Current Featured in Adweek

This Agency Made an App That Lets Your Cat Take Its Own Selfies  Smile, you're on Candid Catmera! By David Gianatasio

  • December 20, 2016, 9:22 AM EST
  • All in all, cats are pretty clueless. Show them some pixelated fish, mice and treats, and they'll jab their fangs right against the digital screen and try to take a bite.

Then … bam! Your tablet takes their picture, creating "cat selfies" you can treasure and share, you kooky cat people!

It's all made possible through the miracle of Candid Catmera, an app that combines looping animations with feline facial recognition technology to lure and photograph the furry little devils. To be clear: The app only recognizes cats, so Rover's routta ruck.

Developed by Brooklyn-based Current Studios and designed to engage cats when their humans aren't home, maybe it will stop the wee beasties from tearing up the furniture and destroying your holiday decorations. (As if.)

"About two years ago, we were asked by an agency if it was possible to make an Instagram for cats," Current president Nathan Kroll tells AdFreak. "In the process of exploring the concept, we found that some of our developers were using cat faces to test facial tracking libraries. One developer has actually built an OpenCV library of several hundred cats. That pitch never resulted in a project and the internal work was put on the shelf, until about six months ago, when we had the idea to evolve what we learned and create something a bit more unique."

Here's a clip that puts this tabby technology in perspective:



Look at Mittens go after that fish! Ha ha, it's just a digital display—no yummies for you!

"Every year we ask the team to chose a project they'd like to build," says Kroll. "It's primarily for team building and motivation. This year the team chose Candid Catmera. When we saw the initial beta, we thought it was awesome and wanted to make it bigger. We talked to the SPCA to see if we could harness this idea to help them. It's a perfect fit. We raise money for a great cause, tell a simple story with complex technology, and show that we don't always take ourselves too seriously."

Available for iOS in the iTunes Store, $1 of each $1.99 purchase price benefits the SPCA of Halifax, Nova Scotia, where Current maintains an office. So, there's no need to feel guilty about tricking kitty—it's all for a good claws cause.

Would Current consider building a K9-Cam app displaying animated bones or bowser-bottoms to lure Fido for a photo shoot?

"Dogs are significantly harder than cats," says Kroll. "There is no shortage of cat pictures on the internet, so we have over a million photos of cats in our library," making it easy for the app to identify various breeds as they approach the screen so it can begin taking pictures. "For dogs, their faces have a very wide range of looks. Just think how different a Great Dane looks compared to a Pug."

CREDITS
Production House: Current Studios & Labs
President: Nathan Kroll
VP, Creative Technologist: Stephen Martell
VP, Operations: Matt Fegan
Producer: Dom Fegan
Animators: Matt Lambert/Jon Eisener
Designers: Stephanie Munn/Elena Kurevija
Director of Integrated Production: Jen Mete
Audio/Music: Justin Gaudreault
Development: Dennis Hubley/Joey Farrell
UX: Dennis Hubley

 

Current works with Arnold in Boston to create Virtual Santa

Arnold Worldwide Creates Virtual Santa in Boston Storefront

Posted December 24, 2016

For this holiday season, Arnold Worldwide created a virtual Santa at a storefront in Boston’s historic Faneuil Hall. Passersbys get into spirited SMS conversations with a screen-based Father Christmas, powered by Havas Cognitive partner IBM Watson and our own proprietary AI. Santa then programmatically determines whether visitors are naughty or nice and sends his Arnold Elves to gift them accordingly.

 

Daniel Liss, Group Creative Director on the project, told DIVERGE more about the concept and delivery of the project. 

Where did the idea come from?

The idea for this piece grew out of a desire to create an experience in which the technology feels somehow human—not just in the sense that it mimics human behavior—but that you feel a kind of playful connection to the codebase. Code that connects. And a virtualized Santa seemed like the right place to start: can this Christmas-y AI determine, once and for all, who’s naughty or nice? And in the end, we break the fourth wall for a handoff between technology and genuine human touch. A move that led—happily—to some surprisingly moving moments.

Who is the team behind it?

Store front with interactive Santa

Store front with interactive Santa

This piece is the product of members from just about every department at Arnold—creative, technology, brand experience, production, business affairs—who came together super quickly to create something we were all excited about. And we were joined by a fantastic collection of partners like Studio6, Current Studios, Beyond Our Reality, DGI-Invisuals, the Premier Tourist and Landmark Association, Faneuil Hall in Boston and Lost Planet in New York City.

Why is the collaboration with IBM Watson significant to this project? 

We wanted this to feel really personalized, but not get bogged down in complicated or spooky authorizations by users. Havas Cognitive partner IBM Watson let us quickly parse willing participants’ Twitter streams for content and tone and determine the types of gifts they would receive. Our algorithmic Santa would snap and share a quick selfie in the time it took for Watson to do its magic. And in a moment Santa would reply with some solid insights into who you are, and—excitingly—your gift choice. It all feels lightweight and nimble. And more importantly: conversational.

How long did it take to create?

This was an absolute sprint! A few weeks start to finish.

 You worked really hard with customizing each experience, what was the overall reaction to this project?

You do a project like this, and you’re heads-down creating and coding and you hope that people will react the way you’ve imagined it. And it was such an inspiring win. When we began, the piece was originally imagined as being somewhat snarky, even cantankerous, but people’s reactions were so overwhelmingly positive and open, that the interactions changed it from the inside out. As the activation went on, people’s level of surprise and glee actually transformed the experience. Visitors are texting furiously, shouting to Santa, and even—you see it in the video— hugging this virtual being that we’d given enough life to that he seems to be a real, and very human entity.

What were the gifts handed out for naughty or nice?

Naughty people often got coal. Sometimes we’d take pity and augment coal with something small and still vaguely naughty-ish. If you were nice, gifts could range from a scarf–it was freezing—or hat, to a dinner for two, a night at a comedy club, or some live serenading or music from our volunteer performers.

How long did you do this for?

We had the space for one day of set up, and two long (cold!) days of activation/shooting, mostly outside in Faneuil Hall in Boston.

Favorite memory:

A family—a little girl and her parents—wandered by and ended up doing the whole virtual Santa experience. As a special gift from Santa, we carried out a fully set table, chairs and a silver platter with a gift card to a local restaurant—a “night out on us”— nd surprised the little girl with a large stuffed animal. She chased me around with it for a while, and then sealed the deal with a big hug. While she’s hugging me, her mother tells me that they’re in Boston because the little girl is undergoing surgery at a local hospital tomorrow. She commented how good it was to have something to distract and lift them; we made their day. It was hard not to get a bit choked up, and I had to take a short walk afterward. Sometimes you make things and they have their intended effect…

Current Creates Marriott "Like" Button

Dubbed M Beta, Marriott has created what it calls a "hotel idea incubator" or "live beta hotel" — the first of its kind — that allows customers to test new product and service concepts first-hand all while giving feedback in real-time. The end goal is to give guests the opportunity to shape their future hotel experience. Buttons have been installed throughout the property for guests to press and register their reactions to different innovative facets of the hotel. Feedback travels directly back to hotel management, who then can gauge if new or adapted programs are needed.

An image of the Button Current designed, fabricated, programmed and Installed.

An image of the Button Current designed, fabricated, programmed and Installed.

"We looked hard to find a perfect hotel to showcase a reinvention ... From top to bottom, we have reinvented this hotel," said Marriott International CEO and president Arne Sorenson, adding that additional new features could still be on the way.

Adding modern touches to the 19-floor building at the corner of West Trade and Church streets is part of an overall brand renovation Marriott has set in motion partly to appeal to a younger generation of travelers.

Speaking during a press conference for the renovated hotel's grand opening, Sorenson said that Marriott used feedback from customers, such as more natural light, hard surface floors, upgraded fitness facilities and a local experience unique to each market, in their design concept. Marriott has remodeled 25 properties, with 25 more hotels to be finished by the end of 2016 and another 100 in the pipeline, he said

Current purchases The Postman

At Current we are all striving to be the very best in North America at what we do.  The Aquisition of The Postman is another step toward this goal.  We have issued the following Press Release with the details.  

Current Studios, Cannes Lion award-winning integrated development and production company with offices in Halifax, NS and Brooklyn, NY, has purchased 100% of The Postman Post-Production Studios in Halifax.

 

“Our collective creative capacity in both our development and production teams will be greatly enhanced,” says Current Studios President Nathan Kroll. “This purchase creates a regional digital creative powerhouse as well as enables the Nova Scotia TV and Film community to retain the largest and most technically sophisticated Post-Production facility in the region.”

 

Marc Savoie, former President of The Postman says, “The Current Post-Production facility is designed to service the TV and Film Post-Production industry as well as Current’s digital development and production clients.”

 

On September 9th Current and Postman staff will move into the new studios located on the sixth floor of 1741 Brunswick Street. Key employees from The Postman, including Marc Savoie and Lead Editor Peter Giffen, will remain involved with the Post-Production division at Current.


The organization's 5-year sponsorship of the Atlantic Film Festival will continue and the new facilities will be unveiled while hosting an event during the Festival

Current wins 3 Cannes Lions

Working with JWT New York, Current created the "Tribeca ReActor" - a first of its kind machine - as a way to celebrate and promote the Tribeca Film Festival’s (TFF) 15th year. The campaign was awarded extensively at Cannes, bringing home a Silver Lion in Media, a Bronze Lion in Cyber, and a Bronze Lion in Promo & Activation.

The Tribeca Film Festival (TFF) has become a staple of culture in New York City. To celebrate its 15th year, TFF is partnering with J. Walter Thompson New York to launch a campaign that celebrates the film festival and the many different parts of New York City.

The campaign includes video, experiential, out of home, print and digital components. 

New York is the mecca of all movie sets, and its people are among the most theatrical and expressive in the world.  The ReActor is a first of its kind machine that combines voice and facial recognition with motion technology to record people re-enacting notable scenes from beloved films. The ReActor then drops participants’ best performances into the real movie scenes to create videos that can be shared online via social channels. Placed throughout major New York City attractions as well as the Tribeca Festival Hub, the ReActor will judge participants’ performances and reward high scorers with free tickets to the Festival. Track the Reactor’s whereabouts @Tribeca.

A 90 second short film shows how the ReActor works with a crowd of New Yorkers and tourists acting out movie scenes on a quintessential cobblestone Tribeca street. The film debuted on March 25, 2016. A shorter 30 second cut of the film will air in theaters beginning today as well. 

 

 

CoverGirl x StarWars

CoverGirl and StarWars recently collaborated on a line of limited edition makeup for the highly anticipated film; “Star Wars Episode 7, the Force Awakens”.They chose New York Fashion Week as the platform to reveal 7 exclusive looks created by legendary makeup artist Pat McGrath at a high-profile event attended by fashion writers and bloggers.

Current Studios was approached by Grey NY  to create an interactive installation at the event designed to show off these stunning new looks in an innovative way.  

With the theme of the event being the choice between the dark and light sides of the Force,  we wanted to give attendees the power of the Force to help explore this exclusive line of CoverGirl products. 

With only two weeks to design the digital experience, create the 3D models of the new product line, and assemble the custom hardware, once again we leaned on our agile creative and development process to work with Grey and CoverGirl to achieve the futuristic results they were hoping for.

The resulting effort included two custom built digital displays. Semi-transparent acrylic screens created the illusion of holographic models floating in space with an asteroid field of makeup products floating around them. 

IMG_0637.jpg

When an event guest raised their hand, they harnessed the power of the Force, and unlocked the ability to explore the colors and styles for each of these exclusive new products with the wave of a hand.

The event created a lot of buzz online, through a range of media outlets.  Images and video content popped up all over social media using the hashtag #BeautyForce.  The surprise guest appearance of Janelle Monae helped to raise the profile of the product line as they revealed her exclusive look – Resistance Pilot.

IMG_0654.jpg

The interactive installations were a hit with curious guests, adding an innovative element to the product launch and creating memorable interface with this limited edition line of makeup that have Star Wars fans clambering to get their hands on. 

 

AR/VR

The idea of a character from a story transitioning from the real world to an imaginary world has been told over and over.  Neverland, Narnia, The Land of Oz or even Tron or the Matrix—it’s powerful as imagery—but just imagine experiencing it yourself.   

 With AR/VR (augmented reality/ virtual reality) we are now able to provide the magical experience of being in the real world and transitioning to an immersive virtual reality world.   Imagine you’re in your bedroom and a wall falls away opening a door to land of monsters and dragons. 

virtual reality

virtual reality

Or better yet—at an experimental marketing event the beverage product is enhanced with AR and when the user touches the bottle they are transformed to a VR world of happiness.  But what if your product wants to implore sympathy or empathy.  Have the user transported to a 360 VR video 1st person perspective and see what its like in someone else’s shoes. 

augmented reality

augmented reality

We see AR/VR as great executions for trade show booths, exhibits, experiential marketing events and more.  AR/VR uses a combination of augmented reality software, virtual reality software and VR headsets (Google Cardboard, Gear VR, Oculus etc) we can provide experiences like these and more. 

At Current we provide all production requirements for AR/VR.  Our computer vision, AR and game developers are some of the worlds most experienced AR/ VR experts.  Our animation teams have been Pixar vetted and our video production teams have filmed TV production, commercials and 360 video around the world.  

augmented reality

augmented reality

Current Labs' MRI Evaluation app wins Best App at 6th Annual Auggie Awards

Current Studios & Labs was honoured to win Best App for its MRI Evaluation app, "Don't Stumble Tumble" at the recent Auggie Awards in Santa Clara, CA. 

The Auggies promote excellence in computer vision across various platforms and categories worldwide. The award show is held annually at the Augmented World Expo (AWE) – the world’s largest gathering of professionals focused on Augmented and Virtual Reality, Wearable Tech, and the Internet of Things. 

Don't Stumble Tumble is a mobile application designed to help reduce the number of children requiring general anaesthetic. The app provides medical professionals a tool with which to monitor a child's ability to remain still for extended periods of time.  

When a child between the ages of 5-11 requires an MRI there is currently no way to evaluate if the child will be able to lie still long enough to complete the MRI or if the child will require anesthesia to be able to complete the MRI.  This results in either in efficiencies of the MRI machine or unnecessary anesthesia for children.  

Don't Stumble Tumble seeks to put an enjoyable experience on the process of GA assessment.

The game uses motion recognition software to give feedback to the child as they play, reminding them to remain still when motion is detected and eventually affecting their overall score.  The game is comprised of a ten level structure with increasing time intervals so children build up their comfort levels with longer time periods in the lead-up to their scan.  

All of the gameplay statistics and game data are constantly being tracked and displayed on an online dashboard.  This dashboard gives a visual representation to technicians and medical researchers of a patient's ability to remain still with a view to informing their decision of whether or not that particular child is a candidate for a non-sedated MRI scan.  

Don't Stumble Tumble aims to decrease the number of instances of general anesthetic for MRI scans, increasing patient throughput, lowering wait times, and reducing MRI costs. Current Studios & Labs worked with a team of medical professionals to develop this application which is now in clinical trials at the IWK Children's Hospital in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  

Producer Dom Fegan, who led development on the MRI Evaluation App, collects the team's award in Santa Clara, CA

Producer Dom Fegan, who led development on the MRI Evaluation App, collects the team's award in Santa Clara, CA

The Auggie Award in all its glory...

The Auggie Award in all its glory...

Current Sponsors Bedford Soccer Association Teams

Current Studios has sponsored the Bedford Soccer Association Bedford Titans U12-U18 soccer teams. Both boys and girls, academy and recreation teams will be wearing Current Studios jerseys for the next 4 years.

Under 12 Girls team wearing the new jerseys.

Under 12 Girls team wearing the new jerseys.

As a company we are thrilled to be able to do our part in supporting and reducing the costs of youth sports. 

Bedford Soccer Association (BSA)  is a community-based organization of mini, youth and senior players that serve to promote and support participation in the development of soccer in Bedford and surrounding area.

Current feels that involving kids in sports is a great way for them to get the most out of life and the activity! The boundless memories, lessons and values gained by participating in youth sport will develop a foundation for our nation's youth to excel!

 http://bedfordtitans.com/page.php?page_id=60446

 

LEAP into Action

Deploying immersive virtual reality experiences for mobile devices in headsets like Google Cardboard, Oculus Rift or Samsung VR Gear has its own unique set of challenges when it comes to user interaction.  These days, tapping on the device screen is second nature when it comes to user interfaces on mobile.  However, when your device is mounted in a virtual reality headset, tapping the screen is out of the question. So you’re left with the problem of how to invite user interaction that is both intuitive and consistent without taking the user out of the experience and causing frustration.

 

 One potential solution that we have been dabbling in recently involves the LEAP Motion in tandem with the VR headset.  The LEAP Motion is a small sensor that can detect hand gestures using infra-red light.  When mounted on the outside of the VR headset, the inputs detected by the LEAP Motion manifest themselves as 3D modelled hands within the virtual reality experience.  This really gives the user a sense that their bodies are actually inside a virtual world and they can interact with their environment.  Using something as second-nature as hand gestures allows for a wide range of interaction within these experiences - like opening doors to transition between scenes or to tap on buttons and really explore the virtual world they are placed inside. 

 

Is it perfect? No - not yet.  Some frustration can arise when the LEAP is unable to detect the particular hand motion you are giving it.  Since the the infrared beam is emitted outwardly from the LEAP Motion - some hand gestures confuse the LEAP Motion. For example, when a user’s hands are in a fist position in front of the LEAP, it can’t see any fingers, it doesn’t know what it is seeing.  However, this is definitely an area worth exploring further as we look to bridge the gap and suspend reality within these virtual worlds. Stay tuned for more advancements.


Here is a quick video that shows off a demo of how the LEAP Motion and VR headset work together.  The hand models used are very rudimentary in their demo iteration but can be switched to a more life-like model. 

Local Tech Going Global

Nathan Kroll and his team work with some of the biggest tech brands in the business, and they do it all from right here in Nova Scotia.

Kroll rebranded his media business in September, taking the name from Ad-Dispatch to Current Studios. They’re hard at work on their second project with Marvel, they’re starting another project with Intel in Best Buy stores, and their augmented reality blankets and pillows are selling well at Toys ‘R Us. While many virtual reality projects rely on an oculus (headset), Current Studios uses mobile devices to give users a more authentic virtual reality experience.

The majority of Current’s business comes from U.S. clients, but Kroll says their team is content to raise their families in Nova Scotia and rack up frequent flier points — although it can be painful to spend so much on airfare.

“People ask us how we penetrated those markets, and the answer is that we got on a plane and flew there every week for a year and a half — because relationships have to be made in person,” says Kroll. “It really requires patience, an enormous amount of effort, and a sizeable investment.”

Kroll says the best advice he’d give a local business owner looking to start exporting is to be prepared to spend a lot of time at 20,000 feet — taking meetings and building connections. But once the contract is landed, he says it’s not a problem to do the actual work thousands of kilometers away from his clients.

“Our customers don’t care where we are, because even if we were in New York, we could be working with clients in L.A.,” says Kroll. “With our expertise and our workflow, we don’t have to be geographically close all of the time — just when we’re there building the relationship.”

James Boyle, coordinator of Halifax tech conference Collide, says the global nature of the tech sector is allowing more young Nova Scotians to stay here at home, open their own businesses, and export quality products and services worldwide.

“I’m discovering all of the time that you’re only one Skype meeting away from anyone in the U.K. or Japan. I mean, I can email a file to China just as quickly as I can send it to Toronto, or to my next-door neighbour,” says Boyle. “Technology allows you to have a home base here, and still work anywhere in the world.”

Jean-Paul Deveau, president of Acadian Seaplants agrees. “We can succeed by focusing on producing new and differentiated goods and services, in innovative ways and selling them in non-traditional markets,” Deveau says.

He is a member of the One Nova Scotia Coalitionand is leading a team looking at Global Competitiveness and Trade.  The Coalition is developing a 10-year plan to achieve the vision and goals of the report from the Nova Scotia Commission on Building Our New Economy.

 “There are opportunities for Nova Scotia products and services in emerging markets. And there are tremendous examples of Nova Scotia companies that are succeeding, such as Current Studios. But our economy needs more examples,” says Deveau.

James Boyle encourages local tech companies to reach out for guidance and support from NSBI. “They exist to help our sector. If you’re not having meetings with them, you’re doing yourself a disservice,” says Boyle.

Nathan Kroll on Canada AM

Current President on Canada AM discussing the Paediatric MRI evaluation tool that is in clinical trials.  This mobile app uses motion recognition software to allow children to practice laying still prior to their MRI.  Their practicing allows physicians to evaluate the child's ability to lie still, giving them a resource to decide if the child requires GA (General Anesthetic ) or not.

http://canadaam.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=553386&playlistId=1.2241413&binId=1.815911&playlistPageNum=1&binPageNum=1

Desktop, Console, and Mobile: A survey of the current state of VR displays

Curious about the state of VR (Virtual Reality)?
We found this article by Will Mason from upload VR to be very comprehensive. 

http://uploadvr.com/desktop-console-and-mobile-a-survey-of-the-current-state-of-vr-displays/



Get In The Game with NBA & Bloomingdale's

When Bloomingdale's partnered with the NBA for the 2015 All-Star game, they installed a street length of basketball-inspired shop windows at their New York City flagship store on 59th & Lexington. Six weeks before launch, NBA Entertainment engaged Current to develop an interactive experience for fans on the high-street.

Challenge accepted.

Current developed Get In The Game, a Kinect-powered free-throw. Launched on 19 January, in the lead up to the All Star Weekend in Brooklyn, the game drew an average 600+ daily interactions. 

"We are always looking for new ways to engage with our fashion-forward fan base, and we felt the NBA shop-in-shop was the perfect opportunity to unite fashion and basketball as we celebrate the NBA All-Star Game's return to the city," said Lisa Piken Koper, NBA vice president of licensing.