HaptX // Nissan Announcement at SXSW 2019

HaptX teamed up with Nissan to enhance their vehicle design process. Nissan designers use HaptX Gloves to touch and interact with 3D models virtually, enabling immersive design reviews that would previously require costly full-scale physical prototypes.

With the HaptX team at SXSW.

With the HaptX team at SXSW.

I orchestrated our partnership announcement at SXSW 2019, where HaptX was a finalist for the SXSW Innovation Award. We debuted new VR content featuring the Nissan Leaf and Nissan IMS vehicles. The partnership received great coverage from Digital Trends, VentureBeat, and VRScout.

I shot and edited a video to show our design tool in action.

SXSW Poster Series

We branded our demo booth with the following posters that describe our vision, our technology, and our Nissan partnership.

 
 

Tactile Telerobot // Wired Announcement

Telling the story of a haptic telerobot

HaptX collaborated with ANA, SynTouch, and Shadow Robot Company to develop the world’s first haptic telerobot hand to deliver touch feedback across the Atlantic. I led the media strategy among the four companies involved, which led to a prominent piece from Wired.

You can watch the video included in their article:

Wired featured my photo of the HaptX Glove DK prominently in their story and across social media.

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Here are more behind the scenes photos featuring robotics reporter Matt Simon and Editor-In-Chief Nicholas Thompson. We had HaptX Gloves set up in Wired’s office (San Francisco), which controlled the robotic hands at Shadow’s office (London). The user viewed the hand’s motion via computer monitor, and could feel what the robotic hand touched via the HaptX Glove.

HaptX // DK Launch: PR + Influencers

HaptX co-founder Dr. Bob Crockett presenting at the GeekWire Summit in Seattle to support the launch of the HaptX Gloves Development Kit.

HaptX co-founder Dr. Bob Crockett presenting at the GeekWire Summit in Seattle to support the launch of the HaptX Gloves Development Kit.

In the month preceding our HaptX Gloves Development Kit announcement, we demoed and interviewed with several journalists under embargo. On launch day TechCrunch, Axios, VentureBeat, GeekWire, Road to VR, Forbes, Upload, VR Scout, and VR Focus wrote first-hand accounts of experiencing our gloves. We also shared HaptX Gloves with leading virtual reality influencers, and encouraged them to share their experience on our launch day.

We executed a bicoastal launch with two simultaneous events: The Future of Storytelling Summit in New York City and the GeekWire Summit in Seattle.

All of this activity worked together to build a critical mass, raising awareness and driving demand for the HaptX Gloves Development Kit.

HaptX Gloves Development Kit Launch: Press Coverage

“I have tried several other VR gloves, and this is definitely the most complete solution.”

“I have tried several other VR gloves, and this is definitely the most complete solution.”

“It was surreal… the feeling was more fine-grained in terms of sensations”

“It was surreal… the feeling was more fine-grained in terms of sensations”

“In the short preview I was able to experience, you couldn’t help but think about where realistic and immersive haptic technology is headed in the future.”

“In the short preview I was able to experience, you couldn’t help but think about where realistic and immersive haptic technology is headed in the future.”

HaptX Gloves Development Kit Launch: Influencer Support

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HaptX // DK Launch: Website Overhaul

We launched the HaptX Gloves Development in October of 2018. We took this opportunity to overhaul our website, with product-focused imagery and a call to action to “Get early access.” I created new imagery of our DK gloves, pairing them with copy that highlights key selling points of our product.


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HaptX // Wall Street Journal Profile

The Wall Street Journal is the pinnacle of business reporting in the United States. When we visited New York City for the Future of Storytelling Summit last fall, I met with WSJ technology reporter Sarah Needleman to share our story and give a demo of our technology. This meeting led to a terrific piece in the WSJ's quarterly magazine, The Future of Everything.


This article was a long-term bet. I originally connected with Sarah two years earlier, when she replied to a tweet about our company (then known as AxonVR). She described our tech as, "so Ready Player One!"

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It's fitting that Sarah waited to share our story until a few days after the film's release. That way she could attach it to a broader narrative about the real life technology that's making Ready Play One a reality. We received similar coverage from VarietyForbes, and IDTechEx.

This shows how closely intertwined social media, public relations, events, and mass media narratives work together in marketing.

HaptX // Smarter Every Day

I worked with Smarter Every Day (SED) creator Destin Sandlin to coordinate a visit to HaptX's San Luis Obispo engineering lab. SED has a base of 5.6M subscribers, many of whom are engineers.  This was an opportunity to drive recruiting and build awareness among a tech savvy audience.

The opportunity came with considerable risk: Destin is a vocal skeptic of virtual reality. He'd be doing an on-camera demo of our VR glove prototype, so there was a possibility he'd trash our technology in front of his 5.5M subscribers. However, we believed our glove would turn Destin into a VR believer. Turns our we were right.

The video skyrocketed to the front page of r/videos and to the front page of YouTube. It wound up being the #7 trending video for the day. Some outlets even covered the video, highlighting that the HaptX Glove turned Destin into a VR believer. Right now the video is hovering at 2.4M views.

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Destin liked the video so much, he did something unprecedented for his channel: he released a follow-up video about our company. 

His follow up video featured another one of our demos, and interviews with members of our engineering team. It received over 600K views. 

HaptX // Sundance 2018: Branded Campaign

When the Sundance Institute selected HaptX as an official selection of their 2018 festival, it presented a tremendous opportunity to launch our startup company to new heights. However, Sundance presented a unique marketing challenge: the festival organizers wanted to promote our experience, but not our company. 

An example: They didn't want us to put our company name or logo next to the experience. They didn't want their exhibit space to feel like a trade show. This makes sense when you think about movies. The marquee will show the name of the film, and perhaps the lead actors and directors. It does not list the studio nor distribution company.

The solution: a series of posters to highlight the story and interactions of our VR experience. These posters snuck in our company name and logo without feeling garish, and provided a splash of our brand colors.

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I kept this as a low budget project: I personally designed the posters in about a week's time. The printing, mounting, and shipping collectively cost under a thousand dollars.

These went a long way: In addition to branding our demo space, we plastered the posters throughout Park City. We shared them on social media, and gave a limited number to VIPs who tried our demo on opening weekend.

Although HaptX a B2B company, I knew that Instagram would be a major social media platform among influencers at the festival. For this reason, I created our Instagram account weeks before Sundance, and populated it with our posters and branded artwork.

We wound up getting tagged in posts and stories from people including The Black Eyed Peas, Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park fame, and comedian/musician Reggie Watts.

People loved them so much that we repurposed them for events like SXSW. We have the original Sundance posters hanging in the entry to our office. 

HaptX // Sundance 2018: Official Selection

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It's not an exaggeration to say that the latest wave of VR started because of the Sundance Film Festival. Oculus founder Palmer Luckey interned with the Sundance Institute when he was in college, and the first Rift prototype made its debut at Sundance 2012.

New Frontier, the VR program at Sundance, contacted us mid-2017. They select a dozen or so art pieces, and select one new technology to showcase each year. I lobbied hard to make sure HaptX would be the featured technology for 2018. We succeeded.

When HaptX debuted two pieces in the program, and I sought to maximize our marketing impact to elevate our startup to new heights.

As a former filmmaker, it was a dream come true to be listed as a lead artist on our project. I scripted the story of our glove demo, and had a creative hand in our thermal demo content. That said, everyone in the company deserved a credit. 


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First VR hardware debut since Oculus

The HaptX Glove marked both the public premiere of the haptic glove and the first hardware product to debut at The Sundance Film Festival since the Oculus Rift in 2012. Our glove, along with the image I created was on the front page of Variety, Criterion, and Sundance.com. The Verge listed us among the best of the fest. CNET raved about us. Leading VR outlets covered our glove. Voices of VR interviewed Jake Rubin (CEO) and Joe Michaels (CRO) of HaptX. CNET gave us a stellar review. We earned new investors and business development leads.

HaptX // Launch: Public Relations + Influencers

Telling a unified story through an integrated media campaign

You’ve probably heard of owned, earned, and paid media. We use a similar framework, but as a scrappy startup that looks to maximize every marketing dollar, we do little-to-no paid media. Instead we group our efforts into three categories: owned, earned, and events.

Owned: This is what we say about ourselves. Our new websitelaunch videosocial media channelspress release, and our new visual identity. Throughout these materials, we told a story about why touch is fundamental to virtual reality, and showed how we can simulate touch more convincingly than anyone else. More about our owned media launch here.

From HaptX’s photoshoot with Wired // Kelsey McClellan

From HaptX’s photoshoot with Wired // Kelsey McClellan

Earned: This is what other people say about us. We spent months sharing our demo with media and influential members of our industry to earn third-party endorsements that validate our claims. We launched with positive coverage in EngadgetRoad to VRGeekWireIEEE SpectrumWIRED Magazine, and several other outlets.

Events: This is where we engage with people directly. We decided to publicize this announcement in advance of a busy events season. We had three events in the two weeks following our launch:

  • I/ITSEC – the world’s largest modeling, simulation, and training event

  • GeekWire Gala – the local tech outlet’s year-end celebration. This year, GeekWire recognized HaptX as one of the Seattle 10 – their annual list of the hottest startups in the region

  • VRX – a leading senior level VR industry event

Left:  Kent Bye interviews Jake Rubin, HaptX Founder and CEO for the Voices of VR Podcast.  Right:  HaptX was recognized as one of the Seattle 10 by GeekWire.

Left: Kent Bye interviews Jake Rubin, HaptX Founder and CEO for the Voices of VR Podcast. Right: HaptX was recognized as one of the Seattle 10 by GeekWire.

Nicole Lee wrote detailed review and published  this video  to Engadget’s YouTube and Facebook profiles.

Nicole Lee wrote detailed review and published this video to Engadget’s YouTube and Facebook profiles.

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Reverend Kyle’s video with the HaptX Glove. He wrote a glowing review of the experience on his website.

HaptX // Launch: Website + Video

We produced a video as a central component to launching the HaptX brand. The goal: show the potential of our technology, and the key use cases and differentiators of our product. We worked with Cinesaurus, the team behind viral videos for clients including Deloitte and SpaceX.

When we rebranded from AxonVR to HaptX, we created a full new website. We created wireframes, images, and messaging in-house, and worked with Rotator creative on the development, functionality, animations, and graphic design. We designed the video to work as a looping reel on the haptx.com home page.

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In addition to overseeing the content and UX design of our website, I took a hands-on approach to our art direction. Because HaptX is where the real world and virtual world collide, I developed an aesthetic of 3D objects in real-world environments. I created most of our images myself with a combination of the Unity game engine and Adobe Photoshop. The images below are featured on haptx.com, animating along with key selling points as the user scrolls.

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HaptX // Rebrand: Logo and visual identity

I used the rebrand as an excuse to work alongside creatives that I admire. Rotator, who did our logo and website, is a tremendously talented design and branding team in Tacoma. Not only do they create stellar work for their clients, they craft and spread art that builds their community.

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The logo is a central element in HaptX’s visual communications. Through consistent and repetitive use, we hope the logo will be a shorthand which identifies our brand. Our logo is simple, recognizable, and distinctive.

The logo contains two pieces: the mark and the name.

The mark resembles an H and an X, with four points that allude to the four dominant modalities of haptic feedback. The name is h-a- p-t-x in lowercase, maximizing legibility and simplicity. The strokes are of one width, evoking qualities of unity and technical precision. The angular typeface contrasts with the rounded, organic shape of the mark. The hidden arrow in the negative space of the “t” and “x” points forward, indicating that we are a forward-looking company.

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The category-defining haptic company.

This is how Rotator describes the design thinking: The full spectrum of touch includes tactile, force, vibration and thermal. These are the differentiating factors that HaptX brings to the VR industry that sets them apart from other companies. Most companies focus on the virtual world with a visual only solution or maybe one or two of the four elements. This is where Rotator started diving into each one of these categories to find how the HaptX technology handled them. From discovery to the final brand, we needed to capture this essence and provide a solution that the company could build on as well as fit nicely into the industry they wanted to help define.

Futurism and humanism.

HaptX technology is pretty intense so it would be easy to push this in a direction that most sci-fi movies tend to go. We needed to keep the human factor alive and strong so we made sure to also focus on what we called “The Organic Future”. This meant that our end result needed to feel like a living breathing entity but also encompass a modular feel that could lend to the strength of what the core of the company focus was.



HaptX // Rebrand: Naming the company

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When I read Shoe Dog by Nike founder Phil Knight, I was surprised to learn that for the first 15 years of Nike's history, the iconic company was called Blue Ribbon Sports. The initial change to Nike was unpopular. People thought it would be pronounced with one syllable, so it rhymed with "like." 

Knight's general guidelines for an iconic name: keep it to one word and ideally two syllables. Many of the most valuable brand follow these rules: Apple, Google, Facebook, Samsung, Tencent, Intel, Pepsi. Knight also advised to include a hard consonant sound if possible. The "ex" sound is a memorable consonant. Think of Kleenex, Xbox, Xerox, SpaceX, FedEx, Exxon.

I followed these guidelines when renaming our company from AxonVR to HaptX, (pronounced "hapt-ex"). I came up with the name, originally to combine the words “haptic” and “textile.” It also works as “haptic” and “experience.” It met Phil Knight's criteria, so I shared it with our President and our CEO. They both loved it.

Additionally, I made sure that the trademark and domain name were available. Once all things were aligned, the Board of Directors approved our new name and we committed to our rebrand. 

Filing for HaptX word mark. Registering a trademark and naming the company are among my proudest accomplishments at HaptX.

Filing for HaptX word mark. Registering a trademark and naming the company are among my proudest accomplishments at HaptX.

AxonVR // Brand Guidelines + Visual Identity

When I joined AxonVR as their first marketing hire, I had a lot of work to do. After a few months of planning our marketing efforts and learning about the space, we developed and articulated a brand identity.

The AxonVR Brand Book codified our visual identity, positioning, and messaging. It enabled the brand to scale to the rest of the company and to third-party vendors.

You can download a PDF here.

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Artwork and images

Part of the AxonVR brand was developing a distinctive visual style. We focused on full-body experiences and interactions related to the hands. We used fine particles like powder, film grain, and small stars to convey a sense of precision. We flooded these images with cyan and magenta to make them distinctively look like “AxonVR.”

Mustard and Co // E-commerce launch

I met the duo behind Mustard and Co. at a craft fair in Seattle in mid-2015. They were the most popular stand at the festival, with people lining up to try their mustard. I loved the the mustard, so I bought a few jars and asked them about their business.

They told me they like craft fairs and street markets because they're selling direct to consumers. They were carried in a few stores and online market places, but distributors and retailers took the majority of their margins. I saw an opportunity.



In late summer 2015, I joined Mustard and Co. on a contract to accelerate their online presence and e-commerce business. The goal: to launch for prior to the 2015 holiday season. I led an overhaul of their website on the Shopify platform. 

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After revamping Mustardandco.com, the next step was to drive traffic. I achieved this through optimizing SEO, and performing paid ad campaigns on Google and Facebook.

I created new photo and video assets, launched their social presence on Twitter and Instagram, and executed an influencer marketing campaign. I even led the development of the Five Flavor Gift Set, a new holiday product designed for online buyers.

For the first time, the majority of their profits came from online sales.

Above: Screen captures from Mustard and Co's website.

Left: Mustard and Co's Instagram featuring pictures from when I led their marketing efforts.

Below: A video I produced to tell their company story.

Mustard and Co // The Five Flavor Gift Set

When I joined Mustard and Co. to launch their online presence, they only sold their product in a 7oz. jar that cost $7 each. The goal:

  • Create a higher margin product

  • Introduce new flavors to customers

  • Leave them wanting to buy more

  • Make it easy to gift

The solution: The Five Flavor Gift Set.

The Five Flavor Gift Set contains one of each flavor, in 2oz mini jars. The customers could purchase the set for $20. They designed the  7oz jars were designed as a pantry ingredient consumed by an individual customer. I designed the 2oz variety packs to be a party/holiday gift that could be consumed by a group. This way many people could try it their flavors, turning mustard into a social activity.

We used packing tubes to ship the jars safely, so we embraced this as the design of the package. It makes for a distinctive looking gift.

This went on to be Mustard and Co's highest grossing product of the holiday season. While envisioned as a limited time only item, they continue to have it on their online store. Although Mustard and Co. has more than five different flavor SKUs, the company retains the Five Flavor Gift Set as a flagship product.

Mustard and Co // Influencer Marketing Campaign

I led an influencer marketing campaign to tap into new audiences and spread the word about Mustard and Co. I researched leading foodies, chefs, and lifestyle bloggers, targeting those with audiences in the low hundreds of thousands. The kinds with reach and impact, but with a higher likelihood of actually responding to us. I mailed packages and sent personalized messages to each of them. This was a time-consuming effort, but it paid huge dividends.

Tiffani Amber Thiessen, the actress best known for Saved By The Bell, was among those I contacted. She listed us at the top of her holiday buyers guide for 2015.

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Food bloggers wrote recipes that called for Mustard and Co mustard. We cross-posted them to our blog and recipes page, and amplified these posts on our instagram. Below: Pictures from food bloggers' recipes.

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