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IMAGE: of virtual reality surgery. A VR drill inside a fragment of skull on a 3D screen

Virtual Reality Surgery in 3D

By | Innovation, Technology | No Comments

Virtual reality surgery is the way in which surgeons of tomorrow will be taught. We got to play with it.


I tried it: YOU CAN FEEL THE BONE.

The Department of Otolaryngology is home of Melbourne University’s Virtual Reality Surgical Simulation laboratory. This group, that brings together researchers from the Faculties of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, Engineering and Education, seeks to define the role of simulation in surgical training.

VR surgery involves immersion into a 3D world where the “patient” can be touched and operated on. Their team has developed a virtual reality surgical environment for ear surgery that was the recipient of the University’s Knowledge Transfer Award for 2008. The group has also developed a prototype for dental simulation. They’re involved in exciting research that will determine how best to train surgeons in VR, and provide real-time feedback to trainees.

See the Professor and his team’s work
http://medicine.unimelb.edu.au/ehac/otolaryngology/research/virtual_reality_and_surgery

Shot in Oct 2015, edited May 2016 by Simon J Green.

Music by Avaren: Drift, Mudz, Oceania & Vertigo available here under Creative Commons
https://soundcloud.com/avaren/sets/for-others-use

Image: Gathering of listeners in Inspire9 for This Digital Life

This #DigitalLife

By | Events, Innovation, Inspiration, Purpose, Technology | No Comments

Here’s some of the highlights on Twitter from our successful inaugural This Digital Life event. Four incredible women from digital work places shared their cutting edge stories from business, then explained parts of how they got their personal lives balanced. Thanks a billion to Girl Geek and Toya Ricci.

Kelsey Schwenk from Studio Thick agency talking virtual reality

Virtual Reality: how we’ll use it, Kelsey from Studio Thick

By | Advertising, Innovation, Marketing, Technology | No Comments

Kelsey Schwenk is Engagement Director at Studio Thick. Thick partner with progressive businesses and organisations to reimagine their strategies, products and services for a brighter future. Kelsey leads client partnerships, guides innovation, and ensures we’re having a diverse impact on the world. We got excited with Kelsey recently talking about our experiments in virtual reality, so we spoke over Hangouts about how the world will use VR, why agencies like Thick will utilise it, and how creatives like The X Gene will execute it.

Simon J Green: Thanks for joining me Kels! So first, tell me about the exposure you and Thick have had to VR so far, even if it’s only a little. It is an emerging comms channel, after all!
Kelsey Schwenk: In our office we have an Oculus that we’ve been playing around with, but we keep up to date on what’s going on in the world with it, mostly. At the V21 Conference this year, it’s all anyone was talking about. It’s interesting – most people were looking for ways to use the tech to do something cool, not the other way around. I’m thinking it should be, “Here, I have this problem, I wish I had a way to solve it” and have VR be the solution.
S: So at the moment VR is an answer to a question no one’s yet asking? That’s why I think relationships with agencies like Thick are important. You are finding the problems businesses have. Being aware of VR’s limitations and opportunities means you can see if those problems might be solved by VR.
K: One group wanted to simulate off-roading in a truck, so they created this elaborate experience… when it probably would have cost less to just drive the truck off road in real life. It is like creating a really elaborate kids ride, and gaming was the big push, obviously.
S: Seems like the easiest way to get people aware and inside the experience. I’ve seen a VR rally driving experience. You sit next to the driver as he goes nuts in the dirt. Virtual Reality Ventures, our VR partner, always use the rollercoaster demo to quickly give people an idea of the tech.
K: One of the best examples I’ve heard of is actually not “customer” facing though. It was an agency using VR to show their clients what their designs would look like in a concept store that didn’t exist yet, so they could ‘feel’ what the space looked like before committing to the design.

Meeting Robert Redford

S: Ivy League universities have been moving those globe-style live-action cameras through their campuses, to give newly admitted students the chance to walk through before they actually get there. Tours of places and sites seems like the most obvious application – do you think it’s crucial for increasing the public’s awareness of the tech?
K: Awareness isn’t the issue… it’s access. And finding the right application that is going to make everyone out there download the app or get Google Cardboard. Tourism is an easy application for the tech, particularly for experiences where photos and videos don’t sell the experience enough. I think it has a ways to go before it becomes mainstream though – it’s almost a novelty at the moment. I could actually see it being more beneficial to having remote meetings where interpersonal exchanges are key. It’s just not the same on a web-cam.
S: What does the virtual reality space give: or more, what do you want from remote meetings, that you don’t get with today’s experience?
K: It allows you to be/move naturally, as you would in real space – you don’t have to alter your natural behaviours (other than wearing a headset). So conversations would flow more naturally, I think. And seeing reactions and emotions. When you’re giving a presentation to a blank screen, it’s impossible to know if you’re doing a good job.
S: So you could turn to someone and speak, and that would be a cue to everyone else, a cue that’s missing from today’s remote meetings?
K: Exactly! But I see entertainment as the driver – that’s where the innovation will come from.
S: True! In movies, meetings are always held with VR figures, but really it’s for the exact same reason we’re discussing: so the viewer (and the fake people in the SHIELD Security Council) can see who’s talking to whom, and convey meaning beyond a face and words.

Stories That Explode in Virtual Reality

S: Facebook is bringing in the live action, globe camera video style. What do you think that will do?
K: So is YouTube. I think it’s going to change the types of videos we see… just like GoPro did a few years ago. Hopefully, by democratising the technology, we can allow the innovative creators in the world a new vehicle/medium to show their stuff.
S: When we’ve been playing with VR, we’ve been pushing the live action(moving cameras through a space, and letting the user move through that, instead of 3D models, environments and animations). Experimenting with how the  viewer will experience the content, how we get them to look where we need them to look to tell story. But when we think as producers or for business development, we’re acutely aware that the browser-based, flattened version of interaction is most likely.
K: It’s a whole new level of cinematography. I think that’s the difference between a GIF and a movie. Both are valid forms of entertainment, but for entirely different purposes… (and budgets).
S: Almost like arthouse cinema and blockbusters – a smaller selection of dedicated audience will take up the full virtual reality experience. But when we want lots of people to see it, Facebook and YouTube will be our besties.
K: Yup. As long as they can make it easy to access and understand and create.
S: Telling stories through this VR medium: we’ve been pointed to some excellent white papers by the video game industry on how to direct stories in a sandbox world.
K: They’ve been playing with it the longest, I think. I remember seeing demos of it at PAX years ago

The Creative Struggle

S: So for those creators you’re talking about – agencies like Thick will be the ones making use of us to find solutions to client problems. What do the creators need to know, and what do the clients need to know, to make that work best?
K: The biggest thing is to find the problem to solve. Not invent a problem just because you want to use the tech. Finding an experience or a story that you want to tell that you just can’t do any other way. Otherwise it’s just playing to a fad. In the work we do at Thick, it’s finding the right channel to communicate your insights, or testing something out that would be too expensive to build otherwise! That’s probably how I see us using it in the future: using it as a tool, not the end experience.
S: Testing in a Virtual Reality sandbox. With VR audiences.
K: …and then translating that into ‘real life’, yes. Like a prototype.
S: You’d get the global audiences of the internet in a more ‘real’ appearance.
K: Well, you can test context. So you know what it’s like to be searching on a mobile phone on a busy tram. Or how you walk through a concept store, or at a construction site. It all depends on the context of your solution.
S: We could test movies in a virtual cinema, and build into the program the ability of the audience that logs in to still play with their phone – and see how bored people get of the movie. How much time is spent actually watching the screen.
K: The context in which we use our screens is very important (and often overlooked) in design and testing.

Wrap It Up Kids

S: Well thank you very much Kelsey. This is all excellent, juicy stuff. Anything you want to add in summary?
K: Just that I’m excited to see what the masses do with this tech – I have a feeling we won’t know the real potential until we make it super accessible to everyone.
S: We need the VR version of what the iPhone did for smart phones.
K: Or GoPro for video, yes.
CBS Twitter Freewheel Weather CHannel logos

CBS, Twitter, Weather Channel and FreeWheel Talk Video Content

By | Advertising, Research, Technology, Video, Video Blogs | No Comments

From Brightcove:

Recently, we brought together several of our media customers and partners for an excellent networking breakfast in New York City that included a panel discussion on how to maximize the performance of video content, as well as a session of case study-driven best practices shared by Brightcove’s CTO for Media, Albert Lai.

On the panel, CBS, Twitter, The Weather Channel and FreeWheel weighed in on opportunities for broadcasters in the year ahead, as well as how to measure the performance of video initiatives as it relates to advertising, user experience, reach and engagement across devices. Their thoughts seemed to resonate with many Brightcove customers in the room, some of whom contributed their own 2014 areas of focus in the video below after the sessions.

Feature for blog with stats on what counts as a video view

What Counts As A Video View? You’d Be Surprised!

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Just because someone sees your video, doesn’t mean it’ll count as a view! Turns out there are varying definitions of what counts as a ‘view’ on video content.

Depending on the website that’s hosting your video, TubeMogul informs us that a half view, and autoplay or a refresh can an affect on whether your view count goes up or stays as it is. Below is the table of results from TubeMogul’s research, updated in 2010 and found here via Creative Commons license. One/session is one count per session (monitored via the viewer’s IP address), > 1/2 view means the viewer got through more than half the video. Note that autoplays aren’t always counted, which is important if you want that intro video on your homepage to gather a nice collection of views. You’ll have to weigh up the importance of people seeing your video vs raising the view count.

III. Summary of Findings

Site Full View >1/2 View Refresh Embedded Embedded Autoplay 
blip.tv one/sess. one/sess. no count one/sess. one/sess.
Dailymotion count count count count count
Metacafe count count no count count count
MySpace count count count count count
Viddler count count count count count
Vimeo one/sess. one/sess. no count count count
Yahoo! Video count count count count count
YouTube count count count count no count

By David Burch, Director of Communications – Link to Report

A golden Mercedes Benz

Why Go Pro Video: The Reason it Costs What it Costs

By | Marketing, Technology, Video | No Comments

Here’s the thing about video – anyone can do it…but only professionals can do it well.

I’d be a moron to dismiss or ignore that as digital swept through and technology got cheaper, making videos became more accessible. A smart phone today will shoot some pretty nice footage (I like how the iPhones oversaturate). This all means businesses promoting themselves can have the same sort of fun with video that we have every day.

My job as a producer at a Melbourne video agency is to make content that promotes businesses, not-for-profits, individuals – anyone with a message. The challenge is finding a place for ourselves now that anyone can afford the basic tech.

Some companies have decided to go for bulk. Buy or build a studio (because that’s something harder to get) and pump out a huge volume of video content at a cut-throat rate. It works for these companies, but they’ll freely admit they are missing one thing: quality.

The X Gene has gone a different route. We’ve moved away from cheap. We come in when our client wants a premium product. A potentially lucrative contract with a big international firm? A line of clientele that take part in the finer things in life? A large audience, a large investment, high stakes? These are the types of things a little clip in a poorly green screened studio won’t help.

If you want big returns, you need high quality. That’s The X Gene. High-end cameras, complex lighting and audio setups, multiple edit suites and specialised post-production software – yes, we have all of that, but we also have something far superior: the years of experience and proven talent to utilise all this creatively. We create the best videos we can, and then push ourselves to do better.

That’s what you’re paying for when you get a video made with us. That’s why it costs more than the quick and dirty alternatives, or the overseas options from sites like freelancer.com. I’ve heard business owners in seminars talk about getting a video done overseas and not being happy with the result. They end up making three or four mediocre videos that probably cost them more than they budgeted for anyway. I’ve also been proud to see other owners and our clients show off a premium video and say it was a bit more expensive, but the results speak for themselves.

The old cliche is true; you get what you pay for. With all this talk in the news of Australia needing to accept it can’t compete on price when working against nations four to ten times cheaper, I hear a constant refrain, “IP and value added skills and expertise are the way forward.” That’s us. Quality in a service industry, making excellent content to make you cut through and stand out. That’s why you go pro video – to be better than your competitors. We strive to be better than our competitors, so who better to team up with to take over the world?

iiNet and AAPT

iiNet & AAPT want money instead of innovation on NBN

By | Innovation, Technology | No Comments

Working with video means we transport GBs of data a day over our internet. The future of the NBN is damned important to us – especially those fast upload speeds. Sending a client a video draft can take ages…sending them 6 drafts can be excruciating. iiNet and AAPT have come out in support of the Coalition’s NBN plan, one that takes away our beautiful speed and our precious upload/download equalisation. Well, those two businesses sort of support it: their finance teams, that is. From iiNet’s CFO David Buckingham, “the technology lovers love the Labor version but the accountants like myself … like the idea of the faster rollout and hopefully a lower cost because that’s how we can differentiate. So as a CFO I’m looking forward to the lower cost base and the faster rollout.”

Key difference here is the tech vs the cost. The argument is that that speed is worth waiting for, because the Coalition plan will rapidly be out of date and leave us as frustrated as we are now. The article shows the contrast between the needs of society and business. It’s particularly ironic given the performance factors these telcos advertise. The debate also demonstrates the hurdles we have to jump to be innovative (spoiler: it’s money).

via http://www.businessspectator.com.au/news/2013/7/25/nbn-buzz/aapt-iinet-back-coalition-nbn

Cover image from old BandT

Cannes: ‘Move over Grandad’ (reblog)

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The following is a rad article we loved and got us juicy. We’re one of the creative agencies nipping at the heels of the bigguns, and our work is changing the way video is done in Australia.
The article reblogged here with permission from Kevin Macmillan’s The Works, Sydney and was originally posted on B&T.com


I was very excited heading to Cannes 2013. As I pack my suitcase to head back to Sydney, I’m even more excited.

I don’t remember a time in our industry when young creative entrepreneurs have been more at the forefront of marketing.

The ordered approach to marketing we all know from the past few decades, the approach we all understood to be the correct way is crashing down around us. It was so evident in Cannes throughout the week.

Media is going through the ringer. Research is going through the ringer. Strategy is going through the ringer. And Creativity is thriving. The young creative entrepreneurs up on stage at the talks and the seminars spoke with conviction and were wide eyed about the future.

The older speakers from the old marketing world often appeared like rabbits caught in the headlights. Whether it be the boss of a big corporate organisation or the boss of a big agency, I somehow got the vibe they were merely warning us about the changing approach to marketing, rather than actually being part of it.

It’s always more interesting to hear from the creator of something. The person who made something. Not the person who was there when it was made.

Around the world, technology is allowing young creative entrepreneurs to make more ideas, deliver them quicker to market and use real live testing. So instead of “here’s what the future looks like” the Cannes festival was much more “look what I made”.

Cannes did not feel like an ad festival. If felt like an ideas festival. A place where young creative entrepreneurs could come and share creative stuff. There was a ‘Move over Grandad, you ain’t getting this shit’feeling in the air.

It confirmed what I already thought; that the marketing world would be a better place without all the marketing bullshit.  A better place if we were all brave enough to accept what marketing really is – a simple creative idea to make people love your product.

If I’m going to take one thing away from Cannes it’s going to be this; we are in the age of making ideas, not talking just talking about them. As a creative, that is unbelievably exciting.

Kevin Macmillan is founder and creative partner at The Works Sydney

Feature image about video used online, seeding, activation

Get The Most Out Of Your Video

By | Technology, Video | No Comments

We made a Prezi! Prezi is a fun little app that spruces up the traditional PowerPoint and move a around the screen in a more cinematic way.

Honestly, this is a simplified version of one aspect of what you can achieve in motion graphics programs like Adobe After Effects. We’ve noticed that successful apps are really those that capture one aspect of a much more complex, professional program, and repackage it as a simplified, restricted version that the general population can play with.

In our Prezi, we wanted to show you what you can do with any video you have once it’s edited and delivered. We love telling our clients these little tips, because we want them to get the most out of our work, to get the most bang for their buck. Please have a chat to us if you’d like to learn how to get your message to the most eyeballs. Enjoy by pressing the little arrows and marvel at Prezi!

Dropbox icons

Why I Chose Dropbox As Our Cloud Service

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Let’s hear from our founder, producer and mad scientist Simon J. Green. Take it in the face, Simon…

When I set up The X Gene, I’d just moved from a digital media company I’d also co-founded called Green Rabbit. While we were there, cloud services had just started becoming a ‘thing’. At The X Gene, I knew I wanted to move all our creative, briefs, client files and general business documents to a cloud service, because I knew I’d be on multiple computers as well as needing mobile access while out on shoots or in transit between client meetings.

THUS BEGUN THE CLOUD SERVICE EXCEL MATRIX.

I’m a nerd. Massive. I looked at all the current cloud services and compared their features in an excel spreadsheet. Plan costs, GBs of space, shareability, mobile apps, integration with other apps and online services. Back then I think I was looking at three main contenders: Dropbox, Box, and Google Drive (although I think Google had  just rolled out their paid version), with YouSendIt floating around the edges.

Ultimately, I decided on Dropbox. Since then, heaps has changed. YouSendIt have become way more attractive, adding a solid cloud service as well as online document signing. Interesting, because I know a lot of people who use YouSendIt anyway, and I even still use it for a quick send that I can leave uploading. I know, once it’s upped, it’ll be immediately sent. Dropbox doesn’t do that, although I can easily leave it uploading and then email the link from my mobile while I’m out.

Box seemed to scrape together a lot of key integration in apps, but I found it rather American-centric in that regard, and hardly anyone I work with uses it. On an iPhone or iPad, this might have been a concern, but since I’ve moved to Android, the cross-app shareability options have exploded.

Google Drive is probably the most viable outside of Dropbox for me. Our company email and calendar is set up through Google, we use Chrome for browsing, mobile and tablet are now Android, Google Apps looks tasty, especially with some of the business tools available, and we have a chunk of documents in Google Docs, because the collaboration is so damn useful.

Dropbox is our winner, though, and hear’s some of the reasons why: they’ve since increased plug-in support for multiple apps and online services, in particular Vimeo. Vimeo is fantastic for us, because we display all our finished work through a paid Vimeo account with embedding on our sites, and deliver drafts to our clients using password protection. One incredible feature sees us able to upload a video by clicking a button and browsing our cloud and choosing the video within that ecosystem. The video is already online, so the processing is a matter of seconds instead of up to an hour. That means just the one upload, which saves us bandwidth and allows us to deliver drafts to clients in two ways – one a Dropbox short link, another a Vimeo password protected link. Dropbox has a teams function now, which will help us as we grow. Using the integrated desktop app means when a client or contractor uploads a file to our account, it immediately starts downloading on our computers, giving us instant access instead of having to wait for manual clicking of the Download button. This shared folder system also makes it easy to keep our briefing and creative files neat and tidy for our contractors. We’ve also gathered something like 60 GB of additional free space from their referral system. If someone joins one of our shared folders, then adds Dropbox’s app to their desktop computer, we get a chunk of free space. If someone clicks this link http://db.tt/bgtBRkG and joins Dropbox, we get free space. Through various online tweets, surveys and offers, we’ve received free space. SO MUCH FREE SPACE!

We looked long and hard at the others, but we’re happy with our decision. We  love seeing the add-ons that increase productivity as cloud services become more prevalent. So that’s why we went with Dropbox.

Data on how audiences react to video content

DIY + Professionally Produced = More Sales, More Happiness

By | Advertising, Research, Technology, Video | No Comments

Sales and happiness aren’t necessarily one in the same, and conversion is the preferred industry term, but isn’t happiness better than sales or converting? Yeah, agreed.

At The X Gene, we produce videos to make people happy, but ultimately to get our clients sales, conversions or just getting a thumbs up. We’re completely aware that with technology advancing and prices for that tech falling, folks can make videos at home or in the office. Obviously, we’re really good at it and would prefer to do it for you, but ignoring the growing trend of DIY would be insane. Our producers actually come out and consult with companies around Melbourne, giving them hints or showing them even more cool stuff out there.

It turns out, when you combine us with you, the results are even more impressive than just DIY or pro video production on their own. That’s marriage, baby, and it’s happy.

This study by comScore and EXPO found that offering viewers and potential customers both a user-generated video along with a professionally produced how-to video, the sales, conversions and happiness increased way more than just one or the other, alone.

So, chat with us to combine your DNA with ours, and we’ll make a beautiful conversion sales happiness baby.

LINK: comScore Study Finds Professionally-Produced Video Content And User-Generated Product Videos Exhibit Strong Synergy in Driving Sales Effectiveness

Equipment science and video on a table

Web Video Trends in 2013

By | Technology, Video | No Comments

We just sent this information to a client, but thought it was valuable enough to share with you. This is stuff we’re seeing more of, or just really excited about in 2013.

Responsive/Adaptive websites
Site design that adjusts itself based on the screen it’s being viewed on. We know a web agency that create tile based sites that slide around and reposition themselves on different screens and different orientations. Cool!

 

In-browser applications
The idea that content or programs run exclusively in a web browser, with little to no plug-ins. With HTML5, this seems to be more and more achievable.
Important for an audience that may only have a computer, a browser and the internet.

 

Interactive video
Video that doesn’t just play from start to end in a linear fashion once you click ‘play’, but instead can be clicked on, through and around to create branched, more inclusive, shorter interactions.
Exciting for us, because we can break people out of ‘sit and watch’ and get them to actually play around with the video. Think of choose your own adventure, online, as video.
Dollar signs over the annoying orange

Hey Apple! Annoying Orange Shows How Far Viral Video Web Series Can Take You

By | Technology, Video, Viral Video | No Comments

Not sure what good viral videos or web series are? Annoying Orange, a web series started by Dane Boedigheimer in 2009, can tell you – in his whiney, high pitched voice.

“In 2010, Boedigheimer’s YouTube channel had almost 350 million views and earned an income of $288,000 from ads.” – wikipedia

Yep. And what really hit home was when one of our X-agents was walking through Sunshine Plaza in Melbourne’s outer suburbs (of all places!) and came across this:

That’s an arcade booth, one of those ‘use the hook to get the prize’ machines, full of Annoying Orange merchandise, with the video itself playing on a screen in the back.

The series has been re-broadcast on Cartoon Network, has accessories, toys, clothing, a Halloween outfit and a mobile video game.

That’s what viral videos and web series are good for. Contact us to start your own.

Woman holding sign saying Don't Discount Journalism

Fairfax and the Truth About the Digital Future

By | Technology, Video Blogs | No Comments

The breaking news on our screens this morning is that Fairfax are dropping 1,900 jobs, closing the printing facilities in Chullora and Tullamarine, moving their print to tabloid format and erecting a paywall for their online sites. Our producer talks about the digital future, as seen through Fairfax’s crystal ball, and how it can help you.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-06-18/fairfax-cuts-jobs-goes-compact/4076732

The dot points, for those in a rush.

  • All media are adapting to digital. Fairfax is going through that painful transition.
  • The future of all media wil be smaller, niche, not as big – and there needs to be acceptance of that fact.
  • These changes had to happen. But workers can re-skill, or use their experience and expertise to set up their own new opportunities.
  • It’s a exciting time – wild west of the web.
  • Growing, understanding, will lead to, in my opinion, a more mum-and-pop approach to the entertainment and news we love and consume.
  • Fairfax workers, realise you have skills and knowledge. Find people you can work with and create your own visions.

ABC News: Who will survive the digital future?