Second day at TOA for us started with a keynote / ignite talk from Nate Levin, Producer at IMVU. Many of you might have heard of IMVU from Lean Startup book written by Eric Reis. Nate’s Virtual Worlds, Transformational Festival Cultural Ethos, and the future of Social VR keynote was organized around three topics: IMVU, Ascent to Social VR and Burning Man, a festival that takes place in Nevada desert, near Black Rock city.

For those who don’t know, IMVU is world’s largest catalog of UGC 3D objects with 20 million 3D assets created in community of 3 million monthly active users. As a leading producer at IMVU, Nate worked on many successful projects, such as launching IMVU mobile apps.

You might be wondering what is IMVU’s role in social media and virtual reality today? Actually, Nate took a step forward and introduced us to the Social VR topic – where we’ll be communicating with each other in virtual reality as we are next to the person we’re communicating with.

Tech Open Air festival Berlin 2016 Virtual Reality Social VR

Virtual Worlds, Transformational Festival Cultural Ethos, and the future of Social VR

For virtual reality to really cross into the mainstream, it’s gotta be more than just really awesome, killer games. What is the Twitter or Instagram of VR? By that, I don’t mean having tweets in VR or having filtered photos in VR – I mean that its’s native to that platform, it’s born of that platform and would not have existed without that platform.” – Nick DiCarlo, Samsung’s VR Vice President

In a world like that, avatar is going to play a very important role for us. IMVU users can create and customize their avatars to express themselves and create their online identity. IMVU users don’t really care who you are in real life – colour of your skin or your real name are irrelevant in IMVU community.

“Seeing other people is incredibly engaging and that’s one of the drivers that made us partner with Facebook – social communication. Not social newsfeeds but actual face-to-face seeing multiple avatars in a play experience. That’s going to be a very big part of the future in VR.” – Brendan Iribe, CEO Oculus VR

Tech Open Air festival Funkhaus Berlin 2016

We had a feeling that many of people in a hall were there because of Burning Man – an annual festival where alternative lifestyle is accepted, where community that gathers in the middle of nowhere allows you to be whoever you want to be.

Burning Man is based on 10 principles: Radical inclusion, Gifting, Radical Self-Reliance, Radical Self-Expression, Communal Effort, Civic Responsibility, Leaving No Trace, Participation, Immediacy and Decommodification.

Burning Man as a real life experience is strongly connected to IMVO and social VR, as Nate explained to us. Today, it is an intersection of values you can find in 10 Burning Man principles, and it exist as a platform for creation and socialising.


“Expectation is the root of all heartache” – Shakespeare

Individual radical self expression is what people are doing on those platforms, be it online through avatars or in the middle of nowhere where you can create your perceived identity – In Burning Man there are camp names and online are user names – where individuals have control over their anonymity. On Facebook you don’t have a safe place to express yourself without borders and to be your aspirational self – because of security.

When you get individuals together you create a community environment where you can create new social norms – and structure of escape (from the cage) through experimentation and play. How to this? You have to start small and scale it. Just look at the Pokemon Go app that blew over Tinder and Twitter over the night.

And all this is not about the tech, but about the humanity – our tribe. Where camps and rooms are creating space that enforces communication, building a community through construction, with tribal roots. Radical participation, expression through interactive art, mind opening experience and gifting are very important part of creating and living this experience.

Tech Open Air festival People Berlin 2016

Beyond the Algorithm: Discovering Music Without Lists and Grids

Next on our list was ignite talk from Randy Breen CEO of Mappable. Mappable is a music app that runs in your web browser, allowing you to discover, play, collect, and share music in a new unique visual way. The app generates maps of artists based on the relationships between them. This way, the artists on a given map determine its shape. Mappable combines data from multiple public sources and use it to classify artists and group them into structures that provide context at-a-glance.

In past few years growth of digital media continues to grow rapidly. It’s been fuelled by the approach of infinite cloud based storage and wireless connectivity. Massive data services linked to ubiquitous access have impacted how content is delivered and consumed by it’s users today. Yet the methods in which content is organized and presented remain pretty much unchanged.

While database algorithms & AI remain vital to content recommendation, they are fundamentally flawed; restricted by the quality of the algorithm, constrained by design for both practical and potentially unscrupulous purpose, and opaque with limited method for validation. With no effective methods for navigating information-rich content, we are left with the illusion that presented lists are extensive and preeminent.

These closed-method recommendation systems constrain consumption based on misperception. Search results driven by keywords are inadequate when applied to the media with nuanced and myriad aspects of similarity. In this talk Breen discussed the issues with list and grid based search recommendations, the potential of visualization tools for fuzzy search, how they apply to media and the value of visual data driven interface as a tool for navigation and self discovery.

Where There’s Will, There’s Ground for Success

Sophie Q., shared her inspiring story of how she became a techpreneur, a pioneer in her niche. Her tech-story started when she was 21, an age where most of the people are still trying to find their direction in life. She collected all 2.000 euros from her bank account, created an interdisciplinary team with one common denominator – passion to make a positive impact.

As a person who loves to read old books and manuscripts, she decided to turn her hobby into a career. Focusing of her passion, she detected there is insufficient combination of old and new, of technologies and traditional ways of preserving manuscripts. Herself and her team founded a startup that created a mechatronic device for preservation of old books. This device is now a standard for all institutions that deal with manuscripts’ preservation undertakings, a proof that you can create a positive change in the world (and in business) if you pursue your passion, without limiting yourself with personal and mostly mental boundaries. Remember – she was only 21, limited funding, unlimited passion.

In the (not so far) future, she plans to combine machine learning and artificial intelligence in order to create a software that would be able to read any text, regardless of handwriting. Combining artificial intelligence and machine learning just might ignite the next industrial revolution, making redundant tasks obsolete, optimizing production processes and contributing to the overall productivity.

TOA16 Tech Open Air Berlin

Managing an Organization – A Holistic Approach “Holocratic Organizational Management”

In a sea of various managing styles, a startup captain has to find an adequate approach to keep his crew pleased. Differentiating herself from typical managing styles and getting the best excerpts out of the oceans of options, Sophie directed her ship towards holistic approach.

Holocratic management style focuses on giving each role within an organizational unit flexibility, decision power and most important of all – trust. An organizational unit manager can make decisions independently, without consulting the “higer-ups”. Having implemented that kind of organizational management structure, she managed to optimize productivity levels within her startups and most importantly, she managed to make people happier.

Into a Happy Roleationship

By using “roleation” instead of “relation” managed organization, Sophie removed the unnecessary obstacles (family relations, personal grudges, love affairs, etc.) within levels of management structures which contributed to positive increase of success rate with regard to productivity, work satisfaction and business results.

At the core of her expertise is a vast experience in learning – a different kind of learning – experiential. People often say that it’s the most expensive to learn from our own mistakes, however they are an integral element of every upcoming success – if you don’t give up and accept that failure as the permanent state. Every failure has its learning vantage points, so don’t get discouraged if you encounter an obstacle (or ten), just keep on striving, go towards your passion, make it happen! Sophie has built her success story, a next big thing for us to witness. What will be yours?

Be Idealistic, Generous and Don’t Sell Out

Tech Open Air Berlin Kickstarter 2016

Festival’s last keynote was held by Kickstarter co-founder and CEO, Yancey Strickler. Kickstarter is an American public-benefit corporation based in Brooklyn, New York which has built a global crowdfunding platform focused on creativity. The company’s mission is to help bring new creative projects to life.

Every day there are infinite opportunities to compromise on your position. Industry standard are lowering every day. Society should be a place revered for new ideas. It is a place for ideas as pure as it can be.

In his short but motivational and inspiring talk, Yancey described Kickstarter’s mission as championing and celebrating the creation of art and culture – “F*ck the monoculture”, he said. Festival days were closed with wise words: Don’t sell out. Be idealistic. Be generous.

Special thanks to TOA Berlin, Zimo Digital and FOI.

Photos are courtesy of Tech Open Air festival Berlin – Facebook page.

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Freelancing lover, digital nomad and marketing freak

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