Futurist Report: The Future of Entertainment
Developing a point of view on what the future may hold
In this installment of The Futurist Report series, AT&T Foundry, Ericsson, and RocketSpace took an inside look into the cutting-edge technologies and Startups shaping The Future of Entertainment.
Each Futurist Report includes an industry-wide view from a diverse array of leading experts and features select Startups at the forefront of technology. We dig into emerging trends and distill key insights that are reshaping entire industries and our world at-large. We delve into the broader business implications of these technologies and explore Indicators such as collaborations, investments, market demands, and technological advancements.
The entertainment industry is undergoing a radical transformation. We see vast shifts in the way media is created, distributed, and experienced. The rise of over-the-top (OTT) streaming is changing how shows and channels are packaged and distributed. Technology players are collapsing the barriers for content distribution and content creation. Advances in machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI), and the greater influence of our social sphere are impacting how we discover content. The assistant of the future for whom you beckon with your voice is emerging as a key interface for exploring your world and entertaining you. Millennials and Generation Z are not simply Digital Natives but increasingly Mobile Natives, refining the entertainment landscape with them.
This got us thinking. Are we entering into a new era of video consumption? Is entertainment as we know it going through a generational shift? Who are the players of the future and what will shape the future of entertainment?
To find out, we interviewed 100+ leading innovators, executives, and researchers pushing this industry forward. From these perspectives, we developed 10 Bold Projections to showcase how entertainment will fundamentally reshape our lives in the coming decade. Of course, not all of these predictions may become a reality, but AT&T Foundry certainly intends to do its part in fostering innovation in the entertainment ecosystem.
A snapshot of entertainment today
We are in the age of mobile. In just the past four years, there has been a 71% increase in the number of consumers who watch video on their smartphones.1 Initially, much of the talk centered around mobile as a second screen. Today, we are in a post second screen world in which mobile devices are the primary entertainment devices for many consumers. With more than 60% of their TV and video viewing on a mobile device, Millennials are leading the way.2
Mobile devices are not only changing how we consume media but are also more significantly blurring the lines between distribution and creation. Many millions of creators now have the tools in their pockets to generate compelling content and can distribute this content in one-to-one or one-to-many networks. In fact, more than 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute.3 The Mobile Native’s appetite for short-form content is changing the way traditional media companies package and distribute content.
Technology companies are taking note and transforming themselves into entertainment companies. Facebook and Snap Inc.4 have become important channels for distributing, curating, and personalizing content for consumers. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and most recently Facebook (in partnership with Collegehumor) are investing millions into developing original content for viewers and displacing traditional media companies in the process.
The once clear boundaries between media, technology, and social companies are becoming indistinguishable. These industry changes are influenced by broader market forces that are at play. The challenging economics of content licensing, advancements in software and streaming technology, and the pervasiveness of low-cost, high-quality devices for consuming video are playing a part. What will that mean for the future? We investigated the market to understand and present our forward-looking 10 Bold Projections on the Future of Entertainment.
What is the world saying about the future of entertainment? A Quid network visualizes the global narrative and identifies four high-level themes being discussed by today’s media.
News article network with 1523 stories. Colored by tags. Sized by degree. Labeled by tags.
10 Bold Projections on the Future of Entertainment
- Clicks are the New Casting Call
- Algorithms Will Enable a New World of Storytelling
- Fans Will be Part of their Media’s Org. Chart
- A digital rights revolution will empower creators
- A new media gateway will emerge as your TV Guide
- Virtual assistants will win your living room (and your Connected Life)
- Screens will be fluid, not fixed
- Live experiences will transcend boundaries of time and space
- Media will be emotionally intelligent
- Immersive experiences will be full-sensory and social
1. Clicks are the New Casting Call
While there will always be an appetite for premium content, user generated content is already enhancing the primetime experience, giving viewers access to celebrities before the big game even starts. Content creation is increasingly democratized through the prevalence of user generated content, turning clicks into the new casting call for popular content.
In the future, user generated content and social entertainment will open up a new generation of personalities. In addition to primetime TV, many people will tune into their friends, family, neighbors, and even strangers sharing whatever they are doing that moment. Popular characters and shows will expand their presence, and viewers will have more ways to watch, socialize and extend the life of the content they enjoy.
Cooking shows became popular on-air and created megastars like Julia Child, Martha Stewart, and Rachael Ray, whose shows people watched in earnest to learn how the professionals perfected their artform. Today, with online platforms like Tastemade, a video network for tastemakers, new cooking stars like Dini Klein and Julie Nolke are building a following. Tastemade is one of many emerging online destinations where viewers can learn by watching. Following suit of its bigger online cousins, YouTube and Twitch, these platforms are lowering the barriers to entry for content creation and distribution and thus stardom can rise from anyone with a broadband connection who can attract an online fan base. For example, Swedish web-based comedian and video producer, Pewdiepie is earning nearly $12 million per year playing video games on YouTube. Geeks and Sundry stars Felicia Day and Wil Wheaton release live episodes weekly on Twitch, and their TableTop game web series has raised over $1.4 million on Indiegogo to fund the creation of a new season. Increasingly, niche players are coming online like Livecoding.tv where you can watch people code in your favorite programming language or on HobbyKidsTV young kids watch other kids unbox and play with new toys for hours on end.
Startups like Bambuser are making it simple for anyone to create their own live broadcast network. Others, like Patreon, make it possible for artists and creatives to receive financial support from their fans and viewers. With Huzza, creators can schedule live videos with their fan base to chat and discuss their work. Patreon users can set up Huzza videos directly within the platform.
Emerging social media platform Musical.ly lets users or Musers create and share homemade music videos. Kevin Ferguson of Musical.ly says “A major trend I see is the democratization of content creation. With the tools we provide our users on Musical.ly, anyone can become a creator. Those who typically considered themselves viewers of content are becoming the creators of it now. The lines between content consumption and creation have blurred, and doors have opened that did not exist before. In turn, the opportunity and potential to create is more accessible and powerful than ever.”
The venture community is taking note of the shift in viewing towards user- generated content. Top-tier investors like Upfront Ventures, First Round Capital, Lowercase Capital, SV Angel are placing bets with companies like Vidme, self- described as “YouTube meets Reddit.” Vidme has community-curated categories (akin to subreddits) of content such as 1-minute documentaries and notable creations of I Hate Everything and Your Movie Sucks for first person accounts of the world as they see it. Union Square Ventures is investing in Younow, the world’s first live social network, empowering users to broadcast themselves from anywhere in real time, and along with Khosla Ventures invested in Wattpad fan fiction social media platform.
“Within our service, the creators are users just like everybody else. YouTube is very interesting. YouTube stars have 10- minute videos where they are just speaking directly into the camera at the audience; you would never see that on NBC in primetime.” – Josh Snow, VP Product at Fullscreen Media
Entering the era of Broadcast Yourself.
Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter are all racing to capture audiences through content delivered via live streaming channels. Facebook has over 1.5 billion users as potential viewers for its live streaming video content. Introducing users to live content is critical as these companies believe immersive live video is the future of communication. Startups are emerging as well such as the aptly named LiveStream, YouNow, Kanvas, live.ly and Streamgo.
Athletes are creating their own channels.
Lebron James’ startup, UNINTERRUPTED, made waves in 2015 when it received $15.8 million in funding from Warner Brothers and Turner Sports.5 The new content distribution channel gives athletes the ability to communicate directly with fans and gives audiences an inside peek into the lives of their favorite players. The platform circumvents traditional media outlets and allows athletes to create original content on their own terms.
Millennials are already abandoning primetime TV.
More than 50% of Millennials find user-generated content more memorable than other forms of content they are viewing.6 According to the Ericsson ConsumerLab, 33% of consumers find it very important to be able to watch user-generated content on televisions at home—a 9% increase from the previous year.7The Millennial generation is driving the trend towards user-generated content. Consumers aged 16-34 spent almost 2.5 hours more each week watching streamed on-demand user-generated content, compared to 35-69-year-olds. At the same time, they spent almost four hours less per week than the older population when it came to watching live and linear broadcasted content.
With Victorious, YouTube bloggers and internet stars can create apps that not only engage fans, but that give fans the ability to interact with each other. The company’s software platform helps content creators develop apps that foster a community around their hosted media. The startup has witnessed impressive success to date. It recently announced a funding round which will be used to carry the product into international markets. The funding will also be used to explore how the product can unite super fans around different types of content.8
Tremendously popular Houseparty mobile app connects users via video as soon as they sign on. The app acts as a group video chat for up to 8 people in your social network, alerting people when you are online and broadcasting to them to join your room. Evolving out of the company that was once Meerkat (a competitor to Twitter’s Periscope and Facebook Live), Houseparty found that users come back only a few times to broadcast to strangers but often returned to broadcast to their friends.
China’s mega-hit Inke is a live streaming application that allows everyday people to join chat rooms and broadcast alongside emerging celebrities. Viewers pay performers with virtual gifts, such as beautify filters, paid for as in-app purchases. Incubated by Inke, Next Entertainment is moving beyond China’s borders with its flagship product MeMe available in Taiwan. Next Entertainment raised $25 million in its latest funding round.
2. Algorithms Will Enable a New World of Storytelling
Once upon a time, the best stories were written by great writers alone. No longer does a writer have to pound away at a keyboard solitarily. Now, data, leveraged through machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) will increasingly play a part in the creation of stories.
Advances in deep learning are taking us one step closer to this vision. Deep learning represents the bleeding edge of machine learning, making it possible to design systems intelligent enough to write the screenplay of the future. This requires training and optimizing neural networks. Neural networks are just what
they sound like, a computer system modeled from the human brain and nervous system that can be trained to solve problems in the same way in which a biological brain solves problems. Recurrent neural networks are especially useful in solving new classes of problems that were once thought to be prohibitively challenging, such as the complex nature of human intelligence and language. They do this by closely mimicking temporal behavior. Once researchers can mimic human thinking and language, the possibilities are endless for solving complex problems and even writing compelling stories. The beginning of which is already happening today.
Companies like Google are helping spearhead this research. For instance, Google Brain is pushing the limits of language modeling. Google Brain, a machine intelligence team, is using deep learning to study large-scale neural language modeling, a task central to language understanding. With projects like Listen, Attend and Spell: A Neural Network for Large Vocabulary Conversational Speech Recognition Google Brain is bringing machine intelligence to life.
Columbia University’s Digital Storytelling Lab is running the multi-year prototype, Sherlock Holmes and the Internet of Things, which explores how mobile devices can create seamless narrative experiences.9 The program is uncovering how stories can enhance relationships with mobile devices by offering personalized experiences that meld the physical and digital worlds. The Future of StoryTelling (FoST) is exploring this concept as well. One of the main themes the organization is investigating today is how consumers will one day be the primary characters or heroes in their own digital media experiences. A study recently conducted by Amdocs found that a majority of teenagers today want technology that gives them the ability to design their own experiences.10 AI and machine learning will be at the crux of this trend by enabling hyper-personalized experiences for individuals at scale.
“Interaction and engagement are changing when it comes to watching video content of all kinds. People want their own experience, not just the view the director had.” – Dan Unger, CEO and Founder, srfr
IBM’s Watson is creating the perfect movie trailer
Fox Entertainment used IBM’s Watson to create the optimal movie trailer. By performing sentiment and emotion analysis on viewers, Watson designed the movie trailer using the most impactful components of the film where it recognized the highest levels of emotion and sentiment.11
Computers will have narrative intelligence to read and write better stories.
Mark Riedl, a professor at Georgia Tech, is working on giving computers narrative intelligence. This will give computers the ability to create better stories based on real-time data generated by users. This platform, the Scheherazade system, can learn about human behavior by reading simple stories that depict typical scenarios encountered by humans. The Scheherazade system can then create fictional accounts of these scenarios.12 The more recent system, Quixote, builds upon this research and allows AI agents to read stories and configure acceptable outcomes based on societal norms.13
Benjamin will join the Screenwriters Guild.
Sunspring is a comedic, science fiction short-film that was written entirely by AI. The film’s creator is Benjamin, a recurrent neural network that was developed by technologists at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program.14 To train the Benjamin AI platform, film director, Oscar Sharp and NYU researcher, Ross Goodman, fed it popular scripts from several Sci-Fi and drama films. The product is a surreal, must-see short film called Sunspring. It stars Thomas Middleditch of HBO’s Silicon Valley TV Series.15 The film features a love triangle of three characters H, H2 and C set in the future. Sunspring is an excellent example of how television shows and films may be crafted in the future ushering the Golden Age of Storytelling faster than humans and machines think.
The MashUp Machine uses machine learning to create next generation entertainment experiences in which users can create their own adventures in adaptive story worlds. The company uses artificial intelligence to gamify the creation and sharing of content and makes media extremely interactive.
Motive is dedicated to layering games on top of the real world so that players can play anywhere. The company has developed a few location-based games, such as Coderunner, a location-based iPhone app where players are heroes in a spy adventure.
Playabl is developing AI-based characters that can interact with users. The company’s playable drama, Facade, was built on more than 15 years of research and development, centered around creating an interactive AI framework for media consumption.
3. Fans Will be Part of their Media’s Org. Chart
Imagine having the power to directly influence what will happen during the season finale of your favorite show. Consumers will play an important part in dictating what stories get told. Today’s up and coming media companies are focusing on cultivating community through their core fan base.
Companies like Rooster Teeth, All Def Digital, and Woven Digital are redefining how fans interact with their favorite content. Rooster Teeth is a pioneering media and entertainment company that has used consumer input to drive more than 28 million subscribers and 5.6 billion video views across its YouTube network. Rooster Teeth’s Co- founder and CEO Matt Hullum highlights, “Unlike with traditional media, our audience has more control over what is being produced. For instance, we were able to film one of our most incredible [scenes] with over 1500 fans who showed up to be extras. We will take audience- favorite topics from our podcasts and dive deeper into their comments by producing hour-long documentaries. Our goal is to go beyond merely providing content for our audience and transform it into an experience they can’t find anywhere else.”
New technologies are giving these fans the ability to interact with media companies and provide feedback in real time. These tools offer media companies an extremely valuable resource for green-lighting content that has a high probability of success and adoption with target audiences. Real-time data generated by fans will help guide media production decisions and improve the success rate of media adoption by targeted consumers.
Lee Culver, Assistant Vice President of Otter Media at AT&T notes, “AT&T recognized early that what a lot of the new media companies were doing is interesting. Companies like Fullscreen are focused on a core and passionate fan base. How these new players are connecting with their audiences is different from traditional players so companies like ours are getting creative about the role we can play in supporting them.”
“The Hollywood product is an emotional product. It has to resonate closely with the audience and how they are feeling at a particular moment in time. This can be hard to gauge given a consumer’s film preferences change considerably throughout a single day, let alone an entire year when a film has completed an entire production cycle.” – Bryan Barber, VP of Digital Initiatives, Warner Brothers
Fullscreen is actively creating fan-driven content.
Fullscreen, a subsidiary of Otter Media, announced early this year that it would launch Hello Lab with the help of AT&T. The year-long project gives social influencers like Grace Helbig, Brandon Armstrong, and Shonduras the ability to showcase and create fan-driven content. The creators, Damon and Jo, co-developed a fan-driven travel series for Hello
Lab that allowed the audience to co-create by using gamification techniques to determine their next travel adventure.16
All Def Digital followers are dedicated fans.
All Def Digital has nearly four million followers across YouTube and Facebook alone. “They behave more like fans than audiences. They communicate daily with us through comments and messaging, make fan art, and share our content with their networks. These are never before seen dynamics in the media world. Media brands have not historically been consumer brands, but we are exactly that, and we reach our audience everywhere from HBO to Snapchat.” Sanjay Sharma, President and CEO, All Def Digital
Real-time interaction with consumers will shape media production.
“Media is moving away from being a product driven type of experience to a service rooted experience. In many ways, it’s similar to the evolution that occurred in the gaming industry. The gaming industry looked a lot like a consumer packaged goods company. Companies had no real relationships with their customers. Now it’s about an ongoing dialogue. Companies are creating an experience that continues to grow over time. This is coming in the media industry.” – Matthew Hanus, CEO and Founder, Bound
Screenz helps maintain relationships between content owners and audiences by managing and developing experiences that make content engaging. The platform utilizes real-time big data analysis to map the Entertainment DNA of each user, creating a personalized experience that gives valuable insights to clients and advertisers. Marquis customers include networks such as ABC, Univision, FOX, and Globo Brazil.
HotSwitch is a social TV app that brings live chat to any web or mobile platform. The company was named one of Orlando’s top tech Startups. Their impressive advisory board includes the Director of Marketing at Disney Channel, the Director of Experience Transformation at Universal, and VP of Marketing at Nielsen.
Maestro helps broadcasters maximize their strategies using a suite of engagement tools to delight and monetize fans while capturing robust audience behavioral data. Customers span eSports, music, gaming, fashion, and award shows, including PlayStation, Electronic Arts, ESL, Coachella and The Grammys.
4. A digital rights revolution will empower creators
Today, consumers are demanding that content be created and served on their terms. Antiquated distribution models, artificial accessibility barriers and misaligned intellectual property incentives will need to be phased out in favor of a digital rights revolution, informed by consumer patterns. Rethinking digital rights will create opportunities for innovation and empower creators, thus enabling a future that will unleash amazing creativity.
In the future, creators of all sorts, from makeup artists to musicians, will connect and sell directly to their fans. Blockchain will finally realize the long-held vision of a media industry fueled by micropayments. Blockchain is a distributed ledger technology that creates a public record of ownership and transactions for a given asset. Using Blockchain, artists can create an inalterable record of ownership over their work. Based on rules, each time a piece of work is seen it creates irrefutable proof of consumption and triggers a payment.
Creators will have the tools they need to monitor and monetize their creative outputs with ease. Blockchain-based platforms like Ethereum will allow artists to set their own prices and collect payment directly from fans, all automatically through smart contracts.
A digital rights revolution will incentivize creators to keep creating. The Taiwanese start-up, Bitmark, received funding for its software platform which gives individuals ownership of the assets that they create. Sean Moss-Pultz, the CEO of Bitmark Inc. explains, “Each day millions of us give away what we create and our personal data for free to entities that are profiting from it, and we don’t get a cut because we can’t claim ownership over it.” Bitmark solves this dilemma through its blockchain-enabled technology which gives content creators property titles for the digital assets that they create.17
The desire for transparent, trackable usage-based payments for digital content not only impacts small, niche players. Big studios and TV content license owners want to distribute their content as far and widely as possible. Bryan Barber, VP of Digital Initiatives, Warner Brothers reminds us, “I want it to be easy for anybody to view our videos and even to sell them. It costs a lot of money to create high quality, Hollywood blockbusters and we want content to go as viral as possible while we maintain contracts and licensing terms.”
Digital rights technology will vastly simplify the process of tracking who owns and consumes content. Whether from a major studio or a teenager in her living room, people will be empowered and incentivized to create and spread a wide array of content, benefitting themselves and their fans.
“By and large consumers have proven that when given the opportunity they will pay for quality content as opposed to a free, bootlegged copy. This provides an opportunity for content creators and service providers to dramatically simplify the way consumers enjoy the content they want and allow for creators to be paid for their work.” – Elisabetta Romano, VP Head TV & Media Business Unit, Ericsson
Australian director looks to Blockchain to solve piracy.
Tim Lea, an award-winning film director, is investigating how Blockchain can solve piracy issues in the film and entertainment industry. His startup, Veredictum, has developed a software platform that content creators can use to register their creative projects into the Blockchain via tokenization. The registered content is fingerprinted and linked to its original owners.18
Imogen Heap is a firm believer in Blockchain.
The artist Imogen Heap teamed with the startup, Ujo, to release her song Tiny Human on the Ethereum Blockchain. Heap believes “We are at an amazing point in history for artists. A revolution is going to happen, and next year it’s going to take over. It’s the ability of artists to have control and the say of what they do with their music at large. The answer to this is in the Blockchain.”19
Deloitte showcases how Blockchain is a hot topic within the music industry.
In the music industry, artists are exploring ways that they can better monetize and license music. An area being actively explored is the monetization of music with Blockchain technology. According
to Deloitte, Blockchain can help connect creators directly with consumers and help manage digital rights efficiently across the industry.20
Yours is a social media app with an integrated wallet so users can easily earn money and pay each other for good content, curation, and moderation. Yours is founded by Ryan X. Charles, the former cryptocurrency engineer of Reddit, and Clemens Ley, a computer science Ph.D. from Oxford. Yours is currently in invite-only alpha and will be launching to a general audience in three to six months.
Mediachain Labs decentralizes media using Blockchain technology in the same way that Bitcoin decentralizes financial exchange. Centralized media often results in people sharing digital media without associating the work with the original content creator. Mediachain Labs solves this problem by aggregating original content into a knowledge base, so the creators remain connected to the content.
Steem is a cryptocurrency and social media platform leveraging Blockchain to reward contributors who post content that goes viral. The rewards come in the form of Steem Dollars and Steem Power, a similar payment model to Bitcoin miners.
5. A new media gateway will emerge as your TV Guide
We live in the age of 500 channels and no idea what to watch. Content discovery is clunky and continues to be an unresolved issue for consumers. According to Ericsson ConsumerLab, 44% of broadcast TV viewers in the U.S. say that at least once a day they experience not being able to find something to watch on broadcast television. In fact, the average person in the US spends 23 minutes every day trying to find something to watch on broadcast TV.21 The TV Guide, once published as a book delivered in the mail, evolved to an onscreen version and now people turn to their social networks and bloggers to tell them what to watch. And, it is working. Behemoth social media companies like Facebook and Twitter are influencing how people discover news and media. These social gateways influence buying decisions and even played a significant role in the 2016 US election by curating news based on people’s interests which lead to insular echo chambers for the electorate and opened the door for the proliferation of fake news.
In Ready Player One, Ernest Cline’s brilliant futuristic novel, the characters spend most of their time in the OASIS, a virtual world. The OASIS is where people discover movies, books, events, and news. We will see a similar media gateway arise that will become the go-to destination for people to find the content they want to experience.
There will be a battle for this next generation gateway, either a social network like Facebook or Snap that keeps users inside its environment or a company like Apple or China’s LeEco that have vertically integrated the entire software and hardware stack. LeEco is taking the industry by storm by producing products that range from sleek electric cars to TVs to mobile devices, all fully loaded with content and music offerings to own your entire life. Once a user buys into an ecosystem like this, they may see nothing else.22
“Social media companies like Snapchat or Facebook being the gatekeeper for all media content could rock the industry. Already today a lot of people live or die by Facebook.” – Jarrell Pair, Senior Manager, Digital Ideation, AT&T
Social media is key for media discovery today.
According to the Pew Research Center, 62% of adults in the US get their news from social media. The Pew Research Center estimates 44% of Americans use Facebook as their primary source of news.23 David Moretti, Director of Corporate Development at Jaunt VR explains “Companies like Google and Facebook will be at the center of the future media landscape. They will continue to be key distributors of content for engaging with audiences at scale. At Jaunt, we are building the tools and storytelling expertise to work as close partners with them, as well as with other content creators and distributors, to create the highest quality VR content and drive the discovery and consumption of that new content.”
Media platforms are becoming all in one.
“In the past, there used to be a dedicated media device to cater to different needs. Radio for audio, newspapers for articles, and TV for video content. Now, all of this media has merged into one and overlap in every sense. Companies like Snap, that challenge such boundaries we have become accustomed to, will prevail. They are a case study of how these media units can successfully blend together.” Shaul Olmert, CEO, Playbuzz
Mobile communities heavily engage users.
The New York-based startup, Amino Apps, recently raised $19.2 million in Series B funding to develop its application that allows users to join and create customized mobile communities. Users spend an average of an hour a day within the app.24 The recent funding round was led by Google Ventures, with participation from Venrock, Union Square Ventures, Box Group, Time Warner Investments, and Goodwater Capital.25
Wyndow is a startup with a real-time live experience local metasearch platform, focused on powering other companies such as search and travel ecosystems. Think HotelTonight for your window of free time, integrated into hotel, auto, search, and other digital platforms.
In a world where we are more connected than ever before, Reach’s P2P technology gives users access to files across our friends’ mobile phones and tablets. No longer must we be dependent on our peers to upload and download files. Instead, we can enjoy direct online transfers to create and share media collections with our friends and social networks.
Bulgarian startup Stremio provides an online entertainment platform that helps users organize and instantly watch their favorite collections of movies, TV and web series, channels, and live TV. By working across devices, users can enjoy their personal library synced on all their devices. Within one year, Stremio managed to build a customer base of more than 2 million users.
6. Virtual assistants will win your living room (and your Connected Life)
The vision of a Connected Life brings to mind a world where everything from cities to dog collars is connected, always on, and learning about you. Like an episode of Netflix’s Black Mirror, the quantified self, smart home, intelligent assistant, and hyper-personalization of everything will converge into a unified Connected Life.
The smart home is the gateway to this Connected Life and the living room is core to the smart home experience. Many companies from Sony to Microsoft have introduced devices with hopes of owning this crucial real estate within the home. With the disbursement of mobile entertainment environments, there is an impetus to connect personal devices and content. The race to the living room is moving to the race to the Connected Life, with the potential to cover each person rather than lumping households into a single identity.
Virtual assistants are already gaining traction. You can ask Siri to find movies from your favorite actor on your Apple TV or Alexa to switch on some good date music and dim the lights to match the mood. Imagine how powerful Siri and Alexa will be when it is Friday night, and she has already ordered the dinner delivery, picked out her top recommendations based on the aggregate preferences of all your guests, and projected themed decorations around the house. Virtual assistants will be the hub for media and entertainment in and out of the home. By 2019, virtual assistants will act as the primary interface for connected home services, reaching 25% penetration of households in developed economies.
Assistants like Amazon Echo, Siri, Cortana, and Google Assistant will rapidly evolve from voice-only assistants to include more robust audio-visual and even holographic features. Sony’s Xperia Agent is the size of an Amazon Echo and has a spherical camera mounted at its top with a projector at its base. Xperia Agent uses computer vision to recognize people in the room. Its projector turns any surface into an interactive interface showing you the daily news or playing a reel captured with Snap Spectacles.
As companies integrate their virtual assistants into other devices, they will play an even bigger part in our connected lives. The Finnish company Tuxera has developed the AllConnect SDK for Android and iOS devices making it easy to control any connected device from one place. Amazon has created an API for the seamless integration of the technology behind Alexa.
When we welcome autonomous vehicles and smarter cities into the mix, in-vehicle entertainment will explode and once active drivers become captive audiences for curated content. Virtual assistants will be central in controlling your drive, and the experience inside your car.
“The emergence of voice control in personal digital assistants like the Amazon Echo has helped expand this type of interface as a key differentiator throughout the IoT…Developers in the smart home, entertainment, and connected car ecosystems are launching strategies to add voice control to their solutions” – Stuart Sikes, President, Parks Associates
Azumi Hakari, the hologram, connects your world.
Japanese company vinclu Inc. has created Gatebox, a portable hologram communication robot named Azumi Hakari. Azumi is both a hologram and virtual assistant that you can communicate with using hologram projection technology Azumi connects to Internet of Things devices in the home including TV and communicates with you beyond your home life as a full virtual assistant. Included with AI and computer vision, Azumi can also recognize expressions from its master and react.
Jarvis will become a new member of the household.
Mark Zuckerberg has developed Jarvis, an AI agent that is able to control the home via voice commands. The Facebook creator has demonstrated how he can use Jarvis to control his home by speaking to his phone or even by using text with chatbots on Facebook’s Messenger application.26
Voice interfaces will link your connected devices, including for entertainment.
“What we are seeing now is the standard for entertainment discovery and consumption will be driven by voice interfaces. There are two big trends that will impact entertainment, one being the emergence of voice as a primary interface to discover content. Voice will become a connected feature in almost every device.” Tim Tuttle, CEO and Founder, MindMeld
The Canadian startup Maluuba is developing deep learning AI technology that will give machines the ability to naturally communicate with human beings. Breakthroughs in the research being conducted by Maluuba may one day lead to voice assistants like Samantha from the film, Her.
MindMeld has pioneered the AI technology behind the emerging generation of intelligent voice and chat assistants. MindMeld currently powers advanced conversational interactions used by some of the world’s largest media companies, government agencies, automotive manufacturers, and global retailers. MindMeld’s customers and investors include Google, Samsung, Intel, Telefonica, USAA, Uniqlo, Spotify and In-Q-Tel.
The MIT spinout company GiantOtter is developing conversational AI technology that learns by talking to people. Founder Jeff Orkin has a deep background at the intersection of AI and gaming and has won numerous awards in this field including Computer Games Magazine; Best AI in 2002.
7. Screens will be fluid, not fixed
When your friends come over for the Super Bowl, display the big game on your living room wall, while using your smart table to share your thoughts and keep track of what all your friends are posting to social media. Your environment will adapt to provide the experience or information to suit your exact need. The adaptability of content and user interfaces will bring about a world where content can be easily accessed when and where it is wanted most. The smartphone will evolve from the screen in your hand to the computer in your pocket that will act as your identity, unlocking digital experiences all around you.
Over the next few years, smartphones will become critical assets for unlocking an augmented reality-infused world. Gene Munster, an acclaimed Apple analyst, explains, “The smartphone remains the world’s window to augmented reality today.” Although augmented or mixed reality devices may one day replace modern day displays, data-tied services offered by smartphones today and in the foreseeable future will drive innovation in the market.27
Applications for augmented reality will broaden beyond consumer products. Hyperloop Transportation Technologies CEO Dirk Ahlborn showed off an augmented reality window concept for their high-speed trains.28 Given that ultra-high-speed trains will make viewing out of the window less appealing and potentially even nauseating for riders, the train’s windows become media screens. Technologies like this could be applied to other types of urban infrastructure like buses and trains, providing critical information and entertainment to people on the go.
Startups like Quantum Interface are supporting this multi-platform approach by developing hardware agnostic technology that facilitates consumer interactions across a wide range of devices. Quantum Interface’s natural, intuitive interfaces understand user motion and use it to select and dynamically control interfaces across many platforms in both 2D and 3D. Stealth startup Magic Leap is looking even further into the future. Magic Leap has raised $1.4B from top-tier funds like Google, Andreessen Horowitz, JP Morgan, is working on perfecting their Mixed- Reality Lightfield technology. Mixed-Reality Lightfield technology will one day turn the entire world into an interactive playground by mixing AR and VR to create applications straight out of science fiction.
“There is already an expectation that everything is available everywhere at any time. There is this assumption that having everything digital will make everything available. This idea of an omnipresent media barrage. The biggest shift is in being able to watch anything anytime on any device.” – Noah Vadnai, VP Product for Digital Media, A+E Networks
Augmented reality makes its ways into smart vehicles.
Volkswagen’s ID electric car, which will begin production in 2020, will include a windshield augmented reality display.29 The Heads Up Display will augment drivers’ views with street directions appearing fifty feet ahead of the vehicle. This will be the first vehicle introduced to the market with AR technology. This past year, Ford patented a Windshield entertainment system that may act as the primary media display in its future autonomous vehicles.30
Smartphones will act as the digital key for unlocking content across different displays.
There is no better form of identity than attaching to the device you have with you at all times. “I may not need displays on my device I carry around, but rather they appear around us. In the future world, we may be able to take over screens and be able to carry around less devices. Our phones will become more orchestrators and use AI- based interfaces. Screens of the future will appear whenever and wherever you need them.” Dr. Scott Snyder, Senior Vice President, Managing Director, and Chief Technology and Innovation Officer, Safeguard Scientifics
Media will follow you everywhere without losing content.
“The next screen is going to be available in a format that fits your specific situation. There is still going to be a mobile screen whether it be your tablet or phone. At times when your eyes are occupied, it will be a screenless experience and you will gain access to content via sound. And of course there are the times when you will want to sit down and have an immersive experience. For those there will be large TVs and virtual reality.” Tim Tuttle, CEO and Founder, MindMeld
Beam Labs has developed a portable, high-powered projector that can be used to turn any flat surface into a large screen. The product, called Beam, is equipped with a computer that enables it to stream from a variety of sources, such as Airplay or Miracast. Beam can also be programmed to automatically perform actions, such as playing a movie when someone arrives home, leaving a message, or displaying the weather every morning.
Plex provides a platform that organizes a user’s video, music, and photo files and allows instant access to them across various devices. Plex uses DVR to record high definition television programs over-the-air, as well as to sync videos, music, and photos to a smartphone or tablet for offline viewing. Plex also features social capabilities to share content with friends and family.
srfr is a digital media company that has created a technology to easily stream video content from a mobile device to a smart television at the touch of a button. Currently, srfr enables you to stream videos from Facebook, Dropbox, Snapchat, and your camera roll.
LISNR is the world’s first and only data- over-audio solution. It creates high frequency, inaudible Smart Tones that can be played by any speaker and picked up by any microphone. This effectively turns any speaker—be it a stadium PA system or the TV in your living room—into a beacon that can trigger second-screen experiences on any device. Unlike Bluetooth, iBeacons, or NFC, LISNR is not dependent on hardware or connectivity, meaning that wherever sound can be played, connections can be made.
8. Live experiences will transcend boundaries of time and space
Today, the in-stadium experience is limited to the number of seats at a venue and a geographic location. In the future, when there is a hologram Tupac Shakur at Coachella, not only will all of the fans who are in attendance in Indio, California be able to enjoy Tupac with Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg performing but fans around the world will also enjoy and interact with them on stage. As live streaming and augmented reality technologies converge and gain widescale adoption, millions more will have access to events formerly limited to those in a specific area, democratizing more of the world’s best entertainment, and physically being at those events will be better than ever.
If a parent is unable to attend their child’s baseball game, they will be able to watch the real-time highlights from their phone. HiCast Sports is already making this possible by outfitting youth fields with cameras which stream in real-time through their app. Stephanie Calabrese, Chief Brand Officer and Co-Founder, HiCast Sports says “The consumer is now part of the media landscape. I am generating my own media. I am sharing my own media. The consumer is now much more in the center.”
One of the most interesting instances of local events scaling globally is the growing popularity of eSports, where we see unprecedented numbers of fans congregating physically and virtually to view competitive video game tournaments. In 2015, the ESL One Tournament sold out the Theatre at Madison Square Garden in New York.31 In 2016, the League of Legend finals were watched by 43 million people, with a peak concurrent viewership of 14.7 million viewers.32 The increasing availability of online streaming media platforms, particularly Twitch, has become central to the growth and promotion of eSports competitions.
Live streaming of events is gaining rapid adoption outside of sports as well. Companies such as Sunday Streams are creating turnkey ways for houses of worship to beam services to their congregation as well as to anyone else around the world. The Melodic Caring Project, an exceptional non-profit, works with musicians to stream live concerts into hospitals for children with major medical issues. Nokia is helping push live events to market via its OZO Live software platform. The company’s software solution was used to live broadcast the Austin City Limits music festival this past year in virtual reality, exclusively on a Samsung VR app.33 The company has also signed a partnership agreement with Sony Pictures to live stream events in virtual reality.34
Live events themselves will become more engaging, dynamic and digital, which is what fans are demanding. According to Cisco’s study Digital Fandom, three- quarters of fans today expect connectivity to improve their event day experience from the time they park their car to the final whistle.35
Kenny Lauer, VP of Digital and Marketing for the Golden State Warriors, is playing a big part in ushering in this future. “Entertainment has always been a passive, absorptive experience… our goal is to try to move to more of an active, immersive experience, and this might be in helping [fans] feel like they can actually affect the game.”
“A compelling use case for our virtual reality software platform is live events. We make people believe they are actually at the events themselves. We have been working to craft these unique experiences. A major opportunity we see is making a person feel as if they are in the same room as somebody around the world.” – Eric Romo, CEO and Founder, AltspaceVR
Intel is creating amazing new sports experiences.
The Intel Sports group is transforming the way fans and athletes view and experience sports in a way they never could before. They are developing technologies and partnering with leaders in the industry to digitize sports to create the ability to choose viewing angles, have access to information on their favorite player or sport and feel what is like to be on the field of play. Allowing fans to feel fully immersed in the game from any angle and any seat in the house.
The NFL is producing a virtual reality series.
This past year, sports ratings for major broadcasters have declined. Although the cause for lower television viewership is unknown, professional leagues are taking steps to diversify programming. The NFL announced it will be producing a virtual reality limited series for YouTube that will be accessible via Google’s Daydream VR headset.36
LiveLike is bringing the luxury suite experience into the living room.
“[After starting] off with a focus on recreating the stadium experience, we realized that there were pieces of the stadium experience that weren’t great and were actually better on television. We built out an experience that combines the best of the stadium and the best of television, taking the best parts of the second screen.” Saswat Panda, CTO and
LiveLike gives viewers the opportunity to watch live sports in virtual reality from a “private suite,” complete with additional feeds, statistics and a Jumbotron showing the game’s TV broadcast. The company has already broadcast games in partnership with Fox Sports, Sky Sports, Sky Germany and El Clásico. In February 2016, the company received the “1st and Future” award from NFL and TechCrunch.
TheWaveVR makes it easy for users to view and host live music events in virtual reality. The platform includes a social environment that allows music lovers to socialize at these virtual shows. In addition, content providers, such as musicians, easily create and customize their audience experience.
NextVR offers a VR platform for sports, concerts, and live events. The company gained a foothold in the Asian market, particularly in China, Korea and Japan after raising an $80M Series B round from investors such as SoftBank, NetEase, and CMC Holdings. NextVR will create and distribute local and international content within these countries. In North America, NextVR has partnerships with Live Nation and Fox Sports to offer live experiences of concerts and major sporting events in VR.
9. Media will be emotionally intelligent
Color, light, sound, music, and movies can all influence the way you feel. Imagine you are settling in for the evening to relax with a show. Your TV will interact with your wearable device, whether it be your watch or smart pajamas, to know the perfect show to slow your heart rate and get you ready for bedtime. Sensor technology and wearable companies will work together with your favorite media to enhance your mood. PricewaterhouseCoopers has predicted that entertainment and media companies have the largest opportunity for growth in the wearable technology market.37
In the coming years, content curation and recommendations are going to become increasingly personalized as they take into consideration daily activity and real- time emotion recognition. As more data can be securely leveraged, such as your location, friends, preferences, and emotional state, content and context will come together to serve up exactly what you want to watch.
Advances in Affective Computing take us one step closer to making this vision a reality. Affective Computing is an interdisciplinary field that combines computer science, psychology, and neuroscience to bridge the gap between human emotion and computer technology in the study of human affect. Computers are trained to simulate empathy by determining human emotion and reacting to those emotions. MIT Media Lab is researching Affective Computing including projects that help humans provide rich emotional feedback during a shopping experience without having to speak a word. Once computers can understand your emotions, the new monetization opportunities are endless.
Emotional computing may be built into anything from your mobile, your television, and even your car. In early 2016, Apple acquired the company, Emotient, which developed a software platform capable of analyzing people’s emotions. In addition, the Tel Aviv-based startup, BeyondVerbal, has launched the Beyond Wellness API that can turn smartphones or other wearable devices equipped with microphones into emotional wellbeing sensors.
The future of context plus emotional intelligence will unlock an entirely new business models for media companies. For example, advertising will take on a whole new meaning with the advent of this technology. Brands will send even more relevant ads, from serving up an ad for a sports drink right after you finish your workout, to the perfect dairy product to stir into your morning coffee right when you wake up and know better when to influence your purchase decisions. Bringing emotion recognition technology into the retail environment could even personalize a customer’s shopping experience, changing the music in each aisle based on each person’s mood.
“With the changing media landscape, marketers have no idea how to target their audiences. They are throwing everything possible out there seeing what will stick. Ads need to contextualize the information and be personalized toward the audiences they are targeting.” – Erin Reilly, Managing Director + Research Fellow at University of Southern California
Emotion recognition technology is garnering widespread interest.
Affectiva has developed an emotion recognition platform that reads people’s moods by utilizing advancements in computer vision and deep learning. Their technology has been adopted by the gaming industry and by marketers to help adjust content based on a person’s mood. The company has made its Affdex SDK free to any small business earning less than a million dollars a year.38 The technology can be used so that chatbots or mobile apps can detect if users are confused or frustrated.
Deep learning technology will be essential for understanding mood.
“Today recommendations are being driven by behavioral data. In the future, we will have a world where your personalized recommendations in the mornings or during the week will be much different than at night or on the weekends. Recommendations will take into account the mood that you are in at a given time. To analyze the mood of the user and provide content specific to a particular mood, deep learning technology will be used.” Yiannis Broustas, CEO and Co-founder, Rabt
Mobile devices will use emotional intelligence to drive content discovery and curation.
“The mobile device brings in a new dimension to the digital media space. It’s no longer just about who you are and what are your interests. It’s about where you are and what you are doing. It’s all about your context. What’s your mood? What’s going on in the real world?” Ran Ben-Yair, CEO and Co-Founder, Ubimo
Rabt solves the video content discovery problem for digital publishers and Over-The-Top video services by using personalization to serve each individual user with unique, appealing content. By cross correlating user behaviors, content metadata, and other attributes, Rabt’s personalization engine has very high accuracy and scalability levels.
Cluep is a mobile ad platform that targets people based on what they are sharing, how they are feeling, and where they are going. Cluep Posts allows advertisers to target people based on what they are saying on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook in real- time. They give advertisers the ability to target people based on images of products, scenarios, logos, and brands theypost on social media. Cluep Places allows advertisers to target people based on the places they physically visit.
Ubimo is a leading mobile programmatic platform, designed for the ever-changing context of consumers on the go. Ubimo’s self-service offering leverages mobile-centric data such as places, weather, and local events to build a true understanding of real-time moments. With Ubimo, brands can connect with their audience’s real world experience to deliver relevant messages when and where they are most effective.
10. Immersive experiences will be full-sensory and social
Imagine putting on a headset on a crowded airplane and being transported to a beach in Hawaii. You can actually smell the ocean, feel the light tropical breeze, and enjoy the sand between your toes while watching a film set at the beach. You could just as easily wake up inside a dream that looks like Castle Valley and feels like HBO’s Westworld, with saloons, player pianos and rowdy locals enjoying their day to day lives. Startups like Avegant are making this future one step closer to possible by putting mind blowing experiences at your fingertips. Beyond just being able to view an experience, users will be able to feel the experience. Multi-sensory experiences will be a common part of at-home entertainment systems in the future, and even more advanced platforms will be available outside of the home as a new type of arcade for the modern age.
RotoVR created an interactive chair that pairs with VR headsets to create substantially more life-like experiences. Startup Onotes has created the Cyrano, a “digital scent speaker” that emits a range of scents to transport users to specific places. For example, the Cancun scent includes guava, suntan lotion, and coconuts. The Void brings many types of sensory technologies together, giving gaming a whole new meaning to consumers. The company creates interactive experiences that allow gamers to interact with friends and strangers in virtual worlds. The company incorporates different types of sensory technologies in a way that allows gamers to feel they are in a completely different world.
While some people will undoubtedly look forward to immersing themselves in solo VR experiences, startups are starting to bring connection and community to this medium. The Artefact Group is exploring these two scenarios through their concept devices, Shadow and Light. Shadow is meant for full immersion in the form of a hoodie, that a user can pull over her head to let others know not to disturb her. Light, on the other hand, is built for more casual use with social features built in, such as earphones that let in ambient sound, and displays that can be made transparent at the push of a button.39 With these types of visors, the line between VR and AR blurs. As price points come down for these types of experiences, the hardware to power them will become as commonplace as flat screen TVs are today.
“I like to look at it as a graph on which you have immersion and scalability. The Google Cardboard is super scalable but offers really low immersion. On the other end of the spectrum, you have full body tracking, environmental effects, multiplayer and so on. It’s super immersive but offers very low scalability. Neither solution is bad. Both serve an important purpose. So I think the challenge now for creators is getting to the point where we have this level of immersion and interaction, but at the same time have the scalability to make it economically viable.” – Brent Bushnell, CEO, Two Bit Circus
Facebook & Oculus are making it possible to feel objects from thin air.
HapticWave, co-developed by Oculus and Facebook, is a technology that makes it possible for users to feel imaginary objects in virtual environments.40 Using vibrations, HapticWave can layer on top of VR experiences to simulate weight, volume, and direction of virtual objects.
Virtual reality will reinvent storytelling.
“The industry is starting to realize we need to evolve. Hollywood has successfully done this before. With the advent of television, we made it a better and better experience to go to movie theaters. With virtual reality, we are going to reinvent how stories are told.” Hanno Basse, Chief Technology Officer, 20th Century Fox Film Corp
Face your fears or put yourself in someone else’s shoes with full sensory VR.
If you fear public speaking, no longer do you need to imagine your audience in their underwear. You can practice speaking to a crowd with full sensory VR. Researchers at Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab are exploring methods for having people face their fears to desensitize phobias using full-sensory VR with haptic feedback.41 An incredible recent study showed that experiencing a simulation of being color blind in VR made participants twice as willing to help out a color blind individual in real life.42
Founded in 2012, AxonVR™ brings lifelike touch to digital experiences through advanced haptic feedback. AxonVR’s technology empowers users to touch virtual objects, simulating size, shape, weight, texture, and temperature with unprecedented realism.
Ultrahaptics has developed a unique technology that enables users to receive tactile feedback without needing to wear or touch anything. The technology uses ultrasound to project sensations through the air and directly onto the user. Users can feel touchless buttons, get feedback for mid-air gestures or interact with virtual objects.
Dysonics leverages VR technology to create immersive, 3D audio experiences. The consumer version makes listeners feel like they are at a live concert. Dysonics also works with businesses including Virgin America, MoMA, and BBC to create complete surround-sound experiences.
Consumers will continue to shape entertainment
Based on these 10 Bold Projections from our inside look into the world of entertainment, massive sea changes to the industry are already taking place. Entertainment will soon transcend the current boundaries of devices and provide the consumer with new and engaging viewing experiences. But make no mistake, user behavior is driving these tectonic shifts in entertainment and media consumption. It is up to the industry to respond with agility and a customer- focused mindset if they want to compete in this new world.
These shifts present interesting challenges and opportunities for capturing the value and monetizing these entertaining experiences. Nielsen Ratings is the company behind the audience measurement technology that is the defacto standard for television ratings. They measure a small number of households as a sample to determine which shows are worth keeping on-air and where to best place advertising. In the future, entertainment will be increasingly viral, broadly distributed, personal, and extending into the long-tail of niche content. It is up to the industry to listen, open the doors for cross-sector collaboration, and continue to shape the landscape to grow to the next horizon
About the Authors
At AT&T Foundry we assemble diverse teams to explore bleedingedge technologies, solve high impact business challenges, and create empowering services for our customers. We continually look for innovative players to work side-by-side with us as we tackle some of today’s biggest problems.
AT&T Foundry is set up to take great ideas and to bring them to life. In fast-paced and collaborative environments, teams from across our business and the industry work together to explore new technology, to solve business challenges and to power new services for customers.
The innovation center is a high-tech hybrid of cutting-edge technology and constant collaboration. It is a welcoming environment that not only collaborates with third parties but also with diverse teams throughout the business. We act as a nerve center where all parts of the company can work with our teams to take the innovation process to new levels. We support those with whom we work with the right mix of technology, design resources, and expertise. Our approach lets us move ideas to the marketplace up to three times faster, cutting development time from years to months.
As the sponsor of AT&T Foundry in Palo Alto, California, Ericsson works closely with AT&T collaborating on its next generation problems. Ericsson has a seat at the table with AT&T exploring the future together. Ericsson is the driving force behind the Networked Society—a world leader in communications technology and services. Our long-term relationships with every major telecom operator in the world allow people, business and society to fulfill their potential and create a more sustainable future.
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RocketSpace is a technology campus headquartered in the heart of San Francisco. Since 2011, the company has been helping tech entrepreneurs, Startups, and corporate innovation professionals bring the future to market. Select startup alumni include Uber, Spotify, Practice Fusion, Leap Motion and Domo.
RocketSpace’s Corporate Innovation Services team has helped more than 100 brands worldwide transform into modern corporations —including Schneider Electric, Converse, Tata Communications, Royal Bank of Scotland, Pfizer Consumer Healthcare, Samsung, and ABinBev. RocketSpace clients create new opportunities from inside and outside their organizations to ensure they are leading the disruption in their industry and not being disrupted. From financial services, to telecommunications, pharma, consumer electronics, retail, energy, and beyond— RocketSpace’s innovation expertise spans every sector and industry.
The world is moving at unprecedented speed as we are living in an era of exponential change. Technology innovation is disrupting traditional business models overnight. RocketSpace knows disruptive trends, business models, and Startups that impact corporations today, tomorrow and beyond. With access to nearly 200 Startups on its San Francisco campus and access to hundreds of thousands around the world, our team focuses on
bringing together corporates and Startups for mutual benefit. Our work is helping to bring together the strengths of corporates and Startups to fuel next generation innovation, together.
For more information, visit www.rocketspace.com
Full Interview List
- A&E Networks
- Adaptive Studios
- All Def Digital
- Fox Entertainment
- HiCast Sports
- Jaunt VR
- Manifest LLC
- Quantum Interface
- Rooster Teeth
- Safeguard Scientifics
- Signia Ventures
- SWSI Media
- Tool of North America
- Two Bit Circus
- USC Annenberg Innovation Lab
- Warner Brothers
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