CAT: Wrapped

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Creativity hosted its inaugural Creativity and Technology Conference yesterday at New York's Metropolitan Pavilion. CaT, as it's affectionately called, welcomed a crowd of nearly 500 to a full day of eye-opening and at times, astonishing presentations from thinkers all over the technology map.

At CAT:Carlos Ulloa
At CAT:Carlos Ulloa
Presenters included programming pioneers Ben Fry of Processing and Carlos Ulloa of Papervision 3D, Google's Aaron Koblin, scientist from the nth-dimension Joann Kuchera-Morin, creator of the Allosphere, Facebook director of monetization product marketing Mike Hoefflinger, Digital Domain's Ed Ulbrich and game innovator Area/Code's Kevin Slavin. Topics ranged from the power and beauty of data visualization, the future of mobile and augmented reality, to the upside of open source and more. Read on for a recap, and check out a full gallery of photos from the day.

CAT kicked off with the first of the Making it Work panels, this one featuring Goodby chief digital officer Mike Geiger, Organic CCO Conor Brady and Zoic Creative Director Loni Peristere. Brady talked about Organic expanding its oevre and the importance of creative collaboration, citing the agency's recent Morris Code campaign for Bank of America, on which Organic partnered with Brand New School. Geiger showcased the buzzy GE augmented reality site that Goodby created earlier this year. It was the first mention of GE, but wouldn't be the last. The GE Smart Grid augmented reality project would be addressed by North Kingdom's Daniel Ilic and Papervision's Carlos Ulloa and GE also popped up in later in the Social Media panel where Benjamin Palmer discussed the Barbarian Group's well received GE Adventure blog. Zoic's Loni Peristere cranked up the PS3 to show the shop's eye popping work for a recent Killzone 2 launch campaign out of Deutsch. The spot, featured on Creativity Online, shows a slow-mo bullet POV and was created completely in the game's graphics engine. Peristere also recounted the process behind the "4D' version of the spot that gamers could interact with on the PS3. The demo was greeted with applause and Peristere rapped about the evolution of games, and how the huge advances in game engine technology would significantly change the VFX business.

Next up were Nick Bilton, Design Integration Editor, New York Times/UI Specialist, Lead Researcher, New York Times R&D Lab, accompanied by Derek Gottfrid, Senior Software Architext and Product Technologist, New York Times. The duo outlined present and future scenarios for distributing and experiencing news content. Read a full account of the presentation from Ad Age's Abbey Klaassen here.

The second set of case studies brought Winston Binch, VP/managing director of interactive at Crispin Porter + Bogusky, Daniel Ilic, creative director at Sweden's North Kingdom Design & Communication and Dan LaCivita, SVP/executive director of Firstborn together to share "how they made it" insight into recent projects. Binch chose his agency's Burger King "Whopper Sacrifice" project to illustrate how it set out to "exploit a tension," a tack Crispin developed after rolling out work for Mini coincidentally timed with the SUV backlash. LaCivita illustrated the multiple techniques and shots his company executed for its work on the Puma "Lift" website, as well as the unwinnable challenge (with the impossible award being a nude girl) which led to dozens of user inquiries. Last up, Ilic underlined North Kingdom's philosophies, its work process in developing GE's augmented reality Super Bowl push, and the keys to its continued successful relationship with agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners. Ilic noted trust and confidence, the freedom to experiment and prototype and patience as keys in the relationship. North Kingdom had a small R&D budget from the agency and 10 days to test and prototype.

CAT:Daniel Ilic
CAT:Daniel Ilic
Ilic was one of two presenters of the day who gave props to members of the Open Source Everything panel when he noted Carlos Ulloa's Papervision 3D software was instrumental in creating the GE project. Aaron Koblin, who was to present later, shouted out Ulloa's panel-mate Ben Fry for Processing's role in his creations. Both Fry and Ulloa walked through their respective languages, Fry indicating how he initially co-developed Processing as a toolkit for designers who were new to coding to use as a sort of notebook, but then user developments took it higher. Ulloa explained some of the remarkable 3D rendering Papervision 3D is capable of using through the Flash plugin and demoed several sites, including his studio HelloEnjoy's homepage. Fry and Ulloa had different takes on the issue of how much commercial projects contribute to the open source community. While Fry said he hoped for more support, Ulloa said the awareness coming through usage of his language has made the group of users blossom.

Ed Ulbrich, president of the commercial division and executive VP of production at Digital Domain, drew back the curtain on his shop's process in creating the false face Brad Pitt wore through much of the Oscar-winning Curious Case of Benjamin Button feature. From taking Pitt through intricate expression-mapping sessions where deeper and deeper amounts of data were recorded to building the glasses, teeth and hair that the virtual face would have, Digital Domain created the most lifelike and detailed CG rendering attempted. Read more in a Creativity story from earlier this year. Ulbrich also revealed the AICP is forming a special digital group, to help post-production design and visual effects companies in the same ways they represent traditional production companies.

Afternoon highlights were many and included crowd favorite, Google Creative Lab Technology Lead Aaron Koblin's overview of his many, many works of data viz art.

Next up was What's Now and What's Next in Mobile, a panel with powerhouse apps creators and thinkers Raven Zachary founder of Small Society, Brushes creator Steve Sprang and Kyte's Daniel Graf. See a full wrap on this panel from Ad Age's Michael Learmonth here. See Zachary's presentation below.

Later, Manuel Lima, curator of and senior user experience designer at Nokia and JoAnn Kuchera-Morin of the University of California Santa Barbara set out to shine more light on information visualization. While Lima drew out several of the emerging trends in visualizations, it was Kuchera-Morin who unleashed a torrent of information on the crowd in one of the most inspired performances of the day. Kuchera-Morin's lengthy title, director, Allosphere Research Laboratory, California Nanosystems Institute; professor, Media Arts and Technology and Music; director, Center for Research in Electronic Art Technology at University of California, Santa Barbara explains a lot about her multivariate approach. Kuchera-Morin's creation, the Allosphere, is a 30-foot-tall sensory chamber where researchers can explore mapped data, from the inside of a brain to a hydrogen atom (see her presentation below). Kuchera-Morin's enthusiasm was infectious, and audience members could only try to absorb her energy. Truly, do not miss the video.

Jason Harris, president/executive producer of San Francisco-based production company Mekanism had the unenviable task of following up JoAnn Kuchera-Morin's brain-frying Allosphere presentation, but entertained and inspired the crowd with a prank-based online campaign for Toyota and an informative look at his company's syndication process for content. Kevin Slavin from game development company Area/Code followed up with fascinating case studies on A&E's Parking Wars Facebook game, Discovery's Channel's Shark Runners and the competitive chat of MTV's Back Channel. Slavin also challenged the idea of agencies being "factories" that produced stuff. He encouraged the audience to think more in terms of building on existing systems and networks, and instead of creating from scratch, try making an existing thing better. When it comes to attracting gamers, Slavin emphasized that competition is key. People are more inspired by seeing themselves at the top of a chart than they by winning a sweepstakes prize. The one thing that draws people to games is other people, he said. On the topic of hiring, Slavin recommended, "Don't hire Flash designers to design games" but to hire game designers, who are better equipped to address the challenges and nuances of the medium. Both Harris and Slavin stressed the importance of taking responsibility for the work you put out—don't just release it into the ether. Part of the job is to make sure it lands in the right place and connects on a real level with the consumer. See Slavin's presentation below.

Afternoon highlights also included an augmented reality demo from Total Immersion's Bruno Uzzan that drew audible gasps from the audience and a primer on attracting talent from Mattias Hansson, CEO of Sweden's premier digital talent incubator, Hyper Island. See Hansson's presentation below.

At end the day, Facebook's Hoefflinger, Barbarian Benjamin Palmer and Slavin returned to the stage with R/GA's chief technology officer John Mayo-Smith and McCann Erickson SVP/group digital creative director Alessandra Lariu to discuss how technology and the way we consume media and culture is changing the way we tell stories. Palmer said that the internet and social media allows brands to tell their stories over a longer period of time, adding, "It can be the real story instead of a manufactured story told over 30 seconds."
CAT:Evolution of Storytelling
CAT:Evolution of Storytelling
Mayo-Smith said that, contrary to what many a traditional addie might think, it is very possible to create something successful by starting with the technology and tucking the story in and around it afterward. Slavin, adding to his many well-received thoughts of the day, pointed out that the relationship between media and social media, in terms of how people use them, is akin to that of an egg and an eggplant, "They're two similar words with not a lot else in common." He reiterated an earlier point on gaming, saying that when it comes to success in social media storytelling, often it's not about starting a brand new conversation but finding a way to tap into and join one that already exists.
Photos by Gary He
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