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Virtual Reality Archives - Ashley Maria



Bringing AR & VR into the public consciousness…

Since Pokemon Go launched on July 5, and Nintendo’s shares were at 14,490 Japanese yen ($136.59), not only has this app become a global phenomenon, but Nintendo’s stock has more than doubled. Personally, I have had a great time just learning to play the game. I’ve chatted up strangers as I tried to learn tips and tricks, and I’ve totally enjoyed the exercise! In a recent interview with Lenovo (below) I shared that my Fitbit step count has been the highest it has ever been.

Also shared in that interview: my initial perspective of how this free app, which works on just about any Android or iOS device, is most definitely bringing AR into the public consciousness. And oh my gosh — this is very good for me and what I’m doing around narrative 360/virtual reality (VR)!!

What I think will happen 

Gaming publishers and developers will soon come out with improved AR smartphone and goggle-related experiences; allowing for people to become even more accustomed to interactive entertainment.

So, who’s next?

My bet is on the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro smartphone (globally available in September) to make AR and VR as pervasive as the GPS. This Lenovo smartphone has a 16 megapixel rear camera on board with a special depth-sensing unit, along with multiple camera sensors, which power the AR experience. I am also betting on Minecraft. Yeah…they need to first make it work on smartphones and follow that up with an even more immersive experience with Hololens (or any other headset).

What do you think?

I’m guessing the future looks bright for both AR and VR — and I couldn’t be happier about it!

[What’s the difference between VR and AR? Click here.]

Pokemon Go image

Article published on Lenovo blog – 14 July, 2016:

Why Pokémon Go Could Be a Watershed Moment for AR Technology

– by Gavin O’Hara

If you are alive and/or have checked the internet over the last few days, then you know:there is an invasion happening. They are here and living amongst us—down the street, in the park, at the office—and they are adorable.

Less than a week after the release of Pokémon Go, people of all ages are wandering their neighborhoods, smartphones in hand, obedient zombies desperately hoping for a glimpse of Ponyta or Eevee. Pokémon Go not only looks to be a legitimate gaming phenomenon right out of the gate, it could also represent the moment that augmented reality (AR) went mainstream. We asked LA-based virtual reality filmmaker Ashley Maria for her take on the Poké-madness.

* * * * *

I live in Los Angeles, right across the street from a huge church. I pass it often, waving to the pastor and continuing on to the grocery store next door. It’s a nice, neighborly relationship. I have never just stood outside of it, though, looking up and staring at its sign—until today.

I just stood there. Looking. And waiting. You see, I was trying to figure out my first beacon.

Pokemon_fence-900I’m talking about Pokémon Go, a new smartphone-based game that forces players to go outside and explore the world around them.  Maybe force is a strong word but you do have to go outside to catch Pokémon and collect supplies from “beacons” in your area.

The game places a Pokémon in the space around you and challenges you to catch it with a Poké Ball. It uses the camera on your phone, so you can actually see a little Pokémon in front of you. They put one next to you when you first start the app, but then you must venture out for a super-fun Augmented Reality experience in your city.

As AR & VR technologies make their way into the mainstream, all it takes is one breakout application to help us understand how much they will impact our lives. Pokémon Go is that app. With more than 7 million downloads after a few days, this interactive AR game leveraged nostalgia to gain initial traction, and used its real-life implementation to get us all absolutely obsessed.

I first heard about the game in my Facebook feed when a few friends were hunting Pokémon at Disneyland. A short while later—with my social feed full of images of Pokémon popping up in friends’ apartments—I knew I had to join the party.

I downloaded the app, created my character (“itsashleymaria”) and waited for it to figure out my location. Immediately, there was a little Squirtle in front of me ready to be caught! I never played the Pokémon games back in the day so I felt pretty cool throwing a little white-and-red Poké Ball to catch this guy. Through the app, I saw that there were even more beacons and interactive spots for me to check out.

I ventured out, arriving at my first beacon (the church). As I stood outside, it didn’t seem to be working. I noticed the sign was on the other side of the fence – did I need to be directly under it for it to work? I actively tried to figure out how to get into the fenced-in courtyard but no luck. I’m not one to give up easily but my phone was drained. (This app drains your battery FAST.)

Pokemon_Ponyta-900After a quick charge, I returned determined to figure it out. This time, it worked right away. A cool horse-like Pokémon called Ponyta appeared. I took a billion screenshots because she was so cute, and then I caught her.

Now I’m hooked. And it made my FitBit happy! I hit about 5,000 steps just searching for Pokémon. Plus, I got to see other parts of my neighborhood I may otherwise have never seen.

To learn more about Lenovo’s own augmented reality technology, explore their new AR smartphone.




A Content Creator Looks at VR Goggles

Let’s begin at the beginning – what is Virtual Reality?

In my world, ‘Virtual Reality’ is considered immersive story: narrative, gaming, interactive, live-action, or animation – that involves the audience, and takes them a major step closer to the story than they ever could when watching on a screen or television.

The creator of virtual reality (VR) content WANTS the audience to be immersed, and – like me, will try all sorts of VR technology in order to achieve the goal.

You most likely have the technology you need to watch VR.

I’ve worked with VR content the audience views on their smartphone or laptop; looking around a 360 immersive world. The ‘immersive’ part comes just by being able to see everything! I made a 360 video last September on the beach in Los Angeles for my documentary film Pioneers in Skirts.

VR Kickstarter update video

On a laptop: Place your cursor on the video and move your cursor up/down and left/right to look around. On a smartphone: Well, that’s even better! All you need to do is move your phone around. But watch out, you might run into someone!!

Interested in trying out the possibilities of VR?

But you don’t want to dish out thousands for the whole gaming system?? I invest in a VR goggle.

As I venture more into the world of VR content creation, I have come to realize I need to create content the everyday viewer can (and will want to) see. I started out by researching what’s out there for consumers, and what’s coming down the pipeline. After purchasing my ticket to attend the January 2016 CES — the biggest consumer technology show in the world, I purchased VR goggles to get a first-hand user experience.

There are several pretty good options that cost $100 or less. I bought MergeVR Goggles (retail $99) — goggles that work with pretty much any smartphone. I’ve read they are super easy to use: simply slide the phone into a slot at the top of goggles.

I opened the box and learned…

The MergeVR Goggles are made up of a plastic foam that fit nicely around your head (and your glasses if you need them like I do). I like the MergeVR because I don’t fear they’ll break or get scratched thanks to the foam and disinfectant wipes are easy to use when passing the goggles from person to person).

I discovered that I needed a newer smartphone to play the more advanced applications (and I do…I have a HTC One A9 that worked out great).


I started off by playing with a basic app (I chose a haunted house VR app because that’s the kind of person that I am), pressed all the necessary ‘let’s get started’ buttons in the app, and then put the phone in the Goggles. Be sure you have gotten through all of the prompts in your VR game before you slide in the phone. It’s a real bummer when you select the app, put the phone in your goggles and then realize you have to take it back out to click okay. Ugh! The lameness!


My cat is clearly not sure about VR glasses.

I have tried VR applications in the past, specifically at the AFI VR Fest back in November 2015. One thing they did that I liked – they had me sit in a chair on wheels that can spin around. This allowed me to turn all around without having to move my head too much. It also helped with motion sickness, which I am unfortunately prone to experiencing.

Animated games and interactive environments are king right now in the smartphone category.

This particular haunted house app started out with scary music which got me excited for the experience – but I was home for the holidays…and my Mom tossed something to me that landed near me, and I screamed at the sound. Thanks Mom. I clearly was immersed!

Once I figured out how to move around the haunted house (press in the little knobs on top of the MergeVR Goggles), then I was really exploring. I was opening doors. I’d look in a direction and then move forward. This game didn’t have the ability to move backwards yet, which was apparent when I saw a huge spider on the wall and couldn’t help but walk right into it. I was so freaked out, I threw the goggles off my head and turned off the app. I wasn’t about to deal with that ‘reality’! Again, good thing those goggles were foam…

The motion sickness was very real.

Sometimes it was hard to keep my eyes focused on what was moving around me; and, as I tried to keep focus, I was also moving around the room. Keep in mind, I was still sitting on my couch. All of this made me feel a little woozy – not while I was actually in the game, but when I took the goggles off. I had to take a minute on the couch. Regain my composure. Walk around a bit. Then I was good.

There you have it. My first attempt in the at-home VR goggle space. Again, it’s worth investing in a $100 goggle to better immersive yourself and understand what all the hype is about.

What’s next?

I will be making a series of narrative live-action VR shorts in the coming months. I plan to create content that people can easily enjoy, learn from, and access. It’s a new way of viewing, so I think it’s important to gradually ease people into the possibilities of VR and how it can improve a story experience. And I think people need to appreciate it’s not all about the gaming!

But, hey — yeah, the gaming is quite fun :).

Okay – go VR! And tell me about it!

I’ll keep telling you. Follow along as I post what I learn and see at CES — here, and on Twitter @AshleyMaria.



My first Virtual Reality video, and it looks amazing!

Before we kicked off the Pioneers in Skirts™ Kickstarter campaign, the marketing team and I worked on strategies to drive up buzz for the film. We planned for articles, blog posts, podcasts, and videos that engaged with people interested in our topic.

We planned for social media to play a huge role, too. I’ve been using Periscope to show people what’s happening real-time. I then save the live video on my phone to edit and re-purpose it…like when I had to answer a funding challenge: singing with a superhero character on Hollywood Blvd.

I’ve been trying to think of new and creative ways to engage with people about my films.

When I spoke to Vrideo about helping us make a 360 immersive viewing experience that explained “why this film, why now” — I knew I was also moving my career in a new direction! Virtual reality video is truly the future, and I plan to be ready.

Vrideo go pro set up

Early in September, followers tuned in on Periscope to watch as I recorded the Kickstarter VR video update using a Vrideo 360 camera set up.

By the way: the set up was 3D printed to hold and record 10 GoPros simultaneously. Way cool huh?

Vrideo taught me what I needed to do, loaned the cameras to the film, and stitched the footage together in post. Not only was it a career-changing learning experience, the end result was AMAZING!

Believed to be the FIRST Kickstarter update video made in the VR format, I couldn’t have asked for a better start to my career in VR!

Here it is — what do you think?

Watch the virtual reality video