Interview: Entering Virtual Reality & Blockchain with CEEK VR’s Mary Spio
CEEK is a virtual reality platform that is offering a tokenized gateway to exclusive VR experiences such as album-specific VR experiences, “live” concerts, and more.
The company recently raised 22K ETH in their 2018 ICO to explore a business model that empowers musicians to create virtual worlds around their world. CEEK aims to utilize a portion of the funds to build VR/AR studios across the United States to help partners and entertainers create branded experiences for their audiences and CEEK users.
CEEK presents a glimpse at the potential of a consumer-facing intersection of VR/AR and blockchain. Part of the CEEK offering is the creation of an “Entertainment Metaverse”, a virtual world where users will have access to a wide variety of experiences.
We got a chance to interview CEEK Founder Mary Spio on the future of virtual reality, blockchain’s integration into various industries, and entrepreneurship in a rapidly evolving industry.
Spio is a former Deep Space Engineer that has worked with companies such as Boeing Digital Cinema (where she helped create a technology that was implemented by Lucas Films, 20th Century Fox, and other major studios), Intelsat and Aerospace Corp.
She has provided technical guidance for projects and companies such as Microsoft Xbox, Tribune News Company, Coca-Cola, Toyota, and over 200 radio stations. Spio is also on the advisory boards for Oculus VR for Good (Facebook) and Amazon Launchpad.
Can you tell us what CEEK fans have to look forward to in terms of upcoming partnerships and collaborations with artists and sports teams?
Our partnership with Universal Music is deepening, we have massive projects upcoming. We are partnered with the Sacramento Kings, Orlando Magic Gaming, Real Madrid’s Dani Carvajal and over 100 music artists and personalities who will be releasing experiences on the CEEK platform and directly promoting to their fanbase. CEEK brings a network and community that extends to the celebrity fanbase and exceeds 1 Billion.
Our plan is to increase marketing within the network offering varying packages ($10 to $250+), that could yield hundreds of millions dollars’ worth of token purchases, while opening up completely new markets, audiences, and resources for our partners and exchanges. CEEK has already partnered with an award show that received over 60M votes for an upcoming exclusive offer that will accept CEEK Tokens for voting, viewing and interactions.
We have a phenomenal line up ranging from Music to Sports and everything in between. With Exclusive interviews and behind the scene access to the biggest names in entertainment, CEEK VR is positioned to offer a 360 VR lineup like we’ve never seen before. The biggest issue facing the VR world is consistency, until CEEK VR no one was programming for VR like what we are used to on Television i.e. premium episodic content consistently.
We are making history with the premiere of Hollywood Rooftop for example, which is a fully scripted series by Mr. Brett Leonard, the legendary director who inspired Oculus Rift creator Palmer Luckey.
Many VR companies have been focused more on the gaming market, yet VR and gaming seem to be failing to catch on. Is that why the CEEK strategy is aimed more at general entertainment?
The “CEEK Strategy” has always been focused on the everyday content consumer. Gaming is an important sector within the VR industry that targets hardcore gamers. Most VR companies have no experience with mainstream audiences, so have targeted them in the same way that they target hardcore gamers and that simply doesn’t work.
CEEK has proven consistently that when you put the experience and storytelling first the technology becomes an afterthought and adoption increases. We packaged our content for Megadeth, Lady Gaga, One Republic fans and they responded because the content resonated.
We are now scaling the successes that we’ve had with a mainstream audience, first helping Xbox grow their user base to mainstream non-gaming audiences, and also replicating that success with content we created for Megadeth’s Grammy Winning album Dystopia.
We believe that with our patented mobile solutions and premium immersive content offerings the mainstream adoption of VR will be smooth and effortless.
Where do you see the future direction of VR over the next 1-2 years? And further into the future?
I see Virtual Reality as a growing medium for learning, social connectivity, self-expression, and relaxation. The industry will experience a sizeable uptake once more favorable and compelling content offerings are provided that help people learn, connect, create content and chill out.
Converging VR and Blockchain is opening up some exciting possibilities for artists and sports teams to monetize their VR concerts and events. CEEK also plans to offer “digital merchandising.” Can you explain a little more about what forms digital merchandise may take?
Digital merchandise will include everything from signed albums, branded clothing for avatars to rare performances, skins and celebrity interactions that are digitally authenticated on the blockchain as to their authenticity and rarity. These items will also extend to real-life items ranging from signed guitars to an artist entire performance outfit and even 3D printed goods.
What kind of opportunities does this create for artists, teams, and fans?
The opportunities are endless, artists and teams can now sell digital merchandise and tickets without geographic, physical and other limitations. New streams of revenue and markets are now opened through CEEK. The CEEK coin is a universal currency for digital media verification, access authentication and most importantly decentralization by payments to content creators via smart contracts.
CEEK’s has undertaken a complete overhaul of our infrastructure to use blockchain in as many features as possible. To that end we’ve created several new APIs to connect the infrastructure to blockchain implementations. For example, when users open a CEEK account, they receive wallets and the ability to own CEEK tokens already linked. Purchases can be made with CEEK tokens, or fiat, eth and concerted to CEEK, the process is completely seamless, so users do not have to overcome the tall learning curve for those new to the crypto world.
Our aim with these integrations is to enable widespread adoption of blockchain technology bringing all the benefits of an open secure ledger but all the easy user experience provided by current widely used technologies.
Is blockchain technology fundamental to the CEEK model or are you capitalizing on a trend?
Blockchain technology is fundamental to the CEEK model. We already had a tokenized system that was based on points and fractional distribution of royalties to content creators, and with the blockchain integration, we have made the process simple, efficient and transparent.
Having an immutable record of what has been accessed increases trust of the CEEK platform and exponentially increases our pipeline. We believe in transparency, this is important to music labels, performers, artists and other content creators who utilize our platform. Blockchain offers the ability to accurately account and credit for all playbacks.
What would you say to people who claim that VR is dead or will never take off?
Implementation is key! Every company has a different strategy and outlook towards VR. We believe that VR is still in its early stages, the major driving force for adoption will be content and ease of use. When we launched Megadeth at retail people said CD buyers are not early adopters, we proved them wrong when more than twenty thousand people came out to buy our VR bundle in 24hours, and we continued to sell out.
Many of those people knew nothing about VR, nor could they care less – what they cared about was the experience of being on stage with their favorite band, and our VR headset enabled that.
It’s simple. Build content people want, make it easy to access the content and it works. You have a bunch of video game geeks with limitless pockets and not an ounce of understanding of mainstream audiences trying to sell VR to the world and that’s killing the entire industry. Empower the creatives and magic happens- which is what CEEK is all about.
Understanding that the access barriers for VR are high, we allow people to access our content in all different devices, from Smart TV devices to Mobile and Desktop devices, and continue to bring them into the VR world. So, enjoy the content in ways that you’re used to, and then we show them that it’s better in VR.
Using the new Blockchain platform, CEEK will allow artists to mint “branded tokens” – customized crypto tokens. Can you explain more about how this works? How can fans buy and sell these tokens? How will they accumulate value?
They will be able to buy the tokens no different than buying artist tickets. The tokens will accumulate value since there will be a limited amount released for attending events and acquiring rare authenticated products and interactions by the artist.
Celebrity Coin Cast “Minting” of coins & virtual merchandise draws from the CEEK reserves for all items created and will, therefore, be a driving force behind the value of CEEK Tokens as well. A Bancor Token Converter can be launched for each smart token with a CEEK reserve using a configurable “weight”. Once the tokens are minted, the total number of custom tokens may fluctuate and the price will dynamically adjust based on market sentiment and demand.
Celebrity minted coins and virtual objects can gain their own inherent value inside of CEEK. For example, if Lady Gaga issues a custom VIP virtual ticket for a private party access to an exclusive event, the market demand for this event according to the total supply will dictate the ticket price and inherent value inside of CEEK VR.
Can you tell us about your plans to build VR studios for artists? Why is this important?
We plan on building “Micro Studios” around the world. This is important to give content creators around the world an opportunity to create, distribute and monetize immersive content. The tools and workflow for producing immersive content are rather expensive and unnecessarily complicated, by having easy access on a decentralized network we enable scaling of a diverse array of content.
What is CEEK doing to ensure regulatory compliance now that the SEC is getting stricter?
We have a great legal team that is in communication with SEC regarding material decision to ensure compliance. We are a utility token, one of the very few that has an official governing body declare it so. CEEK has been declared a utility token by the FMA (Financial Market Authority), Liechtenstein’s equivalent of SEC.
We see from your bio that you are a veteran of the US Air Force. It’s an interesting leap from military, into VR. Can you tell us about that journey?
I actually first experienced immersion in a flight simulator. I was a satellite technician in the Air Force. The Air Force is highly technical and hands on, so you get a rather deep understanding of technology if you are in a technical field.
The Head of Global Partnerships (and former NFL lineman) Akim Millington recently spoke of the CEEK vision to have fans being right beside their favorite teams as they play. How far off is that vision?
That vision is not that far off, we are implementing the technology to be able to enjoy a sporting event from many different perspectives starting with eSports which has a natural alignment with virtual reality.
Do you see anything problematic in creating virtual worlds? We’re already hearing about teenagers looking at screens for nine hours a day and see people glued to their smartphones. How would you comment on the argument that CEEK could be creating further technological bubbles keeping people in isolation?
They said the same thing about social media, that it will isolate people, when it’s done the opposite, it’s made people more social. People are sharing their lives with friends and people from all around the globe. I’ve reconnected with friend from kindergarten through college thanks to social media, the same is true for most people. Now with VR, we can actually share worlds and experiences with people in a way like never before.
Isolation and a sense of not belonging anywhere cause a lot of issues in society. Virtual worlds like social media will connect people in ways that we’ve never seen before, being able to find and enjoy life with like-minded people. We plan on offering VR Dance, Fitness and more ways for being to disconnect and relax.
What we’ve discovered is that people actually want to experience what they enjoy virtually. VR is a gateway to actual experiences. It’s a media evolution and we are pushing people along the continuum – real teleportation and time travel is next.
CEEK VR Labs is doing some interesting work in the area of health care, including general education on basic first aid training. Can you share some further details around the scope of VR in the more specialist medical training for professionals that is being undertaken?
Emerging Changes in healthcare delivery are having a significant impact on healthcare education. Medical Knowledge doubles every 6–8 years so continuing education at all levels represents an important challenge. Virtual Reality online training provides an engaging educational context, supporting learning-by-doing and contributing to raising staff motivation and experience. The Result is increased patient safety and substantial cost reduction at all levels. The human brain hasn’t developed the capability to distinguish between virtual experiences and real ones, so with VR people can build proficiency and ‘real experience’ faster.
Does CEEK plan to delve into other industries apart from entertainment and healthcare?
The plan is to continue to offer value in as many ways as possible. We are at the end of the day a startup, so we have to be very focused. I learned a long time ago that as a startup, don’t earn the right to do many things till you’ve done one thing extremely well.
Anything else you would like our readers to know?
We are excited about the road ahead. CEEK offers a utility for real-world usage and with increased content comes increased demand for the tokens, our headsets, platform and overall products.
We believe that in a short time CEEK will truly become a universal currency for digital media enabling transparent content access rights, management, and payments. It’s a great time to get CEEK tokens. CEEK is available on LATOKEN, IDEX, CoinSuper, RightBTC, and Bancor.
Editor’s note: The above article is purely informational and for entertainment, it is not meant to constitute investment advice.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alex is the Editor-in-Chief of CoinCentral. Alex also advises blockchain startups, enterprise organizations, and ICOs on content strategy, marketing, and business development. He also regrets not buying more Bitcoin back in 2012, just like you.