City XR Entertainment promises new forms: Envision exploring the city and being able to change perceived realities or add new layers of realities. Create a mix of realities or an enhancement of realities with new values, with new forms, with new stories, new music, new designs… And this search of the new forms of representation and expressions in art are important because they offer fresh perspectives and a contemporary lens through which we can reinterpret and respond to our present and future world
As such the city itself could become extended into an experiential medium. And now try to reimagine the cities and streets that we walk on every day. You can change the landscapes, the sky, or add layers of fantastic creatures, finally transforming the spaces around you into an infinite possibility for creative potential, being immersed and surrounded by artistic expressions.
This is what Psychic VR Lab’s /STYLY platform aims to do, and it invites creators and artists to participate and co-create together these new visions. Its mission is to Free Inner Creativity! And to liberate the power of creation and the creativity of people and companies through XR-based technology.
Psychic VR Lab developed the creative and distribution STYLY Platform. STYLY is free to use, and provides a complete end-to-end solution for content creation, publishing and sharing. STYLY is compatible with Unity, but also the STYLY Studio provides a no-code solution. Here, artists of any skill level can start exploring the new medium and then distribute the content to smartphones, external assets, VR devices. One of the platforms main offers is lowering the high entry barrier in different ways.
On the platform, artists are provided with an online studio where they can create in a very easy way (An advantage because creating in XR, requires a very expensive gaming PC and coding knowledge). Also, artists can give a tour of their own works (and other people’s work) in an XR space. Moreover, there are lots of tutorials and workshops on the website, and there is an online and in person school available in different cities around the world. As XR creation is really in its early stages, and it being a new canvas option for creators, the courses at the school teach not only the necessary technical skills, but also different principles in XR creation.
Additionally, an Award Ceremony called NEWVIEW AWARDS is held annually to recognise creators. The awards offer artists professional exposure in the form of exclusive collaboration opportunities with different cultural venues and cutting edge companies. Oftentimes, the smaller, but well designed and thoughtful XR works win. One of the winners was a 4-year-old boy named Takkun and his father who created a VR Museum that records Takkun’s childhood through a compilation of his personal ArtWork and Memories. TAKKUN MUSEUM
TechvangArt has delved deeper into Psychic VR Lab to discuss the company’s vision, future plans, investment rounds, with Masahiro Yamaguchi, CEO and Co-Founder. We did not forget to ask about his favorite book to be included in any (Metaverse) Library.
TVA: You started Psychic VR Lab in 2016. How did you start? How did the idea come to make this… because in 2016 people were saying that VR or XR technologies are still very far away from being mainstream.
Masahiro Yamaguchi: We actually started Psychic VR Lab before we officially established the company – the Lab was launched in 2014 which is the same year Oculus DK2 was released. Before DK2, VR devices were incredibly expensive and predominantly used in academics. Palmer Luckey (editor note: is an American entrepreneur, founder of Oculus VR and designer of the Oculus Rift) made VR accessible, allowing anybody to create VR content using a gaming engine. This is when we thought the future XR started. We saw DK2 as not just a display device, but a device where content viewed could change our emotions, psychological state, or even our physical perception. We thought there was a huge potential!
At that time, we didn’t know what we could do with the device, or how we could build a business based on it. We started to ask around. I asked people who were interested in it and from there we started prototyping and then collaborating with many people, including artists, business guides, and mentors. We were inspired by artists who wanted to create in a new way.
One day, a fashion designer said that she wanted to create and sell fashion not in the usual way, instead she wanted to sell fashion deep in the ocean. At first, I couldn’t understand what she was envisioning, but then I realized that in the physical world there are limitations such as gravity, for example. If using XR, she could use her creativity to create more impactful results. We started a project with her where we created a department store in VR. It was from this project that we thought more people would be interested in doing the same, so we started developing a platform. This was the beginning of STYLY.
TVA: So, it all started from fashion. But I am curious, what is your long-term vision related to how you see Smart Cities evolving alongside XR technology?
Masahiro Yamaguchi: We think in the future, not near future, but someday, most people will wear some kind of headset or XR glasses. It is in this future that we will have access to XR content in a mainstream sense. Today, there are big advancements in XR glasses that have appeared on the market. We think someday, everyone will wear some kind of XR type of device all day long. It will be as big as the internet, smartphones, or wearable music. When Sony released Walkman, our lifestyle totally changed allowing us to listen to music anywhere. Today, we all have small supercomputers in our pockets. We are able to bring the internet into our lifestyles. In this way, we want to build a new era of XR as the next major lifestyle, this will be the age of wearing Space.
We provide a cloud based creative software called STYLY Studio which significantly lowers the entry hurdle for creators to develop their own content which can then be distributed. We have enabled artists the ability to extend or enhance their current reality. STYLY is a free platform which hosts a lot of content, over 90,000 contents and growing.
In the distant future, we will all have these XR headsets, allowing people to have access to new media content from STYLY that can be displayed anytime, anywhere. It will be possible to change reality to whatever people want to see. We will be able to change the design of the streets we walk on or even change the sky above us. This is a distant future, but hopefully not too distant.
In the near future, I do not think many people will buy a headset personally. The quality of the headsets currently are good, but in a few years, there will be improvements to the headsets, and I think this will provide greater experiences for people, so they can enjoy entertainment, art, and so on.
TVA: You also aim to unite and bring together the culture and business community. Sometimes this is hard because artists just want to create art and businesses want to monetize something. What are your experiences?
Masahiro Yamaguchi: For artists, we give our platform as a service, but we also want them to monetize, so that they can be motivated to continue to create. We also teach how to create great XR content, not just technical parts, but the conceptual parts as well in our NEWVIEW SCHOOL. We teach what are the important aspects for a well designed movie, art, or architecture. Teaching how to manage digital spaces or designs or how to tell a story in XR are part of our business and platform.
I’m an engineering guy, I love engineering. I love technology. I understand that the value of technology is going down very fast, but the ecosystem, the value of the ecosystem, of the brand is going up in time. So, what we should do is change the value of the technology to the value of the ecosystem. This is why we provide our platform for free.
With our training and XR schools (called NEWVIEW SCHOOL), we try to cultivate XR cultures and XR artists. We have different activities, like workshops and meetup events that we coordinate to help grow the XR creator community. We encourage artists no matter if they are established artists or they’re just beginners, everyone is welcome to join our programs and events. We operate small groups, but we are global. For example, we have schools in London, Toronto, Taipei, and Bangkok. We have these courses for artists that last six weeks or more to learn not only about creating XR works, but to also help them learn in a way that enables them to express themselves in XR.
!!! NOTE !!!
In case an ARTIST would like to join the STYLY community, please take a look at the manuals and different workshops available at: https://styly.cc/manual/
MASAHIRO YAMAGUCHI: Some of our colleagues in the company are graduates of our NEWVIEW SCHOOL. So when they started joining the new course, they never imagined getting a job in the company. Some of them are with us as full time employees.
The most beautiful part of NEWVIEW is not only creating the ecosystem and the creative community, but also, we let our business partners leverage the new group outcomes. To give you an example, we had a local city project which was funded by the government. Afterward the government decided to showcase the school in a new version, not only to address new creators, but to encourage young people to learn XR or study these technologies. This was an effort to convert this knowledge into the workforce trends.
This can help local businesses and provide an economic contribution in the local city. So, we see this business and culture merging into one stream and we created this sort of a case in a couple of major cities.
For example, we did a project last year in Bangkok and Taipei, where we invited 20 local creators to share their work in an XR version. We showcased all 20 art pieces at Bangkok Design Week, so that local people and foreign visitors from different countries could see the potential of XR.
In addition, we also invited business partners interested in XR and we let them know how we can implement these types of expressions in their projects. We have these ecosystems that work together. We are trying to create a platform for not only teaching people to use XR, but we’re trying to get some real business. And in the future, we could work with pieces from artists and help them have revenues from these types of processes.
And, of course, more importantly for creators, we do revenue share. This can provide a creator direct income, but can also provide funded projects, etc.
TVA: What are the main challenges that your company faces?
Masahiro Yamaguchi: I think we have two challenges from different perspectives: on the creators side, and on the business side.
– When it comes to the creative side, in XR, the field is so new that there are no ‘templates’ or ‘recipes’ on how to create, there are no standards, norms, or regulations
We want artists to try to create something that didn’t exist before. That is an important challenge. We invite different kinds of creators, artists, designers. They have their own parameters to create – for example it can be graphic, sculpture, and how to put it into exhibition. We will say that there is an extra virtual space that can allow more creative endeavors, and maybe they have some great ideas.
– On the business side, to lead artists, creators to have revenues, it’s also challenging. We have to make sure artists who join our projects, who join the program can actually have revenues. And as we are a platform, we’re facing those kinds of difficulties at the same time. So, we need to get some projects, businesses, companies on board to make sure we can survive and keep getting ‘nutrition’ to the artists and extend this ecosystem.
I think the challenging part for us is… how we facilitate organic growth for the community.
Right now, we need to create a project, find sponsors, talk to partners to generate small opportunities, but there have to be many opportunities as such for the industry to develop and grow. In the future, there will be a self-running organic system which can be moving a lot of opportunities for both creators and companies, assisting every single partner for this organic growth continuously.
TVA: You succeeded in having different rounds of investments, can you share with us about your business model?
Masahiro Yamaguchi: First of all, we opened the platform for everyone for free, because we want as many people as possible to use our platform. So this is definitely not the foundation for our business. But having a platform and making it free is important. So based on that, I think most of our business focus is in:
- City XR – In cooperation with land owners such as governments and real estate developers, IP holders of leading animation/art/culture, media, and other companies, we will promote the City XR project, which transforms urban spaces into experience-based mediums and generates a flow of people. We envision a revenue-sharing model in which experience tickets and goods are sold to visitors in real urban spaces and commercial facilities, and the proceeds are distributed to all parties involved.
- Education – We also do educational projects, help grow XR artists and creators, while providing them with opportunities for activities that can bring them tangible income in the City XR business.
- Provide an XR platform – We will provide our skills in project promotion and artist development know-how, and ultimately create an ecosystem where XR projects can be implemented both domestically and internationally without our involvement in production and direction.
In the 2030s, if 1 billion people around the world wear XR glasses for 8 hours a day, a new market of 3 trillion hours of screen time will be created. By establishing an ecosystem around the XR3 layer, STYLY aims to be the first to establish the location, content, and user incentive structure for AR glasses that will begin shipping around 2024, with the goal of capturing more than 50% of that screen time in the initial phase.
TVA: What was more difficult to obtain the first investment or the later investment? 🙂
Masahiro Yamaguchi: The investment for the first stages is about Passion – nobody really sees the future and the team is very small. In the case of the later stage investments, business strategy and business models are needed. We think we are still at a very early stage. Nobody wears XR glasses now, neither me, nor the team, so that markets didn’t appear yet, we can’t fully experience mixed reality. In a way, it is still kind of a passion-stage.
TVA: How do you collaborate with your investors, especially taking into account this constantly changing global environment - pandemic, inflation, etc. I think it is more difficult nowadays than it was before the pandemic started…
Masahiro Yamaguchi: The fundraising environment is getting tough. It’s a very tough time for startup companies. In the pandemic era, a lot of technologies were needed as people could not meet face-to-face. But, after the pandemic, the physical places were getting more important, but people could see the value of VR companies. In the past, hardware was important, and then software started to be important, but now to create new spaces and places where people can get together to create a new future. XR is a sort of media that feeds into the creativity to create new things. We can use data from smart cities or we can use extra technology to efficiently use data from actual places
TVA: From what I see, you are kind of building ecosystems in different cities and I know that ecosystem building is interesting, but it is also tough. How is this ecosystem part going?
Masahiro Yamaguchi: During our years in building ecosystems, we had a bit of difficulty understanding what really motivates creators and artists. So, in the beginning, we thought it could be money, a prize, so we established a big prize for the winner of our NEWVIEW AWARDS, and it was a real motivator to participate in the awards. We soon realized that receiving money is not the only achievement. We decided to open up opportunities for creators, where the winners get professional exposure. As such, we are collaborating with sponsors, gallery owners, and other venues that allow us to exhibit the artist’s works. We have realized that artists and creators appreciate this type of prize. Creators cannot go to famous exhibitors or important galleries, cultural venues on their own to propose collaborations, so we took over the role of reaching out to these spaces. As I mentioned earlier, this is still new in XR, and how to express your creativity, how to show your uniqueness is not yet established. And that gives a lot of space for creators and artists to explore. So, we continuously promote open events to exchange ideas, in order to stimulate exchanges with each other. This might sound like a very early stage, but we believe that this continuous effort is very important.
—And as you already are used to, we come with our Non-Regular Crazy Shot Questions—
TVA: What is your favorite book that you would like to see in an XR Library?
Masahiro Yamaguchi: “Streifzüge durch die Umwelten von Tieren und Menschen” (A Stroll Through the Worlds of Animals and Men) is a book by Jakob von Uexküll that introduces the concept of “Umwelt” or “surrounding world”. The concept of Umwelt describes the way in which an organism perceives and interacts with its environment, which makes me think about the theme of what reality is.
TVA: What type of animals would you like to see in an exhibition?
Masahiro Yamaguchi: Maybe not an animal, but an entire Aquarium in the air! :)
TVA: It's really interesting to have this overlay of Oceans in a city. The last question is, in the future if your office could be in the Metaverse how would it look?
Masahiro Yamaguchi: Currently, it is important to have physical meetings and to interact at work. Our focus is on City XR Entertainment, we want to bring the people out, and make experiences based on location, and location is not limited to virtual worlds, but also extends in the physical world in the form of mixed realities.