In an age where the newspaper has become old hat, developer Gregory Mackenzie will be bringing interactive content to the pages of this Friday’s Nelson Star through REVEAL Me, cutting edge technology in the realm of augmented reality.
“Augmented reality is putting another layer of reality over what you see. There are some people who are calling it a second reading,” he says. “I look at it really as bridging the gap between print and the Internet.”
“There are some people in Los Angeles who say this could solve all the problems of the print industry. I don’t think it’s going to do that. It’s just going to bring it all to a new level and make it truly interactive,” Mackenzie continues.
REVEAL Me is a free app for smartphones and tablets. Users can point and scan their hand-held device over designated areas like in the Star and watch interactive digital content come to life — videos, graphics, links and more.
A pilot project for Black Press, Mackenzie is just back from Hong Kong where he quickly brought together a team for REVEAL Me. The filmmaker and advertiser closely followed the development of augmented reality. Like most advances in technology, a breakthrough in December 2012 pushed his interest forward — fast forward.
Technology allowing a mobile device to be held as close as six inches from the flat surface being scanned “changed everything” for him. Mackenzie quickly made the REVEAL Me app which was released February 26.
“It was an opportunity that I saw and I just know that it’s going to happen everywhere within the next year. The amount of people who have smart phones now is just astronomical and to make things easier for them, it just makes sense,” he says.
Everything also changed for Mackenzie upon having children. As someone who travels extensively for work, he and his wife Joy Barrett (cultural development officer for the City of Nelson), found Nelson a family friendly community to call home. They’re now raising their twin four-year-olds in the Kootenays.
And that’s really the reason that REVEAL Me — already introduced in Hong Kong and LA — is coming to a smaller market like Nelson.
“Nelson’s smaller scale, but still leading edge,” says Mackenzie, born in England and raised in Calgary.
Mackenzie is an internationally known film, television and commercial director and producer. His credits include Camille, the 2008 film starring Sienna Miller and James Franco where he directed and produced working with Oscar winner Al Ruddy, producer of the Godfather and Million Dollar Baby.
Mackenzie is an executive at Impatient ME as well as producer and CEO at Impatient Pictures. Working with Barney Burman, another Oscar winner for best makeup in 2009 for his role in Star Trek, Mackenzie is co-founder of Impatient Monsters, a company that produces monster stories for theatre, TV and Internet.
Currently, Mackenzie is working with another local, Nelson’s internationally recognized author Mark Nykanen who wrote Burn Down the Sky under penname James Jaros. Their plan is to turn the book into a feature film with a TV series spinoff.
Fitting that REVEAL Me is where innovation meets imagination and Mackenzie clearly thrives in this realm.
“I love it. What I love about it is that it is very creative in a number of ways,” he says. “I have the need to be creative and this satisfies that. And also I love technology. I remember having one of the first palm pilots and one of the cameras that fit on top of it.”
For someone who has always been a techie, bringing special effects of the silver screen to newsprint is an exciting venture. REVEAL Me can be used on any flat surface with recognizable markings. Advertisements, drawings, graffiti and paintings can be augmented.
He describes the potential.
“REVEAL Me can have the artist pop up behind a painting, talk about it, talk about their process. Have someone buy it right now, buy a print or share it in an email with a friend,” says Mackenzie. “Or if you see a poster for an event at the Capitol Theatre and you want to buy tickets for it, you have this immediacy to the whole thing — quickness, convenience. It’s really catering to that — appeasing people’s need for immediacy.”
Seems cutting edge and it is for the moment. But for Mackenzie, cutting edge lies in the world of Google Glasses where the stuff of science fiction movies and the gaming world seems to share space with the wearer.
“It’s like looking through a lens and you can see augmented reality everywhere,” he says.
As technology changes and gets better, Mackenzie is thinking of the next version of REVEAL Me just as the first version is emerging. And for the average person, understanding how it works is enough of a brain workout.
“A lot of people ask me how it works and I could just say it’s magic,” he says. “It’s complicated… but the trick is making it as easy for the user as possible. Some of the people I’ve shown this too, I couldn’t quite explain it to them. Once they saw it, it was just so obvious.”
The regular reader of the Star is ready for this kind of technology, he says.
“It’s fascinating how many people are now on the Internet. Even the silver surfers — the older people — are totally plugged in. They’re going on Facebook,” he says. “I think people in Nelson are ready.”
And does our reality need augmentation? Mackenzie says it’s more about seeing and embracing possibilities.
“What we need is just to see the alternatives.”
Check out Friday’s Nelson Star for more on how REVEAL Me will work to enhance the Star.