Decision Making & Analysis

Creativity Should Apply to Business Methods, Not Just Design & Art Work

Every content creation studio claims that they have a particularly exclusive style of storytelling, but creativity cannot stop with the storytelling aspect of the business. Creativity must be found in all aspects of the business to make it appealing for savvy investors. So how does a content studio prove, they that their approach is best? Further, how can this be achieved with limited access to capital. Let’s consider the success of Penrose Studios.

Closer Look: Penrose Studios

Penrose Studio’s Founder Eugene Chung, whose background in VR is well established and includes work with Oculus VR, NEA and Pixar [12]. In 2015, Penrose Studios found success in the sector when they were able to capitalize on under-utilized positional tracking capability in HMDs and had a moment of breakthrough creativity by mimicking the effect through the zoom features on the Samsung Gear VR [13]. After releasing a mobile preview of their movie, “The Rose and I” for Samsung Gear VR, viewers were dazzled by the ability to zoom in and out of the scene. Moreover, the buzz surrounding the release intensified, as people talked about the experience with renewed vigor for VR.

When the “Rose and I” premiered at the Sundance and Tribeca Film festivals, it was met with positive reviews and much praise by critics. This demonstrated Penrose Studios ability to achieve success. In 2016, Penrose Studios raised “$8.5 million in seed-round funding” [14]. Penrose Studios’ rise to success has many lessons that other extended reality (XR) startups can learn from, including; beginning with;

  • a highly skilled leadership team,
  • establishing presence and name recognition in the marketplace early on,
  • being creative in methodology, as well as storytelling, and
  • being unafraid to have work vetted by the public, as well as hard-core critics.

Production Quality: Total Quality Control (TQC)

There are many root causes, which contribute to lowered production quality. Some of the challenges, like management can effect the entire enterprise, so it is important to address any shortages in planning and preparedness, as quickly as possible. Here are the key areas that introduce issues to production quality;

  • Suppliers
  • Coding of Application,
  • Technology,
  • Skills & Labor,
  • Management, and
  • Machines.

Consider this, does the vendors that the studio uses have the capability to handle the complexity and capacity of the project? How will programmers handle legacy code and hardware updates? Is there a process in place? Are the staff able to execute the process? Do they have the skills needed to handle the task? Many times these questions are asked too late when a studio is in the midst of a crisis and people are scrambling to find out, what went wrong. In the next section is a an Ishikawa “Fishbone” diagram that expands more of these ideas.

Ishikawa "Fishbone" Diagram

XR Trends: Waiting on Mass Adoption

“While the U.S. is enabling technologies for the industry and Silicon Valley remains the heart of R&D, China is now leading on the market side” – Ryan Wang, Partner, Outpost Capital [15].

It is already well established that the extended reality (XR) sector rises and falls with the mass adoption rates for supporting technologies, like HMDs or software applications. However, there are other trends that impact the sector substantially. One of the areas, where the landscape is constantly changing and that studios need to take note of, is where investment dollars are coming from.

Although the Americas region is forecast to account for 83% of the global VR market by 2019, many of the large scale investments in the sector are coming from China [16]. China has a strong primary market in the VR/AR sector with opportunities for innovative entrepreneurs [16]. This means extended reality (XR) content creators should be prepared to do business with investment companies overseas.

Analyzing the Magnitude of Relationships with Decision Trees

Let’s suppose a production studio is creating a mixed reality (MR) experience where participants ride through through a warehouse wearing haptic suits, HMDs and other peripheral gear. The studio wants to give the riders as much as a sense of the 6-degrees of freedom that they can, but they have some technology issues to overcome. These issues may, or may not, be solved quickly, or may not yet be created.

After consulting with the creative team, one of the artists poses the question – how likely is the participant to look in the direction they want them to? Are the visual cues and sound effects the studio is using enough to capture the riders attention? How can this question be answered quantitatively? Many people will assume if they call attention to something, it will work and thus they take it for granted. By using some simple analysis techniques, you can demonstrate to stakeholders and investors the actual magnitude of the relationships. Using a Kaggle dataset, from a from a VR driving experience, it’s possible to look at the data and begin to figure out the bounds of where a person might look in a typical VR experience [17].

Tool One: AnswerMiner

This type of analysis is an easy way to start formulating ideas, so for this task two different tools will be used, AnswerMiner, a web-based solution and RapidMiner, a well know program in the analytics world.

First, using AnswerMiner, let’s determine the position for x;

  • lowest vr_pos_x value (-0.01),
  • middle vr_pos_x value (1.34),
  • average vr_pos_x value (1.61), and
  • highest vr_pos_x value (2.69).

These results could easy be repeated for the other positions and drilled down for further insights. Right out of the gate with minimal tweaking the resulting decision tree is capable of determining the correct outcome, (allowing 20% inaccuracy), in roughly 64% of the cases. This isn’t good enough for use, in a formal report, but for less than 5 minutes of work its helps to start formulating ideas.

One of the things to consider, however, is that this is data specific to another experience. It can give a general idea, but if the experience in question has, for instance, action or sounds coming from an area that causes the user to turn their head quickly, the effectiveness of results might vary drastically. This will also occur in places where the two experiences diverge greatly. If a studio wants a concrete answer, gathering the data and using game play testers will reveal a much more accurate basis for analysis. This again underscores the need for a data capture system.

Tool Two: RapidMiner

RapidMiner is more robust application for decision tree analysis. Below are images of the process and resulting decision tree and data from the same Kaggle dataset, as processed using different techniques and parameters in RapidMiner.

In these examples, other factors, such as the speed and throttle of the VR app the participants were experiencing were included. Although for the example, validation and performance nodes are not setup, in any work that is being used in a professional capacity, this would need to be included in the process.

Final Recommendations

Although many ideas were introduced on in this section, there is one major takeaway. The studio must begin to cultivate data and prepare it for the analytics process, as soon as possible to maximize on benefits and for presentation to potential investors. Quantitative analysis is essential for enticing savvy international investors, who may be bombarded with pitches from startups seeking capital.

Remember, investors want to how studios measure success and how well do they run their core business. Simply, being creative is not enough. Additionally, in China, where the “gold rush” for extended reality (XR) funding is currently taking place investors are highly aware of the market. A studio must be able to show the benefits of funding operations, able to demonstrate how costs will be cut, solve problems with production and processes and plan for the future using methods similar to the ones proposed above.