About this project
We use virtual reality to take you, the viewer, inside the amazing worlds created by video game designers, filmmakers, scientists, and more. In each episode, we'll use VR to interview creators from inside the digital worlds that they've created, giving you a unique new perspective on their work.
For the first season of the show, we're producing five episodes. We'll release the first episode on Oculus Home and Steam in December, a few weeks after this Kickstarter closes. And if you haven't bought a VR headset yet, Kickstarter backers will be able to watch the first season using our experimental non-VR client. After that, you'll get two episodes of The FOO Show every month, until we complete this first season.
STRETCH GOALS: We've posted stretch goals in the updates section, but we wanted to let you know about them here. We're already adding hats that you can put on the avatars in the first season of the show. Our next goal is to add a virtual version of the delightful Danny Baranowsky as our bandleader to the first season. Check out the post for full details, and enjoy a sneak peek at the theme he's written for us below.
We have more stretch goals, planned, so let's make this awesome graphic even longer in the next 48 hours or so!
Even if you don't have a VR headset, you can watch (and interact with) The FOO Show. In addition to standing and room-scale VR with hand controllers (like the Oculus Touch or HTC Vive), seated or standing VR with a gamepad, Kickstarter backers will get exclusive early access to our 2D client. Using the 2D client, you'll be able to watch the show, explore the environment, and even pick up, rotate, and take a closer look at the objects you find in the world.
At FOO, we believe that VR shows should highlight the strengths of virtual reality. They should be engaging and interactive, but most of all, they should be fun. That's why we've built immersive, 3D-rendered worlds for our guests and viewers to explore. Our show can only exist in virtual reality. If you've tried our Firewatch episode, you know that exploring the inside of a video game--walking around and picking up props is exciting, fun, and a completely unique experience. (If you haven't tried it yet, what are you waiting for? Head over to Steam or Oculus Home and try it out now, the preview is free!)
Ultimately, we believe making this kind of virtual reality show should be accessible to everyone. You shouldn't need a Hollywood production studio and a multi-million dollar budget to build the type of shows we envision. We want the virtual reality equivalent to the television show to take full advantage of the strengths of the medium--VR demands interactivity. Producing The FOO Show on a regular schedule is the first step on the path to making that dream a reality.
We've been working on FOO for more than a year. It turns out, it takes time to turn an idea into something people can use every day. Our deliberate approach has let us continue to iterate and learn from our experiments and minimize time lost due to mistakes.
We started with the animation. Andre built a simple prototype last summer to experiment with inverse kinematics using the Rift DK2 and a Razer Hydra. He sent a version of that to me so I could see how it worked in person.
As you can see, the movement was OK, but the arm joints weren't modeled in a believable way. Instead of the complex movement of the human shoulder, we relied on a simple ball and socket joint.
Our next step was to build a demo we could show to potential production partners and investors. We brought Sindre on, who built the first version of my custom avatar, and jammed out a demo that I showed to a few hundred people in the fall of 2015.
We iterated the demo a few times, and went to some fun/weird places building variants with increasingly weird features. Those culminated in this proto-FOO Show, where I interviewed myself about why I quit my job to start a VR company. It demonstrated the VR talk show concept to people who didn't get it, but was also kind of terrifying.
Our next major milestone was our first public release of the Firewatch episode. In addition to figuring out how to record our avatars, we also had to track objects, and it was our first time recording multiple people at the same time, in the same space.
Since then, we've done a lot more work, added the ability to animate and track the state of objects in the world, further improved the character animation, added a rudimentary editor, built the experimental 2D client, built a VR-native user interface for the client, and lots more. We can't wait to show you what else we've been working on.
We're raising $50,000 to pay for production of the first five episodes of The FOO Show. Our costs vary based on the location we're shooting, the amount of hardware we need on-site, the personnel we need on-site, the number of guests we have, and the complexity of the game assets we have to import or create. While travel and on-site personnel can be expensive, our largest cost lies in building virtual sets, creating avatars for our guests, and adapting art from other projects to work in virtual reality. Our cost for the episodes we're planning ranges from $5,000 to $20,000, with an average price of $10,000.
We already have one full episode of The FOO Show done and ready to publish, with more ready to shoot during the Kickstarter campaign. We'll start posting episodes of The FOO Show as soon as we can send codes to backers, to ensure that backers will be the first to get access to the new episodes. After that, we'll publish two episodes a month until the first season is completed.
No one has tried to do a 3D-rendered VR show on a schedule this aggressive before, so by supporting FOO, you're helping make VR history.
To make The FOO Show, we've built tools and infrastructure for VR that mimics a live television studio. Our tools let creators front-load the hard work of making 3D-rendered VR so that they can record and release shows quickly, without the need for much post-production, just like a TV studio.
We wanted to be able to record shows using off-the-shelf hardware, including the HTC Vive and Oculus Touch. Using this hardware helps keep our costs down, but it also affords interesting opportunities for multiplayer experiences in the future.
We use the Vive and some complex math to animate our 3D characters. This lets us capture the nuances of human motion, so that even though our characters use a low-fidelity art style, your brain immediately starts treating them like humans. After just a few moments in an episode of The FOO Show, you'll forget that you're in a recording of human-like avatars and will feel like a fly on the wall of a fascinating conversation.
In the real world, productions ranging from the local news to The Price is Right to The Tonight Show happen in live studios. By building these tools for VR, we hope to enable a massive explosion in the variety and quality of non-gaming VR experiences. We're using The FOO Show to refine our tools and pipeline. When they're ready, we'll bring in more creators, with the eventual goal of making FOO technology available to anyone who'd like to make 3D-rendered, interactive VR shows.
We've put together some awesome rewards for backers! There are more details below, or feel free to send us a question if you're curious about anything.
If you back at the $20 level or higher, you'll get your choice of an Oculus Home or Steam code that's good for the entire first season of The FOO Show. Steam users will also get access to the non-VR client. Before you ask, we have versions of FOO for Sony's Playstation VR (PSVR), GearVR, and Google's Project Daydream in the works, but they won't be ready until 2017.
So far, we've announced that Season 1 will feature Brendon Chung discussing his game, Quadrilateral Cowboy. We'll have more episodes to announce in coming weeks.
We've also put together some exclusive rewards for people who back us. These designs will only be available through this Kickstarter, so once it's done, they'll be gone.
Our T-shirts are screenprinted in the San Francisco Bay Area and will be as close to the one Will wears in the first season of the show as we can make them. (If you want the low-poly look from the show, expect to spend lots of time with an iron and starch.) We're doing these as a print-to-order run, so it will be a while before we can ship them out, but that means you'll be able to order any size you'd like in men's or women's fits. Oh, and you can also get any color you'd like, as long as it's black.
We've also commissioned an awesome collectible pin. It features Will's avatar and is made of die-cast metal with a highly-polished surface. The pin is of comparable quality to Pinny Arcade or Disney trading pins, and comes with a metal butterfly clasp.
Finally, for folks who love cutting and gluing small pieces of paper, we've harnessed the power of Pepakura to make a papercraft bust of Will's avatar that any backer at any level can print and assemble. Once finished, the digital Will will be yours forever, to keep a watchful eye over the other stuff on your swag shelf or use as an effigy. It's up to you!
We also have a very limited number of unique experiences. If you'd like a one-on-one tour of our virtual studio, Will would love to show you around (you'll need to provide your own Vive, PC, and Internet connection). If you'd rather have a custom rigged avatar in the unique FOO style, we'd love to make one for you. Once we're done, you'll get the 3D assets and will be free to use them however you'd like, including commercial projects (with approval from us). If you'd like, we'll also include your avatar in our regular studio audience.
Will Smith is the CEO of FOO VR and the host of The FOO Show. You likely know him as one of the co-hosts of Tested.com, its YouTube channel, and podcasts, but Will has been covering technology for more than 15 years. He got his start writing about alternative operating systems and graphics cards at Ars Technica, before moving to Maximum PC, where he ended up as the editor-in-chief. After Will tried an early prototype Oculus Rift, he was hooked, and is convinced that VR/AR represents the next major platform for computing.
Andre Infante is FOO's lead developer. He's been waiting for virtual reality since he read Snow Crash at age twelve. Originally recruited on the basis of a grainy Youtube video shared in a Reddit post, Andre is fascinated by the problem of reproducing authentic human interactions inside of virtual worlds.
Sindre Skaare is the lead artist at FOO. Originally from Norway, he moved to San Francisco to attend college and spent 3 years in the Bay Area games industry. He's worked for studios like Warner Brothers, nWay, and Massive Black. He also had a short gig with Campo Santo, which is how he met Will. Now he's moved back to Norway and is shacked up in a weird little hackerspace in Oslo where he tinkers with polygons and shaders.
"It’s like hanging out inside a videogame with the people who created it." - Wired
“...it creates a real sense of actually being there.” - Famitsu
"It’s a bit crude and clumsy at times, but the potential of Smith’s show is tremendous." - Kotaku
"This is what modern talk shows should be." - deprecatedcoder
"Because of VR it feels like you are participating in the talkshow instead of just watching one." - Tabledevil
"this is actually REALLY enagaging... It's really hard to describe, but works VERY well." - ixobelle
Risks and challenges
The biggest risk is that we won't be able to create episodes as quickly as we anticipate. We currently have one recorded and another that's ready to shoot, but adapting each new game to work with FOO presents a unique set of challenges. That said, our schedule should include enough extra time to accommodate the unexpected and allow us to get the remaining four episodes shot, edited, and published.
We haven't booked every slot for the first season yet. Some publishers and developers are understandably anxious about giving us access to their intellectual property so we can integrate it in FOO. It's possible, but unlikely, that we'll run out of people who have made interesting games and are willing to give us access to their IP before we complete the first season.
We know that making merchandise is difficult, but we have well-established relationships with both the T-shirt and pin manufacturer. We haven't manufactured these types of items at FOO, we have previous experience designing, manufacturing, and distributing merchandise, and feel that the March 2017 deadline for delivery provides us plenty of time to work out any production kinks.
We are a small team of three people, so illness or injury of one of the core team members could delay production. While we're each extremely careful, we do spend lots of time in VR. If one of us is killed while in virtual reality, that team member's subsequent death in the real world would significantly impact our schedule.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
Frankly, I haven't had time to figure that stuff out. It seems like there's enough interest, so I'll figure it out. If we run out of the T-shirt tier before that happens, we'll add a new international tier so you international folk can get some FOO schwag too.
As soon as possible, but it will be sometime in 2017. We've laid the groundwork to make these ports possible, but we haven't started in earnest on any of them.
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