As a part of our ongoing mission to showcase the virtual reality industry’s hottest startups we headed over to River, Rothenberg Ventures’ new accelerator program for VR, for an inside look at (a ‘VR Snapshot’ if you will) each of the 13 companies (selected from a group of 200) in the program, before their big demo day Monday.
Nonny de La Peña is universally recognized as one of the pillars of the virtual reality industry, with many going as far as to dub her “The Godmother of VR.” Nonny’s work has already inspired many, including Palmer Luckey – who interned under her at USC. Nonny’s work has been focused on building a new journalistic medium that she has dubbed “Immersive Journalism.” Immersive Journalism may be the future of the journalistic medium, by immersing individuals in a scene, journalists have the power to create a level of empathy with the subject that has never before been possible with any other medium, but with that power comes great responsibility and careful attention will need to be placed on refraining from bias – as we discussed with Nonny at Sundance. Having experienced a number of these journalistic experiences myself, I was impressed by their impactfulness. Project Syria in particular was incredibly powerful as there is no way a standard news platform could convey the horror of a rocket attack in crowded public square.
We sat down with Nonny to check in with her about her newest venture, The Emblematic Group, which is focused on bringing these kind of experiences to light.
Who is the Emblematic Group?
Emblematic Group is the world’s leading creator of powerful virtual reality experiences. By creating and distributing world-class VR content, we delight and inspire audiences across the globe.
What is your team’s background?
Well I am the CEO, and have been working in the virtual reality field for a long time now. I created the world’s first virtual reality documentary, and pioneered the immersive journalism field. I’ve been working alongside a robust and talented team with diverse backgrounds in digital media, gaming, computer science, and film including Michael Licht, who has 15 years of gaming experience including at EA, Disney and Lucas Arts and James Pallot, who worked at Microsoft before running digital at Condé Nast for over a decade.
When did you guys start working together?
I began working in VR eight years ago and Michael joined me in fall of 2013. By Spring of 2014, the rest of the team had coalesced.
Where are you guys at with your projects?
We are currently working in partnership with world-class organizations such as the World Economic Forum, Al Jazeera America, Ted Women, and Standard Chartered Bank to produce and distribute inspiring journalism and entertainment content in virtual reality.
Why is the work you are doing important?
Our journalism content inspires global empathy and understanding in a way that traditional storytelling mediums cannot. Enabling someone to feel as if he or she is truly a witness to the Syrian Civil War or the death of Trayvon Martin has a powerful emotional impact and leads people to take action.
Our entertainment content delights audiences across the globe, allowing them to experience what it’s like to sit in a spaceship or drive a Formula 1 race car.
The trailer for “Project Syria”
How can people experience what you are doing?
We offer three tiers of virtual reality experiences. (1) At the lowest level, we offer highly scalable mobile experiences that can be viewed on any mobile headset such as Google Cardboard, Gear VR, or any other mobile device. In fact, our Trayvon Martin piece is up on Google Play currently. (2) We also offer desktop Oculus Rift experiences, which are higher-quality but require the user to be tethered to a computer. (3) At the highest level, we offer full-immersion experiences with complete positional tracking. This content is extremely high-quality and allows the user to feel as if he or she is fully immersed within the virtual environment and they can walk around freely without any cables or controllers.
UploadVR will continue to track the development of the immersive journalism medium, including the work done by Nonny and the team at the Emblematic Group. Be sure to stay tuned to UploadVR as we continue to profile each of the startups in Rothenberg Ventures’ River program, leading up to their big day Monday.