Spotlight Stories is a new artistic medium Google and Motorola Mobility launched today that puts users inside an animated featurette if they spin 360-degrees while watching their phones. The first Spotlight Story “Windy Days” by ex-Pixar moviemakers suddenly appeared on Moto X phones today, and depicts a mouse chased by a hat around a forest you can look around.
According to a sprawling look at the new technology by Wired's Steven Levy, Spotlight Stories was first dreamed up by Motorola Mobility's Advanced Technology And Products (ATAP) moonshot division before it was acquired by Google. The search giant poured extra funds into building out the new mobile storytelling format.
Appearing today on Moto X phones behind a red sombrero icon, the Windy Days Spotlight Story lets viewers rotate their body left while holding their phone to look left, and rotate right to look right within the animation. It creates an immersive experience similar to the self-directed cut scenes you can look around in that appear in some first-person shooter games like Call Of Duty.
The team who built Spotlight Stories includes former DARPA director Regina Dugan, and her deputy Ken Gabriel. Once hired by Motorola Mobility, they recruited several Pixar veterans including Oscar-winning moviemaker Jan Pinkava, animator and director Doug Sweetland, and character developer Mark Oftodal, who constructed the plot for Windy Days. The team of 40 also includes Coraline designer Tadahiro Uesugi who sketched the concept art for Windy Days, and Jon Klassen, a Caldicott-wining illutrator, who fleshed out the look.
Since users choose what they see in a Spotlight Story, no two people's experience is exactly the same. A viewer could watch the Vaudevillian comedy of a wind-blown hat chasing a little mouse, or gaze elsewhere around the nature scene.
What looks like a panorama below is actually a 360-degree still from Windy Days, showing what one might see if they spun in a circle while watching.
"These aren't prerecorded scenes you're sitting through," Gabriel told Levy. "It's a world rendered in real time based where you are in the story, what you're looking at, what your physical orientation is.”
Levy reports that Motorola may open the Spotlight Stories platform to other artists, but wouldn't specify when or how that would happen.
The project shows that while tech giants can use their power to index information, connect us, transport us around, or make us live longer, they can also use innovation to delight us. Hand-held devices full of powerful chips, bright screens, and sensors to detect our movement may unlock new forms creative expression, not just new utilities.