Market Overview

How DreamWorks Animation Is Changing Augmented And Virtual Reality

How DreamWorks Animation Is Changing Augmented And Virtual Reality

Dreamworks Animation Skg Inc (NASDAQ: DWA) and Nokia Corporation (ADR) (NYSE: NOK) teamed up a few years ago to solve a key problem. The two companies had one primary goal: how can they reinvent the app?

"We were trying to solve similar problems," Jim Mainard, VP & Head of Digital Strategy & New Business Development at DreamWorks, told Benzinga.

"Bryan [Biniak, a former Nokia VP] was solving how wireless carriers [could] make use of and get people to use more data. And we were trying to address connecting the families better because devices tend to separate families. We decided to focus on one area, the commute space, initially."

Biniak (who is now VP & General Manager at Microsoft) and Mainard quickly aligned on a few key areas. Mainard said they wanted to create something truly different and found that the only way to get kids to look around was to re-render their world.

"If they drive by McDonald's, for us it was a Viking eatery," he said.

Gas stations could become a stop for dragons. Real airplanes could be replaced by dragons, while cars could be replaced by sheep.

"It's augmented reality in the sense that if you held up the tablet you could see the dragons," said Mainard.

"The roads are the real roads, but if there's a lot of traffic you might be on a muddy dirt road. On-the-fly we decided to turn that road into a muddy dirt road. We can turn those roads into rivers and [there] might be alligators instead of cars. So we kind of take your fantasy and use the world around you with that fantasy."

That was the first attempt. Mainard said they weren't even sure it was possible to do this in real-time, so they built it to prove the theory. This led to the birth of a couple apps, "Dragons Adventure" and "Dragons Adventure: World Explorer." A new edition (which uses the flight traffic data to implement dragons) will be released this fall.

Related Link: Microsoft's HoloLens Is What 'You'd Expect From A Cutting-Edge Technology Company'

First The Game, Now The Platform

In developing these new apps, DreamWorks and Nokia -- and later Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ: MSFT), which acquired Nokia's mobile phone business -- started to see the potential in providing a platform to others.

"All the pieces you have to bring together [for a game like this], it's not something a lot of app developers can step up and do," said Mainard. "We have a lot of resources at DreamWorks and Microsoft or Nokia, but an app developer may have a team of 10 to 30 people.

"You're not gonna build a platform that brings all that data in, all that rendering horsepower, sets up the cloud rendering. You're not gonna set that up if you're a developer -- you're gonna build some isolated app."

Mainard referred to the solution as a "just add water" platform.

"You might have a really cool app idea, but to get all the things you want, those data sources are going to be really hard for you," he said. "You're not going to have the time to go assimilate LA city data -- you're just not. It's a ton of data and you've got to filter it, it's gotta be prepped, there's inferences to be made about the data and all kinds of things.

"We built all of that all the way up to a stack, an SDK, so that apps can drop straight down and it's 'just add water.'"

Mainard said this allows developers to build the things they're skilled at doing while relying on the platform to deliver off-device rendering "or whatever's required to deliver the experience you want."

Disclosure: At the time of this writing, Louis Bedigian had no position in the equities mentioned in this report.

Posted-In: Bryan Biniak dreamworks animation Jim Mainard MicrosoftTop Stories Exclusives Tech Interview Best of Benzinga


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