Meet the 8 VR Startups, Media Projects That Will Present at Collab/Space Chicago

    by Ben DeJarnette
    September 9, 2016
    Photo by Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas and used here with Creative Commons license.

    After years of false starts, virtual reality is finally finding its feet in 2016, with legacy news outlets, digital media startups, and global brands all embracing the new storytelling medium. However, even as the buzz for virtual reality continues to grow, what remains uncertain is how VR’s unique user experience will translate into dollars and cents.

    To tackle this question, MediaShift is producing Collab/Space Chicago 2016: The Business of VR, an innovation workshop focused on the business of virtual reality. Speakers include Ryan Pulliam, the co-founder and CMO of Specular Theory, an award-winning ,Venice, Calif.-based studio that creates virtual reality content and develops immersive technologies to drive the next generation of storytelling, and Samaruddin Stewart, who works as part of the Google News Lab / SPJ Trainer Network, which trains journalists across the country in utilizing Google tools in research, reporting and immersive storytelling. The workshop is sponsored by the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the Missouri School of Journalism and hosted by TechNexus.

    Plus, all attendees will receive free Google Cardboard units, and will get a training on using it from Sam Stewart.


    Below is a list of startups and media company projects that will be featured at Collab/Space in Chicago.

    To guarantee your spot, register for the event here!

    Featured Presenters



    BuzzFeed 360 Video

    Screen Shot 2016-09-08 at 10.50.02 AM

    Description: As BuzzFeed’s first fellow in the Open Lab, Ben Kreimer’s work focused on experimenting with 360° video and 3D virtual reality storytelling. Wanting to democratize 360° video hardware, he built low-cost drone and first-person view helmet 360° camera rigs, and 360° video cameras designed for BuzzFeed reporters that had no 360° video experience. Using these camera rigs, Kreimer worked on numerous 360 videos for BuzzFeed News and BuzzFeed Motion Pictures. A year ago he co-produced BuzzFeed’s first 360° video about the aftermath of a large forest fire north of San Francisco. It went viral, receiving more than 6.2 million views on Facebook. One of his custom 360° video drones was used to film the story. Other offices have also used his equipment for producing content, such as at the Republican National Convention, when Henry Goldman, head of video for BuzzFeed News, wore his 360° helmet rig while walking by a formation of armored police. Kreimer has also been working on producing 3D reconstructions of objects and spaces using photogrammetry, a process for turning images captured by a digital camera into 3D content for walkable virtual reality environments and 360° videos.

    ben kreimerPresenter Bio: As a journalism technologist, Ben Kreimer specializes in storytelling with drones, virtual reality, 360° video, 3D virtual reconstructions, and open source hardware sensor platforms. He brought 360° video to BuzzFeed as the first fellow in their San Francisco based Open Lab, a media R&D space. Ben has co-produced many of BuzzFeed’s 360° videos, including their first, which has received over six million views. He is also an adviser for the Drone Journalism Lab and African skyCAM, and has worked with academic institutions and organizations including Columbia’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism, Times of India, CCTV Africa, VICE News, African Wildlife Foundation, and the Antiochia ad Cragum Archaeological Research Project.

    CNN’s Courageous

    Screen Shot 2016-09-08 at 11.19.30 AM

    Description: Courageous is Turner’s first-ever brand studio with global opportunities for marketers across the company’s multi-screen brands CNN, HLN and Great Big Story. Launched in June 2015, the studio’s unique approach is anchored in brand journalism, the discovery of great stories and the production of powerful branded content. As part of Norfolk Southern’s election sponsorship on CNN, Courageous went airborne, filming in 360-degrees from a drone to provide a behind-the-scenes look at how the brand helps power our economy.

    Presenter Bio: Otto Bell is vice president and group creative director of Courageous. In this role, he leads a team of award-winning journalists, filmmakers, designers and producers dedicated to the creation and execution of compelling branded content anchored in journalism for the company’s top advertisers. Prior to joining Turner, Bell was the creative director and a founding member of OgilvyEntertainment. During his time at Ogilvy, he developed, produced and directed landmark television and digital deals across five continents for a myriad of lead brands; pairing the likes of Philips, DuPont, Unilever and IBM with global media partners.



    deniz ergurelDescription: Haptical is a digital news and information service for virtual reality. It provides news & information to consumers of VR and connects them to VR brands and services.

    Presenter Bio: Deniz Ergurel is the founder and editor-in-chief of Haptical. He is an entrepreneurial tech journalist and CUNY Tow-Knight fellow with a distinguished career in digital media, content strategy, and new revenue models for news and business across Europe, North and Latin America. He speaks fluent Spanish & Portuguese and Turkish.

    InContext Solutions

    InContext Solutions

    August Wasilowski HeadshotDescription: At InContext Solutions, the R&D team’s overall mission is to adapt VR technology to be useful for retailers and manufacturers. The company lets its ShopperMX users interact with their virtual stores in VR, allowing users to to rearrange products and planograms, reposition displays and signs, and collaborate with other users remotely. Users can also conduct qualitative research with virtual shop-alongs where the respondent is wearing a VR headset.

    Presenter Bio: August Wasilowski is a Senior Software Engineer at InContext Solutions, where he works on their Research and Development team with a focus on virtual reality. A software developer for over fifteen years, August started focusing on virtual reality two years ago.

    Nvelop Media

    Description: Nvelop Media is where virtual reality content production and development meet. Its team of developers is working to create the tools that media and production companies need to go beyond the base level of 360 video in the virtual reality field. Nvelop Media is creating a framework that allows content creators to make and distribute mobile VR that’s interactive, with branching stories, movement, ad engines and more.

    chesler headshot

    Presenter Bios: Jayson Chesler is a former Carnegie-Knight News21 fellow and a recent Master’s graduate of Arizona State University’s Cronkite School of Journalism. At ASU, he combined media innovation and visual storytelling to win multiple digital and investigative awards for his work as Executive Editor of Downtown Devil and as a reporter at News21.


    Chandler Longbons heads marketing efforts for Nvelop Media. She has a background in Journalism and Mass Communication from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, but has focused almost exclusively on digital marketing and branding. For the last 5 years Chandler has worked with local companies to improve their online marketing and social media presence, and has started her own agency to serve businesses in the non-profit sector.


    Screen Shot 2016-09-08 at 11.31.27 AM

    Description: Sightpath is building a virtual reality analytics platform that will help VR creators understand users’ behavior by visualizing their paths through the virtual environment to determine what factors cause them to interact with specific objects. In addition to capturing data on what objects are viewed, how often, and for how long, the platform will also provide insight into what happened before and after those objects are viewed. These “sightpaths” will be viewable in a VR app, allowing VR creators to more deeply understand their users’ behavior and build the most immersive experiences possible.

    Mike ChanPresenter Bio: Mike Chan is the co-founder of Sightpath, an innovative VR analytics platform that helps VR creators truly understand their users’ behaviors by tracking the paths they take to specific objects in their apps. He also co-founded ribl, a location-based message board mobile app, and he is CMO of Thorn Technologies, the founder and host of the Go and Grow Podcast, and organizer and facilitator of Startup Weekend DC. Previously, he was Sr. Director of Strategic Marketing for the Washington Capitals and Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University.

    Snips Media


    Description: Snips is a social influencer network and platform, connecting advertisers with audiences of influencers to amplify the reach of marketing campaigns. The company offers the only cross-channel responsive VR360 advertising platform, making it easy for marketers to deliver VR display and video experiences across all major web browsers, social media, mobile apps, email, messaging, and other digital platforms. Using Snips, brands can run immersive VR360 experiences behind any content shared by influencers, allowing viewers to look around in 360 degrees as they explore an interactive image or watch a video. All Snips campaigns, including those with VR content, are completely performance-driven so advertisers only pay for quantifiable engagements by real people (and not based on number of followers), which means better ROIs for brands and greater transparency for influencers.


    Presenter Bio: David Zaretsky is the co-founder, CEO and Chief Scientist of Snips Media. Snips is the first performance-driven social influencer network and universal ad platform, connecting brands with audiences of influencers across any device or platform, including social media, website, email, mobile apps, and messaging. David earned his Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Northwestern University in 2005 and has authored numerous conference and journal publications on his research. David serves as an adjunct professor Northwestern University, teaching advanced graduate-level classes in high-performance computing applications.


    paula eliasDescription: StoryUP is a VR native media company using immersive video to lift people up. Its apps and WebVR site include content for purchase ranging from journalism to meditation experiences, and it does most of its stories for charities, causes and foundations. StoryUP wants to make story a product that people give each other.

    Presenter Bio: Paula Elias is the director of partnerships for StoryUP. An entrepreneur and award-winning marketing professional, Paula pioneered the Citizen Jane Film Festival to be one of the “top coolest film festivals in the world” according to MovieMaker Magazine; she once ran for Secretary of State in Missouri; and she has more than 20 years in results-oriented brand storytelling.

    Register for Collab/Space Chicago 2016: The Business of VR 

    Ben DeJarnette is the associate editor at MediaShift. He is also a freelance contributor for Pacific Standard, InvestigateWest, Men’s Journal, Runner’s World, Oregon Quarterly and others. He’s on Twitter @BenDJduck.

    Tagged: buzzfeed open lab collab/space collab/space chicago courageous dome3d haptical nvelop media sightpath storyup virtual reality vr

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