Virtual Reality

ComplexCon Celebrates Technology and Creativity

Two young women playing VR
by Kristin Houser
Writer & Editor
, LA Music Blog

ComplexCon 2017 is a wrap, but the second annual world’s fair for technology, fashion and music left a lasting impression.

The internet came to life as roughly 50,000 creators and consumers flocked to the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center for the second annual ComplexCon.

Equal parts convention and music festival, the event lived up to its billing as a world’s fair for today’s generation. Interactive experiences, musical performances and countless retail activations filled the center.

Attendees may make the trek to Long Beach for the music or fashion, but cultural icon and ComplexCon founder Marc Ecko asserts that technology is what powers the entire experience.

“Technology is the subtext of everything — it is woven into nearly every creative expression,” he said. “It’s the oxygen that our creative culture breathes.”

Nothing Conventional About This Convention

The difference between ComplexCon and a traditional convention was apparent the moment attendees set foot in the arena lobby. There they came face-to-face with a massive video wall featuring ComplexCon host committee member Takashi Murakami’s custom motion art.

With neon signage and graffiti art decorating the venue, live music courtesy of an A-plus lineup of hip-hop artists drew the crowd to the Pigeons and Planes stage.

Skateboarders showed off their skills on waist-high ramps, while ballers shot hoops on the convention’s half court. Tattoo artists used their talents on attendees looking to go home with a permanent memento, while those seeking a more temporary style update headed over to the pop-up beauty salon.

Different headshots using Pikazo at ComplexCon
Pikazo uses AI to transform selfies into works of art.

No neatly arranged grid of booths here — ComplexCon invited visitors to meander through an organic booth layout. Wildly unique booths provided a window into each brand’s creative vision.

The bright, bold cartoon art of tokidoki stood in stark contrast to the black-and-white motif of the Adidas booth and the rich wooden floors and walls of the G-Star RAW installation.

Meanwhile, Intel’s neon-dominated installation transported attendees to a bustling street in Tokyo, weaving cutting-edge technologies into a single interactive exhibit.

The Intel space was defined by two walls featuring the art of Argentinian motion graphics designer Esteban Diacono and anime-influenced Los Angeles-based graphic designer and artist McFlyy. Intel RealSense technology enabled attendees to trigger animations on both walls using gestures, such as a simple thumbs-up.

Immersing Linkin Park Fans

Those interested in dipping a toe into the emerging world of virtual reality (VR) could do so at Intel’s immersive Linkin Park experience. Surrounded by silhouettes of band members, viewers used handheld controllers to trigger a custom Linkin Park video clip.

Band members Joe Hahn and Mike Shinoda made cameo appearances to share the experience with fans.

“Not only is this a great fan experience, it’s an homage to the band and its tech-forward, innovative spirit,” said Rajeev Puran, manager of Intel’s commercial VR and AR experiences. “Digital media is just another way the band continues to create.”

Visitors stopped by the Pikazo experience, where artificial intelligence (AI) helps the photo app merge snapshots with masterpieces like Van Gogh’s The Starry Night.

The combination of neural networks, transfer-learning and Intel Xeon processors made it all possible, according to Shardul Golwalkar, an Intel technical marketing engineer. However, the speed of the process belied its complexity — just minutes after saying cheese, attendees walked away with a work of art.

Unique photo ops were a trend at ComplexCon. Attendees hit up Old Spice’s Puppy Party installation to have their portrait snapped with an adorable pup. GIPHY, the popular online database of GIFs, welcomed visitors to their kaleidoscope photo booth as well as an after-event sharing page for ComplexCon psychedelic shots.

ComplexCon sign
Intel booth at ComplexCon
Two young women playing VR
Electronic dancers at ComplexCon
McFlyy Wall at ComplexCon
Video wall at ComplexCon

Year two of ComplexCon may now be a wrap, but Ecko hopes the experience has a lasting impact on all who attended.

“I think the interactivity of it and the sort of Willie Wonka-ness of it is inspiring for people, not just as consumers but as creative thinkers,” said Ecko.

“I hope they take that energy back to the projects they’re working on and use it to connect with people.”

 

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