Silicon Valley's Hottest Innovations 2016

Virtual Wizards

Baobab Studios wants to redefine virtual reality through its unique and immersive way of storytelling

Dawid Bilski

Baobab Studios - Comapny DetailsInvasion! is a story form about two aliens Mac and Cheez who are on a mission to take over Earth and destroy whoever stands in their way. But despite all their firepower and technology, earthlings defeat the invaders. Only the earthlings weren’t human instead they were two white fluffy bunnies, Chloe and, oh wait, I was the other one! I double checked, definitely me in a 360-degree bunny body. Depending on the headset you have on, you can jump around the room as the characters follow you around. I took the easy route and decided to take their word for it. As I put on the headset, I was instantly transported from Baobab’s office in Redwood City straight into a scene from what could have been any Pixar animation movie standing on a frozen lake as the spaceship landed close to me. Only I wasn’t just watching, I was saving the world with Chloe.  As I scored my first Virtual Reality (VR) victory and almost high-fived Chloe on my way out, I realised what an immersive experience VR can be and how it can change the storytelling paradigm, be it in movies or in a classroom when a teacher is teaching the kids about dinosaurs or ancient Rome. They don’t have to imagine it they can experience it.

That’s the magic VR can create and Baobab Studios is taking it beyond the realm of gaming to a larger audience who are looking for a new way to experience content. Maureen Fan and Eric Darnell came together in 2015 to form Baobab Studios, named after the Baobab tree known as the tree of life. Fan as the vice president at Zynga oversaw three studios, including the Farmville sequels, which contributed 40% of the overall revenues. Darnell is known for writing the screenplay and directing the Madagascar franchise which all together grossed $2.5 billion. When you put the headset on, it is magic so there is no question on whether VR will be the medium of the future, it’s more a question of when. “But for that to happen,” says Maureen Fan, CEO, Baobab Studios, “we need good content that makes people go out and buy the headsets. You need to give them a reason to be excited about what they are going to see and it has to be something they want to see many times over.” The challenge, though, is that there is not enough good content that universall


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