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Reinventing the Internet: A Next-Generation Metaverse Opportunity

Dave Jackson Dave Jackson, Stockhouse
1 Comment| April 27, 2022

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Welcome to the metaverse and a whole new world of possibilities. And at the forefront of this amazing technology is AMPD Ventures Inc. (CSE.AMPD, OTCUS: AMPDF, Forum) – a Vancouver BC-based company specializing in providing high-performance cloud and computer solutions for low-latency applications including video games and eSports, digital animation and visual effects, big data collection, and analysis.

Stockhouse Media’s Dave Jackson was joined by Christina Heller, CEO of Metastage Inc – a Los Angeles-based volumetric capture pioneer – and James Hursthouse, Chief Strategy Officer of AMPD, as well as CEO and Founder of Departure Lounge Digital Media to discuss this fascinating high-tech play.


(CLICK IMAGE TO PLAY VIDEO)

TRANSCRIPT BELOW:

SH: To start off with, can you tell us a little bit about yourselves and the history of your companies?

JAMES: Sure. I should take that. Some of you in the audience are familiar with AMPD already. So as Dave said, James Hurthouse, chief strategy officer for AMPD Venture Inc and also CEO at Departure Lounge which was a recently formed company but a company that was actually acquired by AMPD in December. So we're all part of the AMPD Ventures family right now. A little bit of background on me. I've been in the digital media industry for about 20 years now. I got my start in Asia in what I describe as the Jurassic period of massively multiplayer online gaming and the emergence of free to play games and all those kinds of things, which in many ways was sort of a precursor to what's going these days with metaverse. I was a contributing author to this thing called the Metaverse Roadmap as far back as 2007 and so my interest in metaverse has really been sort of a driving force for me for 15 years now and so Departure Lounge came together to build upon this really solid foundation of high performance cloud and compute offerings that AMPD’s been developing and build on top of that with some of these tools and technologies and creative services that we need, or that the metaverse is going to demand moving forward but that's enough about me and I'll hand it over to Christina.

CHRISTINA: Yeah, thanks. Thanks for having me. Christina Heller, CEO of Metastage. Metastage is a holographic capture company also known as volumetric video. We bring real performances into metaverse platforms. So that's VR, that's AR and actually also VFX pipelines. Everything we capture is a live action performance shot in full 3d. So we use 106 cameras to capture something from every angle and what you get is like a beautiful faithful reconstruction of whatever happened on stage that you can interact with or observe in this really unique way in AR and VR. So we launched Metastage in 2018 and since we launched in 2018, we've done over 200 productions serving many different applications, use cases, verticals, so fashion, sports, music, training, legacy, archival and before that I ran a company called VR Playhouse which also did broad production services for AR and VR and so I've been working in this technology space since the beginning of 2014 and it's been incredible to see the progress of the technology, the tools and all of the creative projects in the past eight years.

SH: Christina, can you update our investor audience and on any new company developments from Metastage?

CHRISTINA: Well, our biggest new development is our partnership with Departure Lounge and AMPD to launch our Vancouver studio. So as James mentioned, Departure Lounge has a number of different services and metaverse kind of use cases they're looking to tackle but one of the exciting things they'll have in house is a Metastage. So it's basically a one-to-one replica of the 106 camera holographic capture stage we have here in Los Angeles and we use the Microsoft mixed reality capture studios software, which is really the most incredible volumetric software. Microsoft has been developing it for 10 years and James and his team will be the second stage of their kind in North America to be offering this service to the mixed reality community and that's our big news.

JAMES: Very exciting and I mean, I think I'll just add a couple of things to that. So Departure Lounge is called Departure Lounge because the original vision was that it would be the place that you would go for your journey into the metaverse and I guess about 18 months ago I met Christina and I saw what they were doing with this amazing volumetric capture stage, which takes human performances and literally turns you into an avatar 3d model ready for that journey and into the metaverse. So in some ways this conversation around Metastage and the ability to bring it up to Canada was the genesis of Departure Lounge. Now, since then, we've expanded a little bit, so it's human performance, its objects, its value, and that transfer in and out of the metaverse as the 3D spatial web.

In many ways the opportunity to work with Metastage and actually as the premiere 4D volumetric capture environment and bring that to Canada really was the impetus to start in the first place and of course without getting too technical, 106 high resolution cameras filming action from every angle needs a lot of high performance cloud and compute and obviously that's where in some ways the initial interest came from with AMPD being able to supply that type of next generation infrastructure and become the hosting company for the metaverse as it were. So all of these things really sort of tied together and the catalyst absolutely right now - and the key focus is making sure that we launch Metastage Canada within the next, I don't want to say exactly, but probably four to eight weeks, something like that. So it's right around the corner and we're all very excited.

SH: James, you’ve also built a partnership between AMPD subsidiary Departure Lounge and Metastage. This may be news to many investors. Can you unpack the benefits of it?

JAMES: Well, I mean, in terms of the partnership, it's very simple when it comes to the AMPD Ventures / Departure Lounge partnership, we are fully owned subsidiary and so everything that we do at Departure Lounge will benefit AMPD investors who are holding AMPD stock and then in turn we wanted to sort of create this separate brand, I guess at least in terms of the technology side of things, very focused on becoming the hosting company of the metaverse and so Departure Lounge, a lot of the ideas there had been germinating with me as I said, sort of since not only 2007, when I contributed to the metaverse roadmap but even earlier than that in the early days of my of college education, things like that. We look at it very holistically.

We need the high-performance cloud and compute in order to be able to properly host and deploy the low latency applications of the type that we're going to need in the metaverse - whether that's high end, visually high-fidelity 3D graphics, whether it's artificial intelligence, whether it's blockchain components, all of these things need the high-performance cloud and compute that we've been developing at AMPD. But then on top of that, we wanted to adopt a number of technologies of which Metastage is the first. So those technologies are the way in which you can access the metaverse. And then on top of that we're very fortunate in that we've been able to start to piece together a creative services team led by a guy called Adam Rogers who's very well known in immersive content creation.

So that is a team that will be able to use the output of the tech to do creative services building the metaverse and then finally, we also have a group looking at Web3, blockchain and NFTs now and that's all about that sort of transition of value in and out of digital space and so from the beginning, I think that a holistic 360 degree metaverse company was always on our minds for both Anthony Brown, CEO and myself. We cut our teeth in massively multiplayer online games in the early days and so ever since those days, we've always sort of had this vision of a company that would address this opportunity that we see right now as the world transitions from Web2 to Web3 or the 2D web to the 3D web, however you want to look at it, and so the synergies are right there and obviously as I said, Metastage really being the world's premier mechanism through which human performance can be transferred into these digital spaces has been an awesome catalyst as we've been moving forward.

SH: For our retail investor audience that might be new to the metaverse, capture technology, and digital animation…can you explain a bit about the technology and the opportunity it offers investors?

JAMES: Well, I mean, I think there's really four things and interestingly there was a report that came up from Citi I think three days ago that was saying that the potential upside of the of the metaverses in the sort of 13 trillion range and there's a couple of very active venture capitalists in metaverse. One guy who I would recommend people reading is Matthew Ball. So http://www.matthewball.vc has some great background on metaverse and does quite a lot of deep dives there but when you look at it, it's really this combination of four key components, right. So the first one is the development that we've seen over the last few years in game engine technology. So some of your viewers I think would be familiar with Unreal Engine and Unity which were both original only designed to build video games and similarly with video and GPU and all these sorts of things, so having been in the video games industry for 20 years, we always like to say that, video games write the first draft of history and right now game engines are in use across healthcare and medical and education and training and all these kinds of things and recently as well in real-time movie production.

So if you've seen shows like the Mandalorian where they actually film the actors in front of these massive LED screens, all of those photorealistic visual effects that you see behind those actors have all been made, either on Unreal or Unity or a game engine like that. So that's the first thing. Second thing is the compute infrastructure, so as AMPD moves forward with high-performance computing at the edge, we're able to serve that fidelity of visual effects, graphics to an audience, have thousands of people participate in these 3D worlds. You might have heard of live concerts in Fortnite, for example, where Travis Scott attracted audiences, I think it was in excess of 30 million viewers that came in to watch this live show inside a video game.

The third thing is community, right? Obviously, people particularly during the pandemic, wanted to find places that they could go to hang out with folks. So that's the third thing. We've had those three things for 20 years in some form or another and so the fourth key piece here is the introduction of blockchain, Web3, NFT, true digital value. So as those four things have come together, we really see this potential to unlock the metaverse rather than just simple digital twining but of course we need to be able to populate the metaverse. We want to bring performances in there. We already talked about live shows and video games, for example and so really Metastage represents the absolute best way to bring the essence of human performance. So these are not models, they're actually videos with volume of those people fully clothed with all of the fabulous fabrics and clothes and things like that we can bring directly into digital space.

As we look at moving forward, a lot of people look at metaverse and think it's entirely in a virtual environment like in Ready Player One but actually the reality, when you, for example, look at the Metastage sizzle reel, there's a lot of use cases now with augmented reality where holograms are standing next to their installation in a museum or maybe we're using holograms in augmented reality stadiums for example and so this blurring of the digital space with the real space is really what underpins metaverse and why there's so much interest in it is because we're about to reinvent pretty much every component of the current web, right? So that's why so much interest, both from consumers and from investors and from obviously a lot of companies like ours is right there.

SH: AMPD looks set for strong growth in 2022. How are you placed to expand operations to meet demand?

JAMES: So right now on the AMPD side of things, we are actively expanding into both Los Angeles and Amsterdam. The high-performance computing at the edge sort of initiatives are continuing forward in that way and obviously it's important for us to put data centers in areas in which there are robust clusters of digital media, creators, artificial and intelligence folks and already you can see with the LA data center, which we're about to launch, demand for that is exceptionally high. It's interesting in some ways because obviously as Departure Lounge has started to build the relationship with Metastage and use the technology and start to look at the creative initiatives that we want to achieve, we ourselves have now become customers of AMPD, and in a way, we're demonstrating the application of the high-performance cloud and compute platform.

So as other folks see that, and they’re like, “oh, we really get it now” and so I mean, it's taken a while but the outlook for AMPD this year is really solid as we continue to add folks to virtual studio, the cloud XR side of things where we're hosting metaverse content and pushing that out to a variety of different devices. Yeah, you're right. We are really looking forward to a lot of growth during the rest of this year and beyond and actually I think Christina and Metastage LA are already looking at using potentially some of the AMPD services, things like that and so, yeah, I'm feeling very bullish about it.

CHRISTINA: Well, the Facebook rebrand to Meta was, I mean, we were already seeing healthy business but that certainly did move the needle into a lot of interesting work that we are currently servicing down here. We've always done a lot of augmented reality that has been sort of our bread and butter since we launched. A lot of its phone-based or you scan a QR code and a hologram pops up and gives you information or you scan a wine label and a hologram pops out and tells you the history of the wine. So we did a lot of that stuff. What was really great and exciting in the past year is moving more into VR training. There's a lot of studies backing up the effectiveness for VR training but a lot of times you see these bad video game characters as the human performances in those training applications.

So we've been pushing hard to say, “Hey, replace your cheesy video game training instructors with real authentic instructors” and we've done a number of good VR training pieces in the past year and then very excitingly VFX just for TV and film. The VFX supervisors are starting to recognize the benefits of having an authentic 3D asset of real humans that they can bring into the backgrounds of shots. So we tested it out in a film last year where we had a photographer and somebody on the sidelines composed into a movie shot to give the scene more action and we're in the process of doing some other very ambitious background actor applications for TV and movies right now. So yeah, it's really exciting.

JAMES: Yeah, that was a real aha moment for me actually and obviously LA has a huge film industry but so do we here in Vancouver as well, - obviously frequently referred to as Hollywood North - and so seeing the opportunity to scan the actor or the actress, place them into a game engine, I mentioned game engine and where we're at with that but taking the hologram of that very, very realistic high fidelity actor or actress, putting them in Unreal, being able to create four or five different locations, whether it's a desert or it's the top of a skyscraper or whatever, then having the film crew go into unreal and actually film that performance as though they were doing it live. So the advantage there is that maybe the talent is required for six, seven hours but in a very nice air conditioned, fully catered, beautiful environment.

So they don't have to travel to the jungle. They don't have to travel to the top of this skyscraper and so we're starting to see this sort of ability to play with time and space in that way, where those performances can happen and overall even though people look at the stage and obviously it's quite a large investment and the day rates are but overall when you look at the budget for a project now there are many, many ways where we can use this technology to make it ultra cost effective.

SH: And finally, folks, if there’s anything I’ve overlooked please feel free to elaborate.

CHRISTINA: I just appreciate the opportunity to talk with you and I encourage anybody who's interested in the metaverse to dip a toe, do some research, or reach out to James or me directly. We talk about this stuff every day and you're never bothering us to talk about this. So happy to explore if you're feeling like you want to learn more.

Yeah and I think just the last thing I'd like to say really is in some ways it feels like we're back in 1995 at the dawn of the previous internet, there's a lot of froth, it's very effervescent right now, a lot of people talking about metaverse but one of the key things for us, both with AMPD, Departure Lounge and Metastage was that we really wanted to be a business that was offering true value and as you can see from the sizzle reel, that core ability to take humans, transfer them into these digital spaces. It represents a really solid revenue base. It represents a really solid piece of technology. AMPD is active in high performance cloud and compute we're hosting and distributing these types of applications and so maybe it's a Canadian thing but approaching it from that perspective of this really solid foundation and then building these various other services on top of that was definitely the way that we wanted to go. Rome wasn't built or I guess virtual Rome wasn't built overnight or in a day but yeah, so anyway we are very pleased to be to be working together and look forward to ongoing support from investors.

To find out more about AMPD, visit ampd.tech/investors.

General Disclaimer and Cautionary Statement


FULL DISCLOSURE: This is a paid article produced by Stockhouse Publishing.


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