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“Photorealistic 3D moving avatars in real space” With Michael Deathless

The future is now for a paradigm shift in many industries including fashion, health and fitness, eCommerce, and education.We have been working on scanning people in three dimensions for use in augmented reality, virtual reality and regular 2D media. The way it works is that a person comes to our studio, whether that is a […]

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The future is now for a paradigm shift in many industries including fashion, health and fitness, eCommerce, and education.

We have been working on scanning people in three dimensions for use in augmented reality, virtual reality and regular 2D media. The way it works is that a person comes to our studio, whether that is a fashion model presenting a clothing collection, a musician playing a song, or a CEO giving a speech. We place them in the center of our stage where they are surrounded by arrays of machine vision video cameras, with which we capture them from every angle. Above, behind, and below. We then take the video files and stitch them together on our server farm. The output is a photo realistic 3D moving avatar. Think Princess Leia in Star Wars.

We take these avatars and put them into apps that we are creating. These apps will allow the end user to view a fashion show wherever they want, or work with a holographic personal trainer in the comfort of their own home. Imagine being able to view a fashion show on your coffee table!

As a part of our series about what’s around the corner for the toy, game, and video game industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Deathless.

Michael Deathless is the CEO and Co-founder of VRAccelerator. Deathless is the Creator and Cofounder of Jump Into The Light, the first VR arcade in the western hemisphere. VRAccelerator provides top of the line volcap and mocap services in the heart of Manhattan. VRA also provides XR development and consulting services for the Fashion and Advertising Industries. Michael has had a long career in software development, working with such clients as Gucci, Planned Parenthood and About.com. He previously owned a street art gallery in Berlin, worked in music production at the biggest studios in NYC, and has spent considerable time in India. He has spoken about VR at NYVR Expo, Jump Into VR Fest, IFP Conference and SoHo House, and has been featured in the NY Times, Time Out New York, SnapChat TV, and CBS News among others.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share the “backstory” behind what brought you to this particular career path?

I have a background in software development, music and art. I also have a passionate interest in Eastern spirituality, and have travelled to India many times to meditate, meet with spiritual teachers and visit holy places. I have always been interested in what is real and what is not. As a child I imagined a headset that could be put on my head that could then record, not just what I was seeing and hearing, but also what I was feeling and thinking. I then wanted to be able to take the headset off and give it to a friend or loved one, who could then experience exactly what I did. And vice versa. All of this lead me to working in Virtual and Augmented Reality

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I started the first VR Arcade in the western hemisphere called Jump Into The Light. As such, I got to put a lot of people into VR for their first time, and the experience was eye opening. One experience in particular is emblematic, descriptive, essential, educational, and uniquely gets my point across; it is called Richie’s Plank. The user puts a VR Headset on and enters a virtual elevator where they are then transported to the 40th floor of a skyscraper. From there the door opens up and the user sees a plank jutting out from the elevator looking out over the city far below. Some people would not leave the elevator at all, even though they knew they were standing on an “actual” physical floor. Of those who did walk out onto the plank I would say that half would not step off into the air. Most of these people were full grown adults. There were people screaming they were so scared. Now I ask you, what is real and what is virtual?

People like to be thrilled, whether or not it is positive or negative, and they will pay for it.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I am not one of those people who can point to just one person who helped them. I never had that one mentor that I can say everything would be different if it wasn’t for them. It starts with your parents, and then your teachers, and then your friends. Just as important are the books you read and the knowledge you get from the authors. If I had to pick one person, there is a guy named Ted Hedgpeth who was my partner doing software development for many years. What I learned from him, and this isn’t always possible, was to keep cool when things are not going well. Especially when you have a client who, let’s say, isn’t that nice, and they are being rude or hurtful. It is best to have some equanimity and not take it personally and then the situation can make a turn for the better as time goes on. If you get mad, you can lose a client and a source of income.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I love this topic. I have been trying whenever I can to spread the wisdom of the Diamond Cutter sutra. It is an old Buddhist scripture that is filled with wisdom. One of the main points that is made is that you are responsible for creating your own world through your thoughts, deeds and actions. Geshe Michael Roach wrote a great book extolling some of the principles. Long story short, if you want something, give it to someone else. If you want a business, help someone else with theirs. If you want money, give it to someone else. If you want a partner, help a lonely person. It is very beneficial if you write these good deeds that you have done, down and then think about them. This is a process of planting seeds and then watering them. It is also very good if you then teach this to other people, thereby helping them along their spiritual path. So I would flip the question around and say that you first bring goodness to the world and then success will follow.

Ok fantastic. Let’s now move to the main focus of our discussion. Can you tell us about the technological innovations that you are working on?

The future is now for a paradigm shift in many industries including fashion, health and fitness, eCommerce, and education.

We have been working on scanning people in three dimensions for use in augmented reality, virtual reality and regular 2D media. The way it works is that a person comes to our studio, whether that is a fashion model presenting a clothing collection, a musician playing a song, or a CEO giving a speech. We place them in the center of our stage where they are surrounded by arrays of machine vision video cameras, with which we capture them from every angle. Above, behind, and below. We then take the video files and stitch them together on our server farm. The output is a photo realistic 3D moving avatar. Think Princess Leia in Star Wars.

We take these avatars and put them into apps that we are creating. These apps will allow the end user to view a fashion show wherever they want, or work with a holographic personal trainer in the comfort of their own home. Imagine being able to view a fashion show on your coffee table!

How do you think this might disrupt the status quo?

Much like the move from analog to digital in audio and video, things are now moving from two dimensions to three dimensions. We expect that this paradigm shift will be just as radical. Tim Cook from Apple said that Augmented Reality will be as big as the iPhone and that life without AR will be unimaginable in a few years.

You, of course, know that virtual reality is not simply entertainment, but can be used for important purposes. What is the “purpose” or mission behind your company? How do you think you are helping people or society?

Ultimately I am trying to, in whatever little way I can, remove the suffering of all beings. As such, we have been working with a local hospital on a project that would use augmented reality to rehabilitate stroke victims by creating experiences that would make therapy fun, and therefore the patients would more likely adhere to their prescribed therapeutic regimen. The main problem with any sort of physical therapy is that patients do not do the prescribed exercises because they are too boring. AR and VR both hold put the promise of completely transforming medicine as we know it.

I know that this question may be outside of your core expertise, but I’m sure you will be able to share some important insight. In your opinion, how is the US doing with regard to engaging young people, and particularly girls and women in STEM subjects? Can you suggest three ways we can increase this engagement?

Well I think we are probably doing better than most other countries. At almost every tech meetup or conference I go to this subject is brought up. There are organizations out there like, Women Who Code and Girls In Tech that are doing great jobs. I obviously am a big proponent of strong STEM programming in schools. These jobs are among the best on offer and have been the most reliably in demand over the last few decades. America should be encouraging a lot more of this rather than looking to import talent. The reason India has produced so many coders is that Microsoft at one point put a lot of money into providing inexpensive programming courses. I have been to India many times and it was not unusual to see small IT schools on street corners in many cities that offered programming and other IT related courses to the public, providing a pathway to the middle class for many, who, before the tech revolution there, would have been stuck in poverty.

How would you define a “successful” game or toy or technology innovation? Can you share an example of a game or technology that you hold up as an aspiration?

A successful game is obviously one that is popular but also has other added benefits. One of the reasons I think Minecraft is great, is that from the beginning there were at least two modes, Survival and Creative. If someone wanted a quick twitch adrenaline rush, the could play in Survival mode, but they could also exercise their creative faculties by building structures and environments in Creative mode.

I think it’s amazing that kids of all ages are hanging out with their friends online and having fun together, whether they are in the same physical location or not. And moving forward, I think the potential for telepresence that VolCap in VR and AR promises is a game changer for human interaction and community

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

If you want something, give it to someone else. I firmly believe in this. This is the underlying algorithm behind this “reality” that we are living in. Life can be win-win and will reflect back to you what you put out there! Be nice, be creative, be generous!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Insist on yourself, never imitate. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

This has made my life among the most interesting. It has taken me to live in New York City, moved me to Europe, and driven me to go to India almost 20 times in search of wisdom and adventure. If you imitate you are living someone else’s life and that other person is just as confused as you are. Insist on yourself!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

FB @vraccelerator

IG @vraccelerator

FB @michaeldeathless

IG @michaeldeathless

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