When I first heard about Two Bit Circus I was struck by their description: inventors, developers and performers. They operate in the entertainment arena applying innovative and immersive technologies and solutions, but the reasons I’m discussing them here aren’t exactly what you’d expect to hear about a brilliant start-up. First of all, I’ve read they use virtual reality in their productions. All I’ve learned about virtual reality recently is regarding new headsets or apps; both are usually good things fueled by huge investments, but remain a bit cold to me. I always have the feeling that virtual reality innovators want to create parallel worlds that you can enjoy alone in your chair, while Two Bit is working hard to create social VR that isn’t a solo experience.
Two Bit Circus uses technology to facilitate social interactions at events (from parties to conferences, and beyond), which is something new, but at the same time very embedded in the social nature of human beings. As I wrote about the concept of “shoptainment” in one of my previous posts, my imagination wondered in store. It’s a public venue in the end and the possibility to add gaming, interaction and amusement is something that can go far beyond the standard loyalty practices. But let me go back to the main topic.
I asked to Brent Bushnell, one of the founders of Two Bit Circus, what is the origin of this project and his answer lets me introduce the real reason for my interest in Two Bit Circus: kids, creativity and what I call “technology for good”. “Our core team was the on-camera inventors of the ABC TV show Extreme Makeover Home Edition. We would build new inventions for the families on each episode. We also had a hand in creating the viral music video, featuring a Rube Goldberg machine, for the band OK Go that got 50 Million views. After both the TV show and the music video, we got requests and inquiries from parents and teachers about what we had built. They mentioned that kids thought what we were building was cool and they didn’t realize that was possible with a background in science or engineering. We realized we had a very unique opportunity to share with kids how awesome it is to be a nerd, and that there’s never been a better time. So we decided to launch a traveling STEAM Carnival to bring our experience to as many kids as possible.”
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STEAM is an acronym that stands for science, technology, engineering, art, and math. (To learn more about Two Bit Circus’ STEAM Carnival, you can visit steamcarnival.com) If you think the word “art” fits well among the others and it’s not the unwanted guest, you’re catching the spirit of this company. Brent’s words on this are very clear: “Our main focus is inspiring the next generation of inventors and building the future of entertainment. Currently, that stems from our STEAM Carnival and our work in virtual reality. As for success, we’re big fans of rapid prototyping, testing and iterating. It’s hard to know in advance what people will like so we generally build things as fast as possible so we can get user feedback early and evolve the user experience.” [At this point of the story, you might think I’m a bit emphatic to this company. Well, let me say that, as for any other start-up mentioned in my blog I have no personal or business relationships with them.]
My interest in Two Bit continues because education and entertainment are two huge markets that are growing in the Western world and will continue to perform strongly in the future. On social networks education is by far the topic driving the highest rates of engagement. Entertainment is exactly the opposite, which means to me a huge opportunity exists. Also stats on leisure time in the real world are amazing. The one below, related to the US, immediately confirms how people take entertainment “seriously”.
If you think that leisure and education are two extremes of the continuum, I invite you to rethink that as new technologies bring the two together with increased satisfaction for users. It’s here that I see there’s room for startups like Two Bit Circus. Their recent successes in the investment world confirms my point of view, just a few weeks ago, Two Bit announced $6.5 Million in Series A funding, to accelerate building the future of fun. Brent Bushnell again explains it simply: “If we do our job correctly, there will be new forms of entertainment you’ve not experienced to date, and an army of curious, talented and capable nerds ready to take on the worlds hardest problems.” This idea of future technologies, like simple sensors or complex artificial intelligence bringing people together in real life is a promising challenge that the Futurist Hub will keep monitored along the way.
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