About The Guest
A social media futurist, Eugene’s forward thinking attitude towards how we connect using technology has been at the forefront of his mission to connect the world. In 2014 he graduated with a BA in Liberal Arts with an emphasis on “YouTube Studies” from Evergreen State. Upon graduation he went to work at the YouTube consulting Agency, Press Play.
In 2016 he quit his job as an art director to pursue XR social media. Eugene’s first project was producing the film “Journey VR”. This film became an official selection at SIFF, a staff pick by Adobe and VEER, then would become the number one 360 video download on Steam for 30 days at the time of its release.
A year later he would produce and host GLITCHED, the first in VR talk show to be ordered as if it were a TV show. The show revolved around interviewing large name tech and social media influencers like Barnacules Nerdgasm, iJustine, Jake Roper of Vsauce3, and Gear live. The show ran for a total of 3 seasons.
Since then he has been an avid YouTube creator making 360 animated shorts which have gained millions of views on YouTube as well as making appearances to educate the masses on the evolution of the social media experience.
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What is XR, AR, VR and MR?
1:17: Okay, so extended reality is basically the umbrella term that we use for the entire industry of VR, AR and MR. So it’s, it’s kind of like dogs, versus like Shih Tzu and Pitbull and Bulldog, right?
When we talk about these different tools, we really talk about VR as in you are being teleported into another world, your entire worldview is being changed, it’s being virtually edited. Augmented reality, it’s not just an overlay. It’s actually any of your senses that are changed. So for instance, while you and I are mostly probably using like Snapchat filters on your phone, or playing Pokemon Go, it’s actually a much broader world out there for it.
For instance, I saw this science fiction piece where somebody had an implant in their tongue, and they were able to make everything tastes like ice cream. Yeah. Or if you have some type of auditory piece, and you want to make certain tones disappear, or filter out through your ear, that’s a type of augmentation as well. So you’re augmenting your reality. Mixed reality is when you’re taking yourself and putting it into a digital environment separate. So it’s basically the kind of like the opposite of how VR works, where you yourself are being put into a digital world.
And then I realize it can get a little confusing. It makes a lot more sense via mixing those realities into a single piece. Say you had a VR headset, and you put a bunch of people in front of a green screen. And though you’re able to like look around, the backgrounds of those people on the green screen are being digitally removed while they’re being put into a digital environment. And you’re able to perceive them in there.
Why VR Never Took Off During The 1990s
4:01 –Shitty products being taken to market. Hands down that’s that’s what it was. Like, do you remember those like 3D TVs that were all the rage for like three years. And then all of us, like, people were able to buy 3D TVs and like, glasses came with them. And you were able to basically have an at home 3D experience at home, right. And while a lot of that technology was great, smaller companies basically flooded the market with really crummy tech. And basically, it overtook the way the perception of that technology and they’re like, Oh, I don’t want to buy this. Look, how crummy it looks. Even though some really great examples of this tech were out there. Everybody saw what was flooding the market and basically mob mentality ensued right?
With VR, we’re actually in, I think, our fourth wave of it. And every time every wave, when it gets popularity, it comes for a really hard wave. And then you know, it’s maybe it’ll take off, maybe it won’t. And this is finally the time that it’s staying around. And when we talk about VR, being ingrained into our society, we actually talked about the road path to the metaverse. And we’re getting a little bit closer this time, actually a lot closer than we’ve ever been in any of the previous waves.
Experiencing VR and Seeing The Potential of It
6:16 – I’m part of this community called After Effects Seattle. I came from a motion design VFX background, along with a social media background. And I was at one of these meetups, VR hadn’t quite established itself with all the really big headsets yet. And in a designer over at Microsoft had home built his very own 360 experience. It was a three degree, three degrees of freedom experience that was the Disney’s Iron Giant, walking over, picking you up and walking with you in his hand. Oh, wow. And I had never seen anything like this before. And the experience was like, not even finished, right? It was maybe a month or two couple of weeks into production. Like there were trees that didn’t have leaves on them. There were birds flying, that weren’t animated. A lot of things just didn’t have textures on them. But the potential for the technology hit me so hard in that moment, that I took the headset off, I was covered in sweat from this like three minute experience.
And for anybody who counts themselves as a futurist, when you find something that you know is going to be huge, it’s probably time to double down into that technology. So like the people who made it really big on YouTube early on, were the people who got in there right as it launched, right. Or, most notably, with like TikTok people who got really famous on TikTok, were probably people who were entering the application and making content for right after Musical.ly got bought out. And this is no different. So I figured it was going to be the future I saved up for my art directing job for three months. I quit to pursue it full time. And I gotta say it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life.
How VR Stock Photography Turned Eugene into a Meme
22:31 –I realized that stock photography for people wearing VR headsets was very, very limited, like that just didn’t exist. And the ones that did exist, were like people riding bikes, or laughing for like no reason. You know how like hilarious stock photos are. So I made a set with my ex girlfriend. We just spent an afternoon. We went to the CoMotion labs of the University of Washington. And we made this like, stock photography set, just kind of making fun of stock photography. And we put it up for free on Pexels. And it has like 5 million views now. Like other stock photography, websites, sites, were stealing the photos to repost onto theirs. So I can’t even track them anymore after that happens, but we sat down we did like a Google reverse image search and it’s everywhere.
They’re like all these comp VR companies that use my face on their stock photography for the flyers and websites and branding. Google Finance used my face talking about like the VR industry. A lot of like education companies use me as like the version of like, what the American market looks like. I was actually in Canada at the Vancouver International Film Festival, and the CEO of VeeR, which is this Chinese 360 version of YouTube was actually giving a talk presentation talking about the creator program that they were setting up for companies to create 360 content and virtual reality content. And I walked up to her and I started a conversation with “Hey, it’s really nice to meet you. You guys actually use me as your as the cover of your American market”. And she goes, “Oh my god, I didn’t know.” I’m like no, that’s what it was put out there for. So even though I spent this afternoon making this like joke that I thought it was personally funny and didn’t think it was going to go anywhere. It’s opened up so many doors and probably once every two to three weeks. somebody sends me like a DM or an email with a link to where they found me in the wild.
Journeying Into The Metaverse
28:49 – So the metaverse is basically the replacement of the internet using VR. Okay. So, do you ever watch the movie Ready Player One?
Host: I feel like I need to watch all these things that you’ve mentioned. I’ve heard of it.
Okay, so in the movie Ready Player, but you understand the concept. They go into a VR world. Everything’s interconnected. Life and death situations that actually revolve around the things that are happening in the real world very much how the internet impacts our real life, right?
Social media impacts our real life in sometimes amazing or terrible ways. And that’s just part of the price. We have or for the migration to a technology, technologically advanced plane of existence, right.
So in Ready Player One, they have haptic suits where they put on so they can feel touch against each other. They have headphones that basically let you hear, you know, all around you based on location where you are in, in the experience, goggles that change what you’re able to see, you know, the standard VR tropes. And as we’re talking about how we’re getting to a point, we’re adopting those technologies into our own life now, things are actively being created, we have those VR headsets, there are haptic devices being created, where you’re going to be able to feel what it feels like to get shot in a video game, but against what it might feel like in real life. And as we’re progressing, we really need to figure out what are the interconnected points between say, like Facebook’s Horizon and high fidelity? Or what is it going to take for us to get a seamless transition between say, Beat Saber to Horizons or high fidelity.
So right now we’re working on getting those pieces produced, we’re making sure that PCs can run at a high enough rate to not cause sickness. We’re working on standalone VR headsets that don’t require expensive PCs that link seamlessly against other programs. So you can basically in VR walk through one door and end up in another program. And it seems as if it was seamless, right? As if it was part of the same level. Those are all things that we need for us to be able to get to the metaverse
The Potential of VR in Online Learning
35:15 – If we can get courses migrated into XR, into VR specifically, there is a really, really good case for learning in VR over traditional means, just because of the way that our brains interact with VR in a positive manner, actually.
So you have this part of the brain called the hippocampus. And it is responsible for taking your long term memory or your short term memory and converting it into long term memory, right. And a couple years ago, we found out that in that section of the brain, inside the hippocampus, we have what are called GPS cells. And those are your evolutionary cells, basically allowing you to find your way back home at the end of the day. So that would have been to your tribe to your caves, your hut, and now it’s to drive your car home, or how to take the bus home, right.
And what we found out is when you’re in VR, those GPS cells fire off frequently, and randomly allowing you to remember more inside a virtual reality. There’s an estimation that it’s up to even 30%. Wow. So if you’re going to like, learn a course, do it in VR. Need to learn a new language? And you have a big test coming up? Do it in VR, because odds are, you’re probably going to retain more information much more quickly.
The Rise of Digital Influencers
41:52 –So this is a wide open talk, and I’m gonna have to take off my glasses. So having digital influencers is nothing new. We’ve had you know, Miku. We’ve had Gorillaz, we’ve had the band Death Clock. These are all bands who do not exist. And yet, their music is so amazing that it’s generated millions upon millions upon millions of dollars right? Now, what if the technology gets so good, that and so accessible, the average person can just replace their digital self in their YouTube streaming, in making videos in any content where you would have a major influencer, you now have a digital representation of what that person might be. And you can create entire worlds and experiences around them, right?
So even with like League of Legends, they turned a bunch of their characters into K-Pop bands, right? I mean, I mean, that’s just one version of it. And doing it inside of VR is is no different. There was a, there was a lot of backlash for a streamer called Pokimane not too long ago, because she decided to be a digital avatar for a day. And people are like, Oh, I want to see your face. That’s why I subscribed like, well, it’s, it’s a good way of taking the day off. So you don’t have to put on you know, real clothes, you can stay in pajamas and still perform right? You know, you don’t have to spend two hours putting makeup and making sure that your hair is perfect. I mean, it’s, there’s a huge case for it.
How VR Can Be Used To Create Empathy
48:29 – In one of my very early treks into VR, I volunteered to work at SIFFx. And I would originally did it because I thought I’m gonna get to try video games, I’ve never been released and see crazy badass films. And that was not the case at all. I was put into this section of the event that featured six Nonny de la Peña experiences. Who is this I believe she’s a Latina, immersive journalist with 20 years of journalism experience. So she’s very well rounded, very, like charismatic, as far as you know, giving TED talks and stuff and the content that she was making with very early prototypes of VR headsets and unity and whatever else she was making it in, is, it was amazing. But the content that she was making was incredibly serious. There was a domestic abuse experience where the audio was from a real 911 call.
49:41 –There was an experience based off of an event that actually happened where somebody’s in line at a food bank in LA, died of starvation while in line. There was a Syrian refugee experience where you play somebody whose village is getting bombed by the United States. And you’re just in a marketplace, and you’re wearing a haptic rumble pack on your chest. So when the bombs drop, and the dust hits you in the face, you can feel it. There was another experience where you’re a woman going through Planned Parenthood for an abortion. And there are protesters outside trying to prevent you from getting in.
Even if we try to put things into, you know, documentaries, and whatever else, it still doesn’t compare. Yeah, I mean, you’re still able to look around and be taken out of the experience. But with VR, that it matches the way that your head moves. I mean, it’s gonna keep you immersed.