The First-Ever Live, Virtual Reality Comedy Special Could Only Happen Now

The very first thing you discover after strapping on a CEEK Virtual Reality headset is that the seats in its simulated theatre are empty, which is an eerie approximation of the ambiance in shuttered live performance venues and film homes all over the world. A product that was designed to simulate a commonplace, however typically inaccessible, shopper expertise — like attending a Lady Gaga live performance at Madison Square Garden or witnessing U2 wow hundreds at Rose Bowl Stadium, each CEEK choices — has out of the blue turn into its closest real-world designate.

This was not what the corporate’s founder and CEO, Mary Spio, had in thoughts when she launched CEEK in 2015. The enterprise was an entrepreneurial step in her profession, which started with coaching as an Air Force engineer and developed into groundbreaking work as a satellite-communications designer for NASA and Boeing. (The tech she helped pioneer for the latter was commercialized by Lucasfilm within the Star Wars franchise.)

Ideally, CEEK — which boasts proprietary tech and streaming capabilities and is blockchain-enabled — would steadily be embraced by each artists and the general public as a solution to increase their relationship to dwell leisure. If she constructed it, Spio reasoned, content material companions and shoppers would come. And over its five-year existence, they've. Shows, one-off performances and interviews from the likes of U2, Snoop Dogg, Miley Cyrus and Megadeth are streamable in 2D through their web site and may also be seen by way of the CEEK app in 360 mode, in addition to with its VR headset. But it has been a sluggish burn.

“The idea was initially that this is something that could just augment things for [the artist], not replace the communal, in-person experience,” explains Spio, who was born in New York and raised in Ghana and at present resides in Chicago. “Think of bands like Guns N’ Roses. They would sell out a million tickets in 24 hours. Or Adele, who was selling 100,000 tickets and 10 million people tried to buy them. This is a way to extend the reach. But it was not a real consideration for a lot of artists because they were thinking, ‘Well, I'm doing just fine.’”

Then in March, performances areas closed indefinitely, and curiosity in CEEK accelerated. Existing companions like Bon Jovi and Demi Lovato contacted Spio, desirous to quicken the tempo with which they might roll out VR choices, and the variety of exterior queries from potential new shoppers swelled.

As Spio surmises, “Now, once [artists] get to experience it, they realize, ‘Hey, I have fans that might never be able to see me.’ It has them looking at where the void is right now and seeing a real revenue generator — that they could still reach a million people who are paying to come and see their concert.”

Not all artists wanted such convincing. Legendary standup comic D.L. Hughley — who together with Bernie Mac, Steve Harvey and Cedric the Entertainer, comprised one-fourth of iconic late-'90s touring outfit the Kings of Comedy — is at all times eyeing methods to be progressive, and CEEK was on his radar lengthy earlier than comedy golf equipment began closing their doorways as a part of stay-at-home orders. 

He’d already inked a take care of Spio for real-time VR broadcast of an upcoming collection of dates, an endeavour that has since been reimagined as a single, first-ever, digital actuality standup present, CEEK VR Presents The Laugh Experience, which can stream on and thru its headset (by the use of the CEEK app) on May 15 at 9 p.m. While he is rolled with the punches, Hughley definitely didn’t anticipate the particular doubling as a bellwether for a way his medium would possibly survive within the coming months and perhaps past.

“I didn’t know this would take social distancing to its natural conclusion,” he deadpans in regards to the newly streamlined Laugh Experience experiment. “But whenever there are times like this, innovation and technology spring forward. [CEEK] has a chance to become imbued in the nation’s psyche at a time when things were changing, and become something that was comforting and that changed the landscape. We don’t know what will be after this, but one thing it doesn’t hurt to have is the ability to see things at a safe distance, and I think this is all of that.”

Spio, in flip, credit Hughley with protecting issues laid again as they approached the mission with a completely new sense of urgency and an unprecedented set of challenges. “As a comedian, he's always making light of things,” confirms Spio. “He's very flexible and adaptable.”

Still, as soon as they agreed the present should go on, there was the inescapable reality of how that would occur with Hughley, and audiences, locked down at residence. As Spio remembers, “The conversation had a turn to, OK, now we kind of have to speed up the home-studio component of this because you can't actually even be out on the road.”

While there had been a watch on these sorts of developments down the road, CEEK out of the blue needed to “build on the fly and test out everything and get it out” to Hughley nearly in a single day, Spio says, nonetheless considerably in awe that all of it got here collectively.

Laughing, Hughley remembers when one thing resembling a “spy briefcase” arrived at his door. “My wife was like, ‘I'm not gonna open that till I find out what it is.’ It was real Mission: Impossible-type shit. I was like, ‘Goddamn, they ain’t playing.’”

He would have ordinarily had his extra tech-savvy daughter help, however she was remoted in a separate location. So Hughley waded in solo. “This is how simple it was,” he says. “I did it without having to call anybody,” with an emphasis on the “I,” suggesting he’s not usually self-sufficient in relation to placing collectively subtle audio-visual accompaniment to his units.

Like everybody else who depends on the connection between performer and viewers, Hughley is hopeful that he’ll packing amphitheatres once more quickly, however he additionally is aware of The Laugh Experience represents a possibility to make historical past in a historic time. “It’s very important that it gets the launch it deserves,” he says. “Because people are always going to want to be entertained, but they want to do it in a way that’s safe.”

It’s not the mission Spio set out upon when she took CEEK to buyers, however it’s apt {that a} lady who helped satellites ship messages from outer house can be ready to make our future seen now.

“Running this business suddenly has a different calling than it might've before,” she acknowledges. “We've had to accelerate and run faster, but now we're capturing the demand that’s there, and it's wild.”
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