The moment Dale Carman put on a VR headset, he realized the world was changing.
Carman is one of four who in 2015 founded next-generation creative agency Groove Jones, which uses virtual and augmented reality to bring imagination to life.
Carman describes Groove Jones as a creative studio—a group of story-tellers, designers, and technologists—dedicated to helping brands through technological innovations. The company’s recognized, industry-leading capabilities in VR/AR has allowed Carman and his team to work with major clients across a variety of industries, like AT&T, Amazon, Intel, Samsung, Toyota, MasterCard, McDonalds, Under Armour, and the U.S. Army.
In its home base of Dallas, Groove Jones has been augmenting reality across the city.
Back in October, we told you about the Dallas Mavericks AR installation created by Groove Jones on the back of the Downtown YMCA. When viewed with a Facebook filter, the mural animated Dennis Smith Jr. completing a larger-than-life slam dunk. But when Smith was traded to the Knicks, the mural needed a makeover.
So last month, Groove Jones revamped “the largest mural in downtown Dallas” with Luka Doncic, who is predicted to be the NBA’s Rookie of the Year. “The Mavs are so proud to be able to give the fans an innovative and cutting-edge experience using augmented reality to bring Luka Magic to life in the heart of Downtown Dallas,” Mavs CMO Jerome Elenez told Groove Jones.
And, in January, Groove Jones helped us practice what we preach.
Dallas Innovates 2019—The Magazine explored the region as a rising tech superpower and a global hub of innovation. Thanks to Groove Jones, as the publication arrived in mailboxes, readers were able to interact with the cover in augmented reality.
Groove Jones’ Dale Carman was also featured as one of the magazine’s 26 North Texas Innovators who are the future today. Meet the co-founder, partner, and creative director in our extended Q+A.
What makes Groove Jones different?
We are a unique group. Our team hails from diverse disciplines—from creating location-based entertainment and amusement park rides, developing enterprise Apps and video games, to directing broadcast commercials and feature motion pictures. As such we bring advanced expertise in technology such as virtual reality content as well as a strong vision for marketing, advertising and a client account management perspective.
We consider ourselves a next-generation agency, where we are using the latest technologies and techniques to create digital experiences and applications that may not have been possible a year ago. We serve major corporations and organizations and are known for our creativity, innovation and application of technology to drive commercial results.
We’ve developed a set tool and a production pipeline, which we call GrooveTech, that uses technologies like machine learning, artificial intelligence, and blockchain rendering to accomplish things that you would expect from a studio ten times larger than us. This enables us to be nimble, work smarter, and deliver faster. We are selective in the clients we choose and pride ourselves, as reflected in the comments of our clients, by generating solutions that advance their products and services.
What problem is Groove Jones solving?
We work with companies that want to innovate and are trying to solve problems that involve a creative approach.
AR is becoming a huge part of our business. We are using Machine Learning to give our AR (Augmented Reality) experiences intelligence. With Machine Learning, we are letting the Applications we are creating know what they are looking at. This can be a simple as a 2-dimensional printed graphic or marker to advanced 3D object recognition.
These apps are smart enough so that it understands the shape, location, and visual identifiers of objects. Imagine using your phone’s camera as a lens to view the real world. We can add an interactive layer to understand and engage with what we are seeing. We are using this technology to train, educate and entertain specific audiences.
Our visualization engine is optimized for high quality imagery that fit into it’s real world environment. Because of our background in future films and visual effects, we understand how to make things look real when they need to and not like a plastic toy. Our Application engine’s ability to render lighting, shadows and textures have such a high fidelity that they appear real.
AR and VR does a great job of mimicking reality. Great VR and AR can trigger your limbic system, your lizard brain into believing what you see is real. This allows us to create experiences that connect with an audience in a deeper and empathetic way. Similar to how you would in the real world.
We are helping Silicon Valley company View Dynamic Glass solve a business problem. They needed a way to show how their product allows their customers to dynamically control the tint of their windows—this reduces glare and heat. We created a set of VR tools for the sales force to demonstrate how their system works. This included a 4D technology that has a built-in heating element, which allows a customer to see the product in action, but also feel how the glass reduces heat when activated. This is an exciting sales demonstration. The sales and marketing team says that VR is the single best and most used piece of equipment they use as it benefits their sales efforts to uncover and close business faster.
Is there a real-world example you can give?
A great example is the work we are doing with Plano based Toyota. Vehicle advancements have increased the training requirements of dealership personnel and the extensiveness of owner’s manuals. Over the past few months we have been working with the Toyota Lexus team to create an AR training and education tool for their Lexus Delivery/Technology Specialist. The mobile App combines machine learning, computer graphics (CG), and AR to provide an expert system capable of educating Specialists and guests about the features and operating instructions for the vehicle.
We are also working with an international chemical and consumer product company that is investing new ways to train their employees and educate their customers. We are using VR to put them into real world scenarios and to test their knowledge of the various products in the automotive aftermarket space. VR puts the user into the environment that we want them to work within. With VR, we can control the scenarios, so each user can be tested and benchmarked against the same standards. We can track whether or not they are using safety equipment, if they are doing things in the correct order, or if they are using the right product to accomplish a task. This makes the company safer, which saves lives and money.
For the Dallas Mavericks, we created an AR experience that they are using to connect with their fans. This spectacular wall AR experience can be found on the largest canvas available in the heart of downtown Dallas. The mural stretches across the YMCA building and runs an entire city block. We are using image recognition technology to bring the mural to life, creating a dramatic and shareable moment for Mavs fans. The response has been fantastic and has really revolutionized the world of out of home advertising. This brings people closer to game, developing better affinity between team and fan and expands revenues and new revenue stream.
What round of funding are you in?
We are a private, well-funded company. We have been able to grow significantly and will look outside as the need arises in the future to support our clients and build new capabilities.
Why did you launch in Dallas-Fort Worth?
Our core team is all from Dallas-Fort Worth. The metroplex is a great market, centrally located, low cost of living, with a good pool of talent.
What are your real responsibilities day to day?
Creative direction, technical solution finding and problem solving, leading the talented team of artists and developers. I am constantly looking at and testing new and creative technologies to solve our client’s problems and generate new opportunities for them.
How have your previous experiences played a role in your success?
Innovating, finding, building, and leading a team.
What do you like about working in tech in Dallas?
We have a great base of talent here and because of the cost of living, people enjoy the work life balance.
What was your first breakthrough moment?
The moment I put on a VR headset, I realized that the world was changing.
What was your latest breakthrough moment?
Blockchain rendering has really changed the game for us. No longer do we need to invest in a local computer render network. We are now part of the OToy Blockchain Render Network, which enable us to tap into the largest cloud-based network in the world to deliver unparalleled digital content for our clients.
What have you tried and failed at?
Most everything. We constantly work in a world of beta. When you are trying to do something that has never been done before, there is some inherent risk. Our goal is to fail fast and minimize the risk to our clients. Ultimately, we succeed as reflected in our client satisfaction and company growth.
What’s on the horizon for you and Groove Jones?
In the near future, we are excited about the unlimited uses of AR and VR and the fundamental growth of that technology and our placement as one of the real leaders in a nascent industry. Over the past year we have seen tremendous growth in the area of using it for training purposes. Companies need to evolve as their work forces become younger and they need to attract new talent.
Further out, we are very interested in the evolution of light fields. Volumetric media is going to fundamentally change the world. We are starting to see it on platforms like Facebook with our photos, but it is still in the experimental lab space. There will be day when it is available on your personal device and it will change how we think about media. The thought of flat media will be as quaint as black and white photography one day.
Who’s inspiring you right now?
SpaceX and Oculus.
Tell us about a recent breakthrough or some cool tech that’s underway that you’re excited about.
There are two things that come to mind.
- Magic Leap: This year we got the chance to experience what has been one of the most hyped AR headset technologies around. After raising $2.3 billion, they continue to raise money. It still isn’t ready for primetime, but we think it is heading in the right direct. Apple, we are looking at you.
- Oculus Quest: In 2019 we will have a VR headset that has no cables (no PC) and can deliver a room-scale experience without sensors for under $400. That is really exciting.
What advice do you have for someone who is trying to break through in tech right now?
If you are going to succeed in any business you need to talk to your clients. You need to find out where they need help.
This Q+A was used for a series in Dallas Innovates 2019—The Magazine. Allison Hatfield, Alex Edwards, and David Kirkpatrick contributed to the series.
Dallas Innovates 2019—The Magazine highlighted 26 North Texas innovators who are the future today. These men and women are are renegades, visionaries, and people who don’t take no for an answer. And they are all forging the future of tech that has the potential to change the world. Throughout the next month, we will be sharing individual interviews with our innovators as part of the extended magazine content on dallasinnovates.com.
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Dallas Innovates 2019—The Magazine explores the region as a rising tech hub that will shape the future of innovation. The theme of our second annual print publication, “A Breakout Moment,” explores why now is the time for the region to grab its place in the tech universe.
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