Our Pause Festival 2017 Highlights

Recently Pause Festival rocked Melbourne’s Fed Square and surrounds for the seventh year. Amongst the range of creative, technology and business events on the schedule, here are some of the panels, talks and workshops that really stood out for us:

Empathy and emotion in VR – Panel presented by VRTOV
There is a widely-held expectation that VR should aim to generate empathy and emotion. But many practitioners are wondering if the medium can achieve this potential as an “empathy machine” largely because it tends reduce a lot of social contexts down to the barest elements. Additionally VR isn’t great at replicating the inescapability of certain circumstances (after all, you can always just pull the cord out if things get too full on). The panel suggested that VR might be better geared toward generating sympathy, rather than empathy.

Lunch & learn with a LEGO Serious Play expert – Workshop by Michael Fearne
Turns out Lego has some pretty interesting uses beyond recreation. In this workshop, we built structures that acted as metaphors for identities and experiences. Lego is used in business contexts to foster creative thinking by tapping into the subconscious. It got really personal when we had to share with strangers how our structure represented “the greatest issue in our career”.

Music To Our Ears – Technology & The Music Industry – Panel by Sarah Smith (RRR)
As a punter, it was fascinating to get insight into the other side of the music industry. Panelists discussed the importance of access to the analytics of streaming platforms. But they fear that the increased proliferation of streaming will lead to certain companies monopolising crucial data, which will heavily impact the production, sales and promotion of music. Interestingly the panel agreed that for music festivals in Australia, RFID technology is set to be one of the the next big things.

Desperately seeking empathy – Workshop conducted by Matt Taylor (Deloitte)
More about empathy :) But this time we were the guinea pigs for Matt Taylor’s design therapy technique. We were tasked to draw an array of things, from toast, to the person next to us (both with our eyes open and closed). The intention of this new technique is to induce empathy and act as a meditative process for those involved. It was interesting to hear about how it might be soon used in different corporate contexts.

Hybrid Reality: A new frontier of space exploration – Keynote by Matthew Notes (NASA)
This talk was many people’s favourite of the festival. The hybrid realties used in space simulation look like a super fun and interactive game where you are immersed in a virtual world but interact with corresponding real world objects. Beyond the fun game-like elements, these simulations serve a practical function by ingraining the necessary motor skills for astronauts.

Life in the Infosphere: Hypernudges, Blackboxes…and you – Panel
Discussing how nudge theory is now being changed with all the information companies have on users. Also talking about privacy and how any information you share is used back at you to influence your choices and in turn make companies richer. And finally discussing how companies are controlling what we see and where their morals lie.

Technology Tarot – Workshop
Run by the ABC R&D people, it talked about their process to creating solutions by using a deck of tarot cards with new and future tech on, paired with a persona they are trying to reach and product they are trying to push, in this case the news. The cards are great idea starters.

Scaling Global from Day 1 with Linda Kozlowski, COO of Etsy.
Let’s go ahead and shatter the Etsy customer stereotype. Etsy isn’t just for those that are planning their wedding or craft-feigns. Etsy is a place where people go to find something unique that speaks to their personality. No matter where you call home, it’s got widespread, global appeal. Believing that the future of business is global business, is Linda’s philosophy. Key point is to utilise data of where people are buying what and learning how they’re using it because innovation leads to unintended consequences, and that’s ok.

The VicHyper Experience with Zachary McClelland
What looks like something out of The Jetsons all of a sudden feels very real and much less “crazy” since hearing from one of the VicHyper engineers and cofounders. What I found interesting is that they’re applying existing technology and putting it together in a world first way to create a bloody fast delivery/transport system. I like to think of this as skilled problem solving whereby you’re leveraging existing tech but in new, profound ways. That’s smart thinking.

Until Pause ’18.

Louise Richards,
Program Manager, Y2.

Paul Broomfield,
Creative Technologist.

Chrissie Malloch,
Strategist.

Making Characters At Pixar with Brian Green

Pause Festival 2017 gave me a chance to see the Character Supervisor responsible for my favourite childhood Pixar film, Monsters Inc. But while I’d gone in hoping to find a winning a formula for character backstory development, I instead was treated to a half-hour lecture on tentacles and big blue fur.

There’s nothing better than seeing someone who loves what they do — as Brian Green clearly does —  talk about it. With an energy I’m going to call ‘confused genius’, Green initially rushed through an overly technical explanation of how Pixar built each individual part of a tentacle for characters in Monsters Inc and Finding Dory, detailing in depth the math, code, physics — and purpose built computer programs — that go into making octopus suckers that suck, detach and wobble like the real thing. After 20 minutes of being whacked over the head with detail, the audience’s attention began to wane.

But then this nugget: Green finally turned to why he personally believes it’s important to nail each component is important: ‘Making your character believable is about making them vulnerable. Giving them vulnerabilities is how the audience accesses them in a familiar way, and so how they can lose themselves in the film’ Boom, I thought, there’s a nice sticky takeaway.

For Green, physicality is an entire story in itself. And every movement of your character, whether octopus, human or monster, help show reveal its weaknesses and, therefore, humanity. The missteps, the over-confidences, the shrugs and sighs are recognised and processed by an audience long after the  character open it’s mouth. So sharing these secrets is the fastest shortcut to getting inside the viewer’s  head.

There could be a crucial lesson for brand articulation in this. While surely few people would ever admit to having ‘weak’ characters as their favourites, Pixar know that in reality, the work they put into the peripheral and unconscious cerebral considerations, is just as important as anything else. Character for them is a string of reflexes and intimacies that tell a holistic story. So when asking how our brands can be more believable (dare I say, authentic) don’t be afraid to show blemishes, what they’re overly enthusiastic/eager about, what they’re sick of, or even their achilles heel. A little vulnerability can go a long way.

Sam Butcher,
Researcher.

I wore Snap’s Spectacles for the weekend. And I’ll do it again.

Snap, the tech company behind Snapchat, released a limited number of Snap Specs late last year and we managed to get our hands on a pair of the not-so-unisex coral-coloured 10 second video capturing sunglasses.

Snap Inc, the brains trust behind the widely popular social media app Snapchat are known as tech & social innovators, but not so much hardware visionaries…until now. As a camera company, Snap’s biggest competitor is your phone’s camera and this weekend when I was wearing the Snap Specs, my iPhone camera function was nowhere to be seen.

When I first popped the Specs on and synced them up I thought “Ok, what am I going to do with these?”. So I pinched them from work to try them out over the weekend. I wanted to learn how they worked and why people would choose to record footage through Specs rather than their phones.

A weekend with Snap’s Spectacles from The Royals on Vimeo.

As I started capturing some footage at Laneway, I quickly learnt that the back of people’s heads really wasn’t where the fun was at. It was in the “look Mum, no hands!” footage. So this was pretty much the set-up for the following couple of days and seventy-three 10” Snaps later.

After wearing them for the weekend, here’s why I think people will enjoy Snap Specs and why I believe they’ll champion your phone’s camera:

  • Free hands. Specs let you do what you want to do without taking your eyes off the prize. Over the weekend I captured myself clapping, drinking, praising, cheering, catching, hugging, hi-fiving and dancing. It was this content that got a great response from my friends on Snapchat and drove intrigue with them asking “how are you recording that?” and “what’s going on here?”.
  • No phones obscuring the view of others, or me. I didn’t have to watch anything through my phone screen, I got to see it all with my own eyes. Specs allow you to enjoy being in the moment without the obstructions.
  • People weren’t offended by them. In fact, I’d go so far as to say they were aesthetically pleasing with one friend commenting “cutest glasses ever!”, completely unprompted, I swear. Plus, when people asked what the light was they were so surprised to discover they were recording and after shrieking with excitement, instantly grabbed them to have a wear.
  • Seamless connectivity and control over what you post and to whom. You can still add all your favourite overlays, filters, comments and emoji’s to the snaps when they’ve synced to your phone. Plus, they didn’t drain my phone battery despite the automatic syncing all day. 👌👌
  • The sound quality is fantastic. Whether capturing conversations between your mates or your favourite bands tune that is playing over hundreds of heads in front of you or simply you narrating the snap.

There’s nothing ground-breaking about what Snap Specs allow you to do, but they definitely helped me capture some fantastic memories, moments and stories (get it 😉) for me over the weekend. Snap Specs have successfully made wearable tech people aren’t embarrassed to wear that allows you to be in the moment, unhindered.

Chrissie Malloch
@misschrissiemal

Eddie Nerds Out at San Diego Comic Con 2016

If you work at The Royals you would now know, by my incessant bragging, that I’ve just come back from attending the world’s biggest pop-culture convention in San Diego, Comic-Con. But I’m discovering that not many people really know exactly just what Comic-Con is. So here’s my experience and run-down of, what is quite possibly, the most nerdy thing ever.

San Diego Comic-Con (commonly referred to as SDCC) is basically a big shopping spree for those of us who are pop-culture inclined. It’s where you can buy all your favourite merch, and get a chance to check out all the new gear before it’s out. There are celebrity appearances, artists and heaps of other cool people there you can see. It covers everything from film, TV series, video games, anime, manga, technology, and even comic books (although that section grows smaller every year due to waning interest!).

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I’d cut the whole thing into 2 parts; the market hall, and the panels. The market hall is, I want to say thousands, of little booths that are hawking their merch. It’s massive. Almost the entire convention centre is the market hall. I predominantly gawked at toys (“Dad, they’re called ‘figurines’ and they’re art!”).

Mingled in with all the stores, are activations and showcases from companies. I played a Playstation VR demo for Resident Evil 7 inside a big cardboard house, and played the upcoming Dead Rising 4 (and badgered a developer for information which he was not forthcoming with).

There are also mini appearances, where people of note do signings (or y’know, just kind of appear). This is where I saw Adam Wingard, director of You’re Next and The Guest, as well as the upcoming Blaire Witch sequel that was announced there. Being up close with one of my favourite directors was incredible, and the kind of thing most people can only get at a convention.

And then you have the panels. The things were all the stars of your favourite show sit at a desk and talk at you and a big audience about past and upcoming stuff. Then sometimes you can try to ask them questions through your flop sweat and stammering when that practised sentence comes out backwards and that guy you love so much on TV just looks at you weird. Exhilarating.

Most of these are impossible to get into. You’d have to get there hours before the event opens and then sit in line for hours more to get a chance of getting into something like a Game of Thrones panel. It’s not gonna happen for you. But I did just kind of walk into the Capcom panel where they announced a few video game tidbits, nothing of real interest (HOW DO I BEAT THE RE7 DEMO WHY WON’T YOU TELL ME YOU FRAUDS).

There’s also a lot of big activations around the exhibition centre. My favourites were South Park, which had photo-op props of notable scenes from the show, and Ash vs Evil Dead, which build an entire replica of the Evil Dead cabin which you could walk through (to get free shit).

And then there are costumes. Boy, are there costumes.

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Or as we call them in the biz, cosplays. Not everyone dresses up, but a lot of people do. Saturday seems to be the peak day for getting costumed and sweaty. And in the San Diego heat, you’re going to get sweaty. It’s not a particularly pleasant experience. Which is why I didn’t do it. But it doesn’t stop most people.

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(My friends dressed up as Howl and Sophie from the Ghibli film Howl’s Moving Castle)

The convention itself holds a competition for the best cosplay and gives out prizes. I’ve never attended this event, but I’m sure it’s great. And yes. There are “Furries”. Although recently they’ve been usurped by the new gross fandom I saw a lot of this year, Five Night’s At Freddy’s. A horror game where animatronic pizza parlour robots attack you while you cover the night security shift. But I guess people want to have sex with the cartoon robot animals. Don’t google this.

To give you a good idea of this phenomenon, Adam Savage of Mythbuster fame has videos where he dresses up as his favourite thing of the year and roams the market hall incognito. It gives you a sense of scope of the place and just how much effort some people put into their costumes. He’s so renowned for this, attendees will just come up to the best costume they’ve seen and just ask ‘Adam?’. And most of the time they’re right.

Last year he totally jacked my Dredd costume, but we worked it out and we’re still cool. Brian Cranston once did this, wearing a big latex mask of his own face from Breaking Bad. Truly horrifying.

And then we have the mostly ignored and unfortunately neglected part of the market hall – artists and (very) minor celebrities. Last year, the original Hulk, Lou Ferrigno, attended and had a stall where people could just come up to say hi and get things signed. But every time I walked past, he was just sitting by himself. Everyone too focused on the big pull of the Star Wars or whatever. The same goes with the comic book artists, it’s a few aisles that have significantly less foot-traffic than the rest of the convention. Considering it’s the longest running tradition and namesake of the convention, it’s sad to see. But every year I visit one of my favourite artists Jason Edmiston, of Mondo popularity. He signs my toys and I buy a poster, it’s a great relationship we have.

I bought so many things and got so much free loot that I had to buy another carry-on to take it home and now I’m poor again. But I went, I conquered and I patted the furries. Until next year!

Eddie,
The Royals.

Keeping the band together: how to build enduring creative chemistry

For every Lennon and McCartney there are a hundred more tales of bands that don’t go the distance. And then there’s Tim Rogers, musician and songwriter, who’s been fronting You Am I for 25 years and still going strong.

Yesterday The Royals curated a lively, panel conversation for Mumbrella360 featuring Tim, musician Jen Cloher, Sophie Hirst from Google Play and our own Dave King and Andrew Siwka. The group was tasked with exploring the ins and outs of creative chemistry and finding out if there are secrets to keeping the band – or any creative team – together.

Turns out there are a handful of things you should know if you’re in the business of forming enduring creative partnerships, like we are here at The Royals.

#1 TRUST OVER TENSION

Tim Rogers: “I don’t believe you need creative tension to make great work. The only time our creativity suffered was when I was picked out as the ‘main guy’. Having an ego as I do I thought, ‘Yes I’m the main guy, I’m the main songwriter, the main singer, the biggest drinker.’ But the music we came out with at that time was really dull. If you try and provoke tension for the sake of creativity, people tend to clam up.”

#2 PICK THE RIGHT BAND MEMBERS

Jen Cloher: “You’re in the wrong band if you have to have a discussion around what you’re creating. You’re in the right band if there is clarity of vision, which attracts like-minded people. It’s also important to know when to move on from a creative partnership.”

#3 TREAT EVERYONE LIKE THEY’RE MEMBERS OF ONE BAND

Dave King: “These days, in order to continuously create interesting and divergent work, we find ourselves working with an ever-growing bunch of weird and wonderful clients and creative collaborators. All of these people, not just those inside the agency, need to be treated like members of the band. This means having a shared sense of respect for what every person brings and sometimes parking, or at least softening, certain parts of your personality.”

#4 DON’T BE AN ASSHOLE

Tim Rogers: “Not being an asshole is a good way to start. Of the group of people we’ve had working with our band for a decade or more, we have always tried to be really inclusive. We don’t hold ‘meetings’; we invite everyone down to the pub. If we did hold meetings, nothing would get done.”

#5 BIGGER ISN’T BETTER

Jen Cloher: “We live in a world that’s so obsessed with getting bigger and making more money at the expense of this tiny planet hurtling through space … how ’bout some businesses that just stay small and efficient and sustainable? When you’re driven by money and fear, you’re going to come up with really boring ideas. When you’re driven by doing something different and inspiring, that’s when you blaze a trail.”

#6 “FEEDBACK IS A GIFT: I HATE YOUR IDEA”

Sophie Hirst: “At Google, if you want to tell someone you don’t like their idea you begin with the phrase, ‘Feedback is a gift’. It’s in our culture. Another thing we do really well at Google is fail. At our weekly WIPs, everyone can say one great thing they did, as well as something that didn’t go so well. It creates an environment where people aren’t scared to share their ideas.”

#7 TAKE MONEY OUT OF THE EQUATION

Tim Rogers: “Money is something we never talk about as a band. In the early days of You Am I, when I was paid $20 more per day on a tour of the US, even that caused a problem. So we take money out of the equation, and that’s helped us stay together.”

#8 WORK HARD, BUT NOT TOO HARD

Tim Rogers: “We rehearse about 5% of the time we’re supposed to. The other 95% is social, which may look like we have bad habits or we’re not working hard enough, but so much of what goes into our music is social. I’ve been around people who think they must work 100% of the time and I’m pretty sure they’re only being productive 5% of the time anyway. It’s amazing what revelations can come through listening and fraternising.”

Thanks to Tim, Jen and Sophie for making this such a cracking discussion .

Barbara
The Royals

I spent Friday night with my hands behind my head being interrogated and repenting my sins

I went to Underground Cinema.

The only details we knew about the cinema experience was the name, Hope 2.0 and the dress code, foreign.

Communicating only via Facebook, we were told the location of the event the day before – Coburg, and given the instructions to be on time, we won’t wait!

We arrived to join the line of other foreigners, mainly Mexican’s and the French it appeared. The line snaked along a chain link fence – on the other side of the fence, where guards dressed in army fatigues and swat gear whilst directing large muzzled Alsatians along the line. With the odd gypsy lady walking along and singling out people and placing an orange in their hand… I was “lucky” and received one.

Screeching around the corner, engine revving and slamming on the brakes to come to a sliding stop appears a white battered van. The Guards start shouting and swearing at us to get us running into the back of the van, the van is dark, the windows are blacked out with newspaper. There’s a few a laughs and giggles – these soon vanish as the driver tells us to “shut up, you think this is fun, you won’t for long!” With a heavy right foot we hoon off going who knows where, a couple of handbrake turn’s and never seeming to slow down, people are bounced around the back and laughs are replaced with screams.

We come to abrupt halt and a gun comes through the door and more shouting as we get pulled out of the van and pushed into a large covered processing area, guy’s one side, girls the other side we’re told. I’m holding my orange, not sure what would happen if I dropped it. We all get shouted at, “don’t look at me”, “look at the ground”, “hands on your fucking head!”. Two members of the armed guards see the orange I’m holding and roughly pull a black back over my head and drag me off, making me run with no idea where I’m going.

I get thrown into a seat, and there’s more shouting, this time asking for my name, then I hear a female voice and the bag is removed, bright flood lights are blinding me and the two guys in balaclavas are so close I can smell their breath. The woman is telling me that I’ve betrayed the uprising and I need to get back onto the plan and can I be trusted? My face is marked with charcoal and I’m given a slip of paper. The bag back on my head, I am ran out of the interrogation room and thrown into a chain link fence…

I walk around the corner and things are a little more relaxed. There’s food and a bar. The area looks like a makeshift camp, rooms made from blue draped tarpaulin. There’s guards walking around and hassling people, and odd rooms, with equally oddly dressed people in them – I lost the people I came with long ago.

After grabbing a drink, I pull the note from my pocket “You must find the preacher, repent your sins and find Bruno”.

Around the camp, it feels a uneasy, you’re not sure when the next thing is going to happen, there’s small explosions going off and the guards drag people off with black bags on their head.

Wasn’t too hard finding the preacher – she was walking around waving a bible to the sky and screaming. I talk to her, she demands I get on my knees, she shouts, there’s a lot of shouting tonight, “whats your sin”, “um, I stole an ice cream when I was a kid on the way home from school”, she call’s me a thief, hits my with her bible and makes me to scream to the sky that I repent my sins. She believes that I truely feel sorry and have repented, she gives me a sleeping bag and sends me on my way to find Bruno.

This finding characters and solving missions carries on for another hour – every attendee that night gets missions.

More shouting and we’re given cardboard signs with “freedom” written on them, what appears to the leader of the uprising, gets on a platform and delivers a speech about freedom and a made up government, he marches through the crowd, we follow, whilst banging our signs and shouting freedom – we’re lead into another warehouse – this time there’s a cinema screen and seats.

Guards get on stage and tell us to keep the event a secret until its all over.

I found my friends. We watched Children of Men.

The night was an incredible way to experience cinema. Amongst other things. Sign up to their newsletter and social account ready for when the next one is announced.

http://www.undergroundcinema.com.au/

Paul

Audi Product and Innovation Visit with RMIT

Yesterday evening, as the clouds rumbled and rain poured upon Melbourne, a small group of Royals were lucky enough to partake in an international meeting of minds and sharing of ideas with some inspiring German geeks from the Audi Product and Innovation Department and a couple of big (and likeable) brains from RMIT. The discussion rocketed through issues close to all groups’ hearts such as computer interface design, passive and contextual notification, and the eternal balance between form and function. It became clear that technology, regardless of whether its context is marketing or motoring needs to be aware of a sort of ‘positive compromise’. It’s only through compromise and balance that it can achieve its true function and optimum potential most effectively.

Take interface design for instance – there is an almost limitless volume of information that a manufacturer like Audi could display; current and forecasted weather, personalised news updates, incoming calls, proximity to networked friends or a multitude of contextually aware social notifications. The modern car buyer thinks they want, to quote British-metal-band-with-an-umlaut Motörhead, “everything louder than everything else”. They’re prepared to pay a premium to be enveloped in modern technology, flashing lights, bells & whistles. However, this hyper-functionality will often come at a sacrifice to aesthetics, ease of use, a purist driving sensation, and ultimately vehicle safety. As such a compromise leading to a more elegant solution must be made.

Audi, RMIT and The Royals are all enamoured with the possibilities of “humble”, or “glanceable” notification systems – methods of communicating information in an unobtrusive, peripheral manner. This could take the form of subtle audio or lighting signals or through haptic feedback. However, getting a driver to understand this text-free information without a steep learning curve involving a new semiotic language is understandably incredibly challenging. This delicate dance between usability, impact and restraint is hugely important when it comes to keeping your focus on the road as you take a fast corner in your R8, a part of your mind free to take in other useful information.

Another issue we riffed on – a concept I personally hadn’t spent much time considering – was the importance of providing an exemplary driving experience to everyone in the vehicle, particularly the passengers. At the top end of the luxury segment, the owners of the car often aren’t the ones driving it. Tapping into another one of our collective passion-points we discussed the burgeoning potential of second screen experiences. In car passenger entertainment systems aren’t new – and neither are iPhones or iPads, however currently these largely operate entirely independently of each other. This is a huge area of opportunity to involve the passenger actively and safely in the luxury driving experience through the device they already carry with them.

In true style, the evening carried on to additional beers and burgers at our favourite local haunt the Richmond Hotel, the hereto measured conversation spiralling gently towards the more theoretical and progressive realms of technology, psychology and philosophy… another post entirely..

Thanks to RMIT’s Dr. Steffen Walz for organising the meetup!

Tom.