Oct 30, 2013 10:19 AM EDT
What do you get when you combine the Moto X with Google’s Advanced Technology And Products lab (ATAP), throw in a few graduates from the Defense Department’s Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) and an Oscar-winning Pixar director? Motorola calls it “Spotlight Stories.”
Debuting today for Moto X owners, Spotlight Stories is an augmented reality experience that turns users into filmmakers. The smartphone becomes a camera viewfinder through which the world of Windy Day can be discovered and filmed. The brainchild of animation director Jan Pinkava, Windy Day is an “immersive short” about a mouse hidden under a hat, as the hat wonders around from setting to setting.
The basic premise of Windy Day revolves around following the camouflaged mouse with the viewfinder, but since users determine the field of view, the plot of the story is fluid. For instance, you can observe a pack of chipmunks playing in a tree while the mouse leaves.
“These aren’t prerecorded scenes you’re sitting through,” Ken Gabriel, a former DARPA deputy told Wired. “It’s a world rendered in real time based where you are in the story, what you’re looking at, what your physical orientation is. Every single person is going to see this differently. We can tell what parts of the story people spend time on, and know what story to write next. If 80 percent of the people keep watching the B-loop we did with the raccoons, we know that people really like raccoons!”
At first, it wasn’t clear how the technology that powers Windy Day would be utilized. Pinkava says the “aha moment” came when the team realized that rather than creating a fully scripted project, they should instead develop a system where camera control was ceded to the end user.
“That was the breakthrough moment,” says Pinkava. “We’re not doing a game. We’re doing a narrative. Then the question became what we could do to make it work, so that you could have the sense of watching the story unfold before your eyes…It’s like a live stage show.”
The ATAP team intends to produce additional shorts in the future, but the overall direction for the new platform is undecided. Will Windy Day-style shorts begin appearing on other devices? While developers concede that it’s possible, there aren’t any plans currently to make it a reality. So in the meantime, start hitting up your friends who own a Moto X to try out this totally new and original storytelling platform.
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