Starbird Reality is Open for Business

A Message from Ryan Boudinot, Founder

I.

What is Starbird Reality? In short, we’re a virtual reality media company. We turn the intelligence we gather on immersive media into original content of our own. And we’ve got big plans to empower weirdoes and change the world with immersive art and technology.

We want to hear from creators whose ideas don’t fit existing categories–game designers who make music, novelists who code architects obsessed with audio. We especially want to meet people whose unorthodox ideas have been shot down for being too strange or (even better!) unmarketable.

We have strong opinions based on our experiences in tech, academia, and the arts about how to foster environments in which creativity flourishes. If this intrigues you, feel free to reach out, and maybe we can blow some minds together.

II.

When I started blogging about virtual reality as an emerging storytelling medium in the winter of 2016, I was tempted to show off my understanding of narrative. I’d been committed to writing fiction since age six, had published two novels and two collections of stories, and had taught graduate-level creative writing for about eight years. If virtual reality needed stories, I was determined to be one of the storytellers to provide them.

I quickly discovered how much I didn’t know. On a whim, I signed up for the Hololens Hackathon, a weekend-long event in which developers, engineers, and artists created apps for Microsoft’s new augmented reality device. I didn’t know any of the other attendees, couldn’t code, and assumed that the event’s organizers had made a horrible mistake when they invited me. I proceeded to meet dozens of imaginative and generous people who shared the belief that this technology represented a transformative leap in communication, engineering, education, and entertainment. By the end of that weekend I knew that I had stumbled upon the creative community I’d been looking for.

The more I mapped the contours of what I didn’t know about VR, the more I came to believe that the best strategy to carve out a role in its development was to humbly listen to the medium itself. Operating like a “small town reporter” gave me the perfect pretext to talk to anyone and everyone in Seattle’s vibrant and inclusive VR/AR community. Before long, the subjects of my stories became my colleagues and friends. It’s still dawning on us that we’ve been given a shot at changing the world.

III.

Marshall McLuhan observed in Understanding Media that the content of any new medium is old media. Those of us who arrive at the frontier of immersive media come armed and burdened with the tropes and grammar of the old media we grew up with. Every adult who ventures into VR/AR in these early years enters through his or her own particular door. Filmmakers enter through the door marked “cinema,” architects through Revit, writers through storytelling, and musicians through audio technology. Embracing immersion and presence involves deciding what of our old media to discard, and what to preserve. It means owning one’s ignorance and letting questions that start with “What if…” drive the conversation. Starbird Reality doesn’t make claims about the future of immersive media. Rather, we focus, with passion and humility, on the richness of what we can create now, in the present.

IV.

Starbird Reality belongs to an ecosystem of labs, studios, artists, and engineers in the Pacific Northwest. We maintain a presence at CoMotion Labs, the University of Washington’s VR/AR startup incubator and innovation center. We have a consulting contract with Immersive Systems, an audio technology R&D lab. Other friends and collaborators include Sky Muse Studios, Robert Lang Studios, Mechanical Dreams VR, SIXR, and Interactive Media Entertainment Law.

At Starbird Reality we think and operate like a band, not a team. We feel that teams are organizational units that by definition suppress individuality. (Case in point, the cliché, “There’s no ‘I’ in ‘team’.”) Bands, conversely, maximize creative expression by giving individuals a platform to amplify their talents, and require the interplay of individual personalities to spark new ideas. Bands certainly can be competitive, but when true artists compete they remain open to being inspired by the great work of others. That’s the spirit we at Starbird Reality embrace. We exist to inform and entertain the larger community we’re privileged to serve.

V.

So what’s with the word “Starbird,” though? It’s pretty simple. I named this company after Starbird Road, the exit off Interstate-5 closest to the house I grew up in. I spent my childhood in Skagit County, an hour north of Seattle, on a hill overlooking a fertile delta that bloomed in the spring with flowers and vegetables. My parents raised me on seven acres of fields, forests, and ponds, with plenty of animals and fruit trees, forts, and wild places to explore. When I was a teenager, I participated in the alternative music revolution that had its epicenter in the Pacific Northwest. I played in bands and slam danced at all-ages punk shows in Mount Vernon, then started college in Nirvana’s hometown on the day they released Nevermind. Those experiences sparked my fascination with creative economies and DIY movements. I’m obsessed with how vibrant arts scenes come about, how they sustain themselves, and why they succeed and fail. The emergence of VR and AR technology, particularly in the Pacific Northwest, strikes me as an opportunity to apply the values of self-reliance, free expression, and creative interdependence to twenty-first century art forms. I wanted to include a place name in the name of the company; the word Starbird reminds me of the most creatively fertile and beautiful places I have known. Let’s blow minds, change lives, and make art together.

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