on the future of augmented reality but a different spin on it. Sort of how it will become something to bring families together, another content opportunity especially in the toy space and then a good strategy for how to grow out a platform by getting it on an STK kit and by digging into it that way. So I love all of that. So check out ReillyWorks and find out more about the launch of CARPE and we’ll look forward to learning more about what Erin Reilly at ReillyWorks is up to. Thank you so much Erin.

Erin Reilly:                              Oh, thanks Lori. It’s been great talking with you.

Lori Schwartz:                      It’s been so augmenting, hasn’t it? And you know so many-

Erin Reilly:                              Welcome to my world.

Lori Schwartz:                      There are so many AR jokes you could come up with really right now. But anyway-

Erin Reilly:                              [crosstalk 00:53:44] This is reality.

Lori Schwartz:                      It’s been great talking to you. And also check out, if you’re really interested in the Facebook group that Erin mentioned, it’s Women in AR/VR. You can ask to join if you’re a professional in this space and that’s a great way to find out what’s going on. So this has been Lori H. Schwartz, your Tech Cat on the Tech Cat Show chatting with Erin Reilly continuing our deep dive into a monthlong series on augmented reality. And we’ll see you next week with another great speaker when we dig more into more opportunities in the AR space. Bye everybody.

Speaker 13:                           Thanks so much for listening to the Tech Cat Show. Please join Lori H. Schwartz again for another great program next Wednesday, at 4 p.m. Eastern Time, 1 p.m. Pacific Time on the VoiceAmerica Business Channel and syndicated to the VoiceAmerica Women’s Channel.

 

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