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Russia brings an interactive VR series to Cannes Film Festival

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Director Georgy Molodtsov
Russian film director Georgy Molodtsov | Photo: Vincent Cros

This year, within the framework of the Cannes Film Festival, the Cannes XR VeeR Future Award competition was created. One of the animations presented as part of the project was the multiformat ‘Under the Pillow’, a project by Russian film director Georgy Molodtsov.

The animated story is based on a fairytale by journalist Sergey Molodtsov, Georgy’s father, where a handmade cuddly kitten-like toy encourages children to explore a hidden magical world under the pillow of an old sofa, while also helping them to overcome difficult periods in their lives along the way.

The event to present Under the pillow at the Marche du Film was held in an unusual format. Part of the presentation took place right inside a virtual reality scene, demonstrating how new technologies offer innovative opportunities to be present without the physical barrier of crossing borders. Particularly handy during a pandemic!

“For the first time in a while, Russia is widely represented at the Cannes Film Festival – both in the official and parallel programs. From the films of leading directors to animated series made with VR technology, we had Russian projects of various formats this year” – says Evgenia Markova, the CEO of Roskino, the state body representing the Russian industry of audiovisual content in the international markets.

“As new technologies are gradually becoming part of our lives, industry leaders are already using VR technology very successfully. But there is still a huge space ahead for the implementation of the most daring ideas. Today we see this with the example of a unique animated VR project, which confirms that the combination of advanced IT developments and a fascinating story gives birth to a real work of art. The widespread recognition of VR by the professional film community and by the audience themselves is only a matter of time.’ – believes Markova.

Evgenia Markova, the CEO of Roskino

Evgenia Markova, CEO at Roskino

“The Under the Pillow project is the first episode of an interactive VR film at the intersection of storytelling and gameplay. But it was important for us not to create this entire universe that was going to be limited only to content available in virtual reality helmets. The model of the use of game engines underlying the project will allow us, with much less effort than in traditional animation, to create adaptations of this story with the same characters, locations and plots within other formats that will help us to immerse a much wider audience in the world of cat Mormitten. Participation in the Cannes Film Festival program draws international attention toward the Russian animation and film industry and to the possibilities of using VR to create both innovative and traditional projects.” – celebrates Georgy Molodtsov.

This is not the first time that this Russian director has brought a virtual reality world to the Cannes Film Festival. Having been involved with VR since 2015, Georgy came to Cannes in 2017 to display the Russian VR Seasons program. Back then, projects were exhibited in 360 format, only allowing people to watch them with the use of VR helmets. Fast forward four years, projects such as ‘Under The Pillow’ offers completely interactive episodes, which begins its own distribution destiny thanks to a partnership with the Chinese company VeeR. VeeR has bought the first episode for a two-year distribution. But the presence of Russia on the international market is not limited to one animation VR project: new co-productions are being launched, and a boom of virtual (XR) production studios is to take place in Russia.

‘Last year in Venice and now at the Cannes Film Festival, a very important process is taking place for the industry – now VR projects can be watched at the comfort of your home by purchasing a subscription to the virtual exhibition centre. Another option for their demonstration is the organization of exhibitions in partner countries in parallel with the dates of the main festivals. People come to such events with pleasure, realizing that this is not just entertainment, but also art’, – says Georgy Molodtsov.

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How was the first ever Metaverse Fashion Week?

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Young woman taking part in a virtual event
Game mania: Gen-Z has been spending an average of 7.3 hours per week in virtual worlds

You will surely be forgiven if you missed the first Metaverse Fashion Show, hosted by the blockchain-based, 3D virtual world Decentraland, which took place between 23rd and 27th March.

Although dozens of brands, including Tommy Hilfiger and Dolce and Gabbana, showcased their collections on the catwalk of the virtual reality, three-dimensional, browser-based world event – where the price tags of printed bucket hats, puffer jackets, and tuxedos by German fashion designer Philipp Plein range from € 1,500 to € 2,500 – glitches and basic visual graphics left room for vast improvement.

Challenges with low-quality visuals and streaming speed, though, didn’t seem to affect the enthusiasm of brands and marketers eyeing-up the multibillion potential of the gaming industry, a trend backed by recent studies. According to a 2021 Morgan Stanley Research Report, a 31% year-on-year increase can be seen when it comes to how people have been turning to games. The number is even more impressive if compared to the previous two years, when users grew by just 7% – the study reveals.

Currently popular across all ages and demographics, gaming has been of interest to young consumers before, during, and after the global pandemic. A recent study conducted by management consulting firm McKinsey, in partnership with fashion business intelligence portal Business of Fashion, found that 81% of Gen-Z played video games in the past six months – with the younger generation spending an average of 7.3 hours per week in virtual worlds.

No wonder longstanding brands are keen to enter the game:

“When I founded my namesake brand in 1985, I never imagined I’d see a time when fashion weeks would be held in a 3D, fully virtual world,” says Tommy Hilfiger. The American designer showcased his Spring 2022 collections and hosted a digital retail platform during the virtual event, where consumers were able to shop NFTs for their avatars or purchase physical items from within the Metaverse. “As we further explore the metaverse and all it has to offer, I’m inspired by the power of digital technology and the opportunities it presents to engage with communities in fascinating, relevant ways.” – says Hilfiger.

Online, the event received mixed reviews, with London-based Digital and Social Strategist Candyce Costa sharing: “I went to Metaverse Fashion Week, and it was awesome (and weird!).”

Tech & culture journalist, Elsa Ferreira, shared the technical challenges her avatar  faced trying to enter the event:

“For this first Metaverse Fashion Week (MVFW), it was, above, all necessary to find a computer powerful enough to access this virtual world. Four computers later (including one borrowed from a developer, which will not prevent execution times worthy of Windows 95), here we are in Decentraland.”

Designer Julia Rosti celebrated the fact that the week-long virtual event also connected to the current happenings in Europe:

“So great to see that even @decentraland Fashion Week has found an opportunity to support Ukraine.” – Tweeted the founder of the digital fashion atelier BlancdeBlanc.

The free event, where Ethereum, a type of cryptocurrency, was needed to buy the fashion items showcased in the virtual world, is already confirmed to be coming in 2023 via the Decentraland platform.

 

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Elon Musk hints at paid Twitter verification

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Twitter user reading Elon Musk's Twitter feed about verification processes
South African Elon Musk, the world’s richest man, reportedly paid $2.9bn (£2.3bn) for 9.2% of Twitter this month | Photo: © Marcio Delgado

Entrepreneur and Chief Engineer at SpaceX, Elon Musk, has just bought a 9.2% stake on Twitter and, as it seems, the Tesla owner is already planning new ways to monetize on the social media platform.

On Sunday morning Musk hinted on Twitter about a possible paid authentication checkmark service for those willing to purchase premium features on the social media service.

‘Everyone who signs up for Twitter Blue (ie pays $3/month) should get an authentication checkmark”, posted the new Twitter board member, adding that the paid feature ‘should be different from the “public figure” or “official account” checkmark’ already in place for notable users such as media outlets, government, large businesses, established fashion brands, influencers, and those officially competing in sports.

Elon also reiterated that current verified accounts already benefit from some perks, including free ads and the ability to retract a tweet before it’s visible to others.

“Blue already has a modifiable 20 second time to edit tweet feature” – celebrated the entrepreneur and social media shareholder.

However, Kevin Paffrath, a 30-Year-old financial analyst and YouTuber who joined Twitter in 2009 –and has a verified account – quickly pointed out that such existing button, for verified accounts, is not that straightforward:

“I have Twitter Blue & it’s lame. It’s not an Edit feature; it’s a tool that delays your tweet going out for a set period of time so you can reread it. But I find myself just quickly hitting “send now” because I want my tweet to go out when I hit Tweet. No edit possible once sent.” – says Paffrath.

Another user not remotely thrilled by Musk’s idea of ‘pay-to-play’, is writer Elvira Daukaeva:

“I don’t want to pay for tweeter! Brad! Advertising doesn’t bother me and I learn new technologies and products from it!’ – Daukaeva shared on her Twitter account.

Accountability for the content shared on Twitter has also been mentioned as a potential concern that could arise if the platform, currently with over 300 million active users worldwide, introduces an edit button for all in the future.

“Edit is a terrible idea. Imagine the damage people could do by changing what they tweeted historically when thousands retweeted the original. Therefore, aligning them with a new opinion they don’t agree with.” – questions Liverpool-based songwriter, Carl Bode.

While Elon Musk is planning new ways to use Twitter to enhance his $270+ billion net worth, users on the platform quickly suggested that those posting and engaging on a regular basis should also be rewarded for the time spent creating content – a practice already tested by Instagram and Snapchat.

“If you want Twitter to improve and become more widely used and engaged with, how about we get paid for our activity? We collectively provide the value of the whole thing so maybe we should get a slice of the pie too? Maybe coins/tokens.” – user Graham Lay, a holiday home sales manager based in Britain replied to Musk. “So maybe a small one-off registration fee (to cover admin of verification) and then we get rewarded back for the value our content and contribution bring. Allocating say 20% of advertising revenue towards users (us). The more we use it, the more we get rewarded”, suggested Lay.

For American talk radio host and journalist Kim Iversen, who joined the platform in 2021, genuine users not afraid of proving they real people should be the ones getting the coveted verification blue mark.

“People who can verify they are who they are via official ID should get a blue check. If people want to be anonymous, fine, but I like knowing I’m talking to an actual person” – shared Iversen.

Twitter is not the only social media platform offering direct access to a verification request form, within its settings. Instagram has a similar process, with almost identical categories considered to be eligible based on notoriety, and an average 30-day response time for those applying for a blue checkmark.

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Applications for a Barclays virtual academy for early-stage FinTech founders is now open

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Start up team in an online meeting
Programme participants will join the largest single-bank alumni of seed-stage Fintechs boasting a market cap of $7.8 billion

British bank Barclays is launching new initiatives targeted at FinTech founders across the globe, from early-stage to scale-up and beyond.

The first to launch is the Rise Start-Up Academy, a virtual digital skills-building accelerator targeted to early-stage FinTech founders. Applications are already open for founders addressing emerging FinTech trends including wealth equality, climate, the future of money and more. At a later date, Rise Growth Academy will be launched to provide capability development around key areas such as investment readiness, recruitment, accelerating sales and leadership development.

A FinTech Venture Studio will also go live later this year and focus on co-developing new FinTech ventures through working with internal talent, start-ups and other leading companies.

Corporate venture builder Rainmaking has been chosen as an innovation partner to support Barclays in its goals with the new initiative.

“Innovation is critical in driving growth in today’s challenging business environment and in solving some of the most pressing problems society faces today,” – says Mariquit Corcoran, Group Chief Innovation Officer at Barclays. “We have been humbled and changed by the incredible FinTechs we have worked with, and we understand first-hand the power of collaboration to evolve and unlock opportunities for our customers, clients, colleagues and the communities in which we operate. We are very excited to work with Rainmaking to further push the boundaries of corporate innovation and ensure collaboration is at the heart of our FinTech strategy.”

Rainmaking brings a track record in partnering with large corporates to build successful new ventures. Its approach is based upon the proven methodology used to build 65 of their own ventures and through its subsidiary, Startupbootcamp, to accelerate over 950 start-ups and over 100 cohorts. While only 10% of early-stage start-ups typically survive, over three quarters (76%) of Startupbootcamp companies are still active or have exited. According to Rainmaking, this has led to the creation of 4,626 jobs and raised over $800 million in funding.

“We are working with Barclays to drive positive change and play an active role in stimulating growth and opening up future revenue opportunities for founders of new businesses. By providing the tools to enhance digital skills, founders can build and scale their businesses for future revenue growth. The new suite of meaningful and cutting-edge FinTech programmes will combine the power of entrepreneurship, whilst unlocking the scale strengths and the deep domain expertise of Barclays.” – says Chris Locke, CEO Europe at Rainmaking.

The partnership will be led by Sonal Lakhani, Global Head of Programmes and Strategic Initiatives at Barclays Innovation Office, who also led the expansion of the Female Innovators Lab by Barclays and Anthemis last year across the UK and Europe.

Barclays has played a key role in supporting the evolving FinTech ecosystem over the past decade through Rise, its award-winning FinTech platform. With offices in London and New York, Rise has been at the forefront in building the future of FinTech.

By partnering with Rainmaking, Barclays intends to continue expanding the limits of corporate innovation and accelerate co-creation with key players across the ecosystem. Together they will also expand Barclays’ critical role of supporting the creation and scaling of early-stage Fintechs.

To apply for the academy, visit the RiseStartUpAcademy 

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