Schedule now being determined, planned stops include: Boston MA (ARIA /MIT), NYC, Washington D.C., Rochester NY, Toledo OH, Detroit, Ann Arbor MI, Chicago, Natchez MS, Denver CO, Boulder CO, New Orleans, Austin (SXSW), Los Angeles, San Francisco(GDC)
Graduate of the Rochester Institute of Technology, director/writer/producer for Cartoon Network, Fox, Fuji TV and CNN, Stephen Black was involved with a $3.2M gaming startup, from 2002-7. He then became a writer/artist while waiting for mobile spatial computing(AR/VR) to mature.
Now is the time to produce AR content for industry, art and entertainment- and games.
I have been involved with games/spatial computing since 2002, and am now ready to launch an AR startup that involves games, filmmaking and video/content production. If you, or someone you know, is interested in investing, I hope we can talk.
I can share the successful pitch I used at TechCrunch Shenzhen a week ago. As positive as the response was, it never hurts to share a vision, especially if that vision includes a unicorn. onwARd, Stephen Black
PS The flyer below is a bit out of date; the startup idea mentioned below includes games.
This blog has many posts about AR and startup plans, all of which are outdated, but do provide insights.
Hello and welcome. My name is Stephen Black and I work with media, words and art.
Media: VR, computer-generated environments,video and photography.
Words: articles and books, including Bali Wave Ghost, I Ate Tiong Bahru (a national bestseller in Singapore), Tiong Bahru Mouth, Obama Search Words and a few others.
This post gives you some idea of my current projects.
Thank you for stopping by.
Ai Wewei, Yesim Agaoglu, Stephen Black, Eugene Soh collaboration in gallery.sg
Works created with ink
If one person can be said to symbolize the Tiong Bahru Market, it might be this guy in the hat...
THIS post was written before SPOKEN started. SPOKEN is a project I am doing with Eugene Soh, an experiment in which art, text, virtual reality and social media intersect. Learn about SPOKEN here.
To enter gallery.sg and experience SPOKEN, click here.
Here is the extremely short version: from 2002 until 2008 I was involved with a visionary virtual reality project that combined educational practices with gamemaking and multimedia. However, the spiritual captain of the project was part Disney, part Microsoft and part Sex Pistols. An unexpected death, treachery, incompetence, inexperience, bureaucratic boondoggles and more made my life "interesting"... I have pages of notes about the events and the spirit of the times. We were doing things like Youtube and Second Life before they started. The project was so close... and yet so far away. (Actually, now that mobile technology has settled down, I hope that the lessons and products of that experience can be revitalized. But that's yet another story.)
In 2006, as a way of showcasing our technology, I entered a gamemaking hackathon. A theme was given on a Thursday morning and the next day at five the results were judged.The theme was something about healthy eating, I think. Working with my programmer in Hong Kong, we made a game in which the viewer learned about the calorie count of certain foods. The player competed with an AI character. It was fun to do.
However, what I remember most was a team that made an incredible flash game. I don't remember if they won or not, but I do remember two guys on that team very well. George Parel and Eugene Soh were full of energy, knowledge and bursting with creative ideas.
They still are.
I've been lucky to work with George and Eugene on a few projects since then. In 2008 I finally had to put the educational gamemaking project on hold while I waited for a programmer and the mobile device situation to stabilize.I put more time into writing and art projects. George and Eugene (that dude from Singapore) however, have kept on doing remarkably creative things with IT, art, design and more.
Virtual reality may seem to be an artificial place, but the gallery Eugene has created fills me with memories and hope. I am honored and very thankful for I Ate Tiong Bahru to be on display in gallery.sg
This informal essay is my way of marking the end of a certain era in ebook history. It's part snapshot, part reference materials, part journal.At the end of this post are notes about me, my experiences and my books.
Thanks to Doug Rolph for his insights on economics, Eric Hellman for his input and my dad for having taken care of our family by selling books.
το πνεύμα του Ιανού
After I finish writing eight books, I will begin marketing. Until then, I'll probably study the ebook world less and hopefully do more writing, arting and engaging with Life. When it does comes time for me to contribute to the marketing conversation, I hope I have something to say. For now, I present the following notes, quotes and thoughts as a means of punctuating a phase in the development of ebooks as I have seen and experienced it.
This is an exciting time. The ebook delivery platforms are finally stable, self-publishing has proven to have great value and a number of services have recently appeared that shorten the distances between readers and authors. It seems to me that indie ebooks and ebook marketing are about to enter a new era.
This blog post makes little mention of traditional publishing. This is simply because, as much as I would like to enjoy the benefits of being a Big 5/6 author, that fruit is not now within my reach. I am however, considering joining the Author's Guild.
Although I've done almost no marketing, I have studied the environments in which ebooks are created, presented, bought and sold. Some observations:
1. Except for uploading, nothing about ebooks is easy.
Writing is the anti-social social media, full of long, long hours of pressure-filled solitude. Assembling an error-free book is never simple. The social part, finding an audience, is an immense challenge. I respect all of the authors mentioned in this post for they have successfully met these challenges and more.
Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.Stephen King
Based on my experiences, the work breakdown of an 88,000 word novel looks something like this: 1000 words a day (88 days) or, more likely, 500 words a day (176 days). Call it 200 days to prepare something for a proofreader. Two months for corrections, art, and ebook conversion. So, a book takes about 300 working days to finalize. About...
And then there are the thousands of actions needed to connect with readers... The title of Guy Kawasaki's excellent book says it all: APE, meaning Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur
This document, by Mark Coker, the founder of Smashwords, is a data-based analysis of the ebook market. Highly recommended, it covers topics important for newbies and veterans. It touches upon issues like word count, pricing, marketing and more. For instance, his research shows that the average bestseller on Smashwords is 100,000 words, and the average romance is 112,195 words. (There are more links to resources at the end of this post.)
Very few traditionally published authors became bestsellers; the same is true for ebook publishing. My goal is not to become a bestseller, but to connect with the largest possible community of people who enjoy the art of reading.
2. A great writer or a great marketer...
....or, the frustration of being caught between not doing enough writing and not doing enough marketing. A writer writes, a salesman sells.
Self-publishing does not equal self-marketing. Spending money wisely on promotion money means income and time to write. (See the links below)
Twitter, Goodreads, FB, LinkedIn and blogging? All have their advantages and disadvantages...
Amazon is huge, Apple is huge, Kobo and Smashwords are very big. Unless you are selling from your own website or the back of your car, you're not truly independent.
OK, A bit of an attention grabber there...but the author's need for a partnership with Amazon and ebook distributors is a dependence that cannot be overlooked. These "automatic partners" will always protect their interests first. They call the shots. Amazon is a business, not an author.
Amanda Hocking is a hugely successful author. At one point, the average daily sales figure of her self-published ebooks was 9000. Again: average DAILY book sales: nine thousand! Her success was based on hard work, technological first mover advantage and an indirect tie-in with Hollywood.
-the successful and pioneering integration of ebook readers into tablets and mobile as well as the launch of the Kindle (2007) and the iPad(2010)
-the large demographic of young women who bought readers and tablets
- the fact that, having written many books, Hocking could quickly provide a new and large market with a variety of new titles
- writing books about the paranormal when Hollywood is pushing the same cannot hurt. Twilight, the hugely successful series of movies about teen vampires began in 2008. Hocking's first book, My Blood Approves, began selling in 2010.
E.L. James' book phenomenon began in the fan fiction chat rooms for Twilight. The characters in Fifty Shades of Grey were originally the characters from Twilight. Could Master of the Universe, as her series was originally called, have achieved its success without an existing network of thousands of Twilight fans?
These two women made their mark upon society in two different ways. As shared, collective book-based experiences: WOW!
However, the writing is..."not terrible" or worse
I remember SF/F authors complaining (back in 2011) that their readers hadn’t switched to e-books yet, casting jealous eyes at the outsized romance audience. But as readers did move across, we saw people like David Dalglish and BV Larson breaking out, and the rest of “genre” fiction soon followed.
There are "indie success stories" about authors who "rode into town" on the backs of traditional publishing. Funded by Big 6 money these "indies" were advertised and publicized, sent on book tours and given things like business cards. Possibly, audiobooks were made. Hundreds, if not thousands, of their books were given away, many to reviewers.
As the 'first mover'possibilities of the ebook market became clear and realistic, these authors, knighted by the Big 6 and armed with credibility and connections, rode onto a battlefield with little opposition... Undoubtedly hard work was involved, but to label them as indies brings to mind the quip about George Bush: "...was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple."
There certainly are "ebook only" indies connecting with many readers and enjoying sales. I just don't know of any. (FOUND SOMEONE: LINDSAY BUROKER Please tell me about others! them! Somewhat related to this, are there any "ebook only" awards?
4. The ebook world evolves to reward the reader; the prepared author benefits from this.
Fan fiction. Goodreads. Ebook readers on mobile phones. The mashup between big data and metadata. Entrepreneurs with vision who see ways to connect authors and readers in a new ways.
It is an exciting time.
Ebooks: Born to Click, Part 2 of 3visit www.blacksteps.tv for parts 2 and 3 of this post, as well as information on art, books and ebooks
Currently bootstrapping, they have established a worldwide network of collaborators, and look forward to speaking with potential partners of any kind, including investors and VCs.
Stephen Black and Sayuri Okayama aim to be the Pixar of location-based AR: original characters, stories and software.
Stephen’s “unicorn”, a separate AR project, can be discussed by appointment.
Stephen is a bestselling writer, has a degree in Photographic Illustration and is an established visual artist. As a producer, he has worked in theatre, butoh, music (3how) and network television (Fuji TV, Fox, CNN and Cartoon Network).
Sayuri has extensive research in the travel industry, and conducts research related to all aspects of the startup. More biographical information at the end of this document.
The Bubiko Orwell Tour 2017/8 Stephen and Sayuri: digital nomads in SE Asia, planning AR/VR/MR, building a network, sourcing distinctive air-freightable food products, and researching food/culture. Attended Rise (“the largest and most exciting tech conference in Asia” – Forbes), HK Book Fair, Ani-Com and Games Expo HK, Supercharger Fintech Incubator Year in Review event (HK),Thailand Design Week and Amazon AWS events.
Participation: HK Food Hackathon, Ipoh Malaysia Tourism Rebranding campaign.
Presentations: Ipoh, Malaysia, Sasin School of Business (Bangkok), HK PolyU, Hong Kong MakerFaire, TechCrunch and Le Wagon (Shenzhen).
Alphabet Spikes is the book Stephen is writing about the tour. www.blacksteps.tv/
Three separate components: AR, Books/Writing and the Mango Sticky Rice Experience
Beginning with ARIA@MIT, the 100 day tour now includes stops in Phoenix, at SXSW(Austin) and the Game Developers Conference (San Francisco), as well as NYC, Washington DC, and the Chicago/Detroit area.
A combination of deliciousness, AR, and food culture! Inspired by Bubiko Foodtour’s favorite food! Featuring real mangos, as well as an AR version of mango sticky rice created by Kabaq, the leaders in augmented reality food applications. More information here.
Bubiko Foodtour (current model is a work in progress)
Bubiko is a little chef from Thailand. Her catchphrase is “aroi mak mak”, the Thai phrase for ‘very delicious’. Knowledgeable about all food, especially that of Southeast Asia, Bubiko is entertaining and informative.
On a technical level, Bubiko is a flagship for our other characters. We have plans to use SLAM and IoT to create cinematic, educational and entertaining table top experiences.
On a commercial level, Bubiko branding and merchandising possibilities are being explored, including, with a tablet manufacturer, bundling Bubiko AR experiences and her favorite recipes.
The Bubiko Orwell Tour resulted in the discovery of numerous local, often organic, food products suitable for international food fans, as well as tea and coffee lovers. An area of exploration is a Bubiko brand/marketing channel.
Bubiko is a guest star in an ARkit/Unity game demo featuring Green Bean Boy.
Created by Stephen Black and David Severn(UK/Japan), the Secret Donut World characters combine David’s wit with Stephen’s ideas on spatial computing. David is an internationally exhibited visual artist/painter and his work has been published in numerous Japanese magazines, children’s books and travel publications.
Another Severn/Black collaboration, the Doughbots will teach basic spelling and math skills in a fun and interactive way. (Designed for SLAM, spatial recording; with accompanying book).
After years of writing and self-publishing books, including the best sellingi ate tiong bahru, Stephen Black is ready to share what he has learned. His strengths include description, the musicality of words, how to use research invisibly and the relationship between length and structure. Also experienced with self-publishing; Stephen is prepared to do presentations and workshops on this topic. The workshops are geared to the level of those attending and questionnaires are used to determine this.
Stephen Black has taught poetry performance (Poetry Slam) and 3D gamemaking in Singapore, and English/writing classes in Japan. In addition to writing classes inuniversity, he has studied with screenwriting legend Robert McKee, both in a public class, and in an invitation-only private class.
The workshops can be conducted online or in person; individually or in groups.
The topic of AR and books will be only briefly touched upon, unless requested otherwise.
With eight books and many published stories, Stephen Black's readings can be geared towards the nature of your event or organization. Obvious topics include Augmented Reality, the food and history of Southeast Asia, the Tiong Bahru area of Singapore, the pre-presidential life of Barack Obama, contemporary Bali as well as insights on being a digital nomad/startup founder/entrepreneur.
Video interviews and information on Stephen Black's books here.
A collaboration between David Severn(UK/Japan) and Stephen Black, Secret Donut World is whimsical, colorful and unpredictable. A combination of David's imagination and Stephen's spatial computing ideas, Secret Donut World exemplifies the potential of AR and MR.
At present there are a total of 50 characters and objects, many having unique spatial computing "special powers".
The ARphabet Tour has three platforms: AR, writing and food. These platforms are separate, yet linked. In regards to press releases, for example, one platform is dominant, but the other two are also given visibility. The result is exposure to three different demographics at once.
Although the active timeline lasts until April, 2019, there will be continued online activity for long afterwards.
Brands will be exposed to the large, and continually growing, number of people interested in AR. In addition to a large tech-savvy community, AR is attracting much interest due to announcements and plans by companies such as Facebook and Apple
Exposure from the writing community, as well as those organizations interested in the topics in Stephen Black's books. Topics include Asia, Bali, art, entrepreneurship, traveling and other lifestyle/cultural topics.
Bubiko Foodtour is a character created by Stephen Black and Sayuri Okayama. Bubiko is a little chef from Thailand who loves mango sticky rice. She is very knowledgeable about food, especially the foods of Southeast Asia. Her favorite phrase is "Aroi mak mak".
The ARphabet Tour is a direct result of the Bubiko Orwell Tour of Southeast Asia, which took place from 2016-18. Being on the road constantly is both extremely rewarding and extremely challenging.
The following are the organizations and companies that kept us going; they are lights that kept the darkness from defeating us. As for the individuals, I am still thinking of how I can ever thank them all.
Please at least skim through this list, and click on as many as you can. They are all good people offering great value in their respective fields.
For now, links and short descriptions; the behind-the-scenes stories will appear in Alphabet Spikes.
The ARphabet Tour has three platforms; the Mango Sticky Rice Experience, the Readings/Workshops Dimension and Augmented Reality. All three are related; yet all are separate.The AR presentation, for example, will only be about AR.
In 2018, Stephen Black gave two workshops and three presentations, plus several "semi-official presentations.
This blog post contains a summary of the topics presented at the Hong Kong PolyU workshops and presentations. For the upcoming ARphabet Tour presentations, the topics will be tailored to meet the interests of the organizations involved.
2019 Presentation: Bubiko and the Unicorn ARIA @ MIT
This talk shares the results of a two year digital nomad research tour which resulted in data bases of AR-related information as well as Southeast Asian food. Additionally, ideas on a "theoretical" AR-based unicorn are presented.
As I write this, on January 1, there are no definite dates, but Rochester is likely in February. Wherever you are, let's talk and plan. Although professional and corporate possibilities may be part of the tour; its primary function is to create a network of people who would like to see AR used for entertainment and education.
Simply, get in touch and we will do our best to bring the ARphabet to you and your organization.
Created by Six Cat Studios, the Dundercats combine entertainment, music education and the history of classical music. With experience with major public events (mainly concerts) and merchandising projects, the Dundercats are a welcome addition to the ARphabet Tour!
The Six Cat Studios team: Aniela and Stuart. Aniela is an accomplished violinist and well-music educator. Stuart has produced and edited for major television networks, in addition to his own independent projects.
Do subscribe to this blog as the ARphabet Tour presents ideas and demos on how the Dundercats will provide music lessons in AR.