I never use a screensaver, so I was surprised this past Thursday night to find myself at Mindshare’s Ocean themed evening and mesmerized by TheBlu. What is TheBlu you may ask? At first glance, it looks like a screensaver with pictures of the ocean. But looking closer, TheBlu allows you to dive into and explore underwater habitats and oceans, all from the comfort of your computer. TheBlu is the product of years of teamwork from Oscar winning animators, software engineers, international artists and marine scientists. The end result was that when I watched theBlu, instead of looking at a computer screen, I felt like I was floating in space and swimming alongside my new sea creature friends, all of whom looked very lifelike, in an avatar sort of way.
Who is theBlu team?
TheBlu is a project of Wemo Media. Neville Spiteri started Wemo in January 2009 after working at Electronic Arts and at Digital Domain. Scott Yara is his business partner and co-founder of Wemo. TheBlu also has some big names supporting it including: Oscar winners (Andy Jones
, Kevin Mack and Louie Psihoyos), Joichi Ito (Director, MIT Media Lab
) and Sylvia Earle
(Explorer in Residence, National Geographic).
International Artists Crowdsource the Species
TheBlu is a global interactive website that allows users to explore in real time a shared environment inspired by the ocean. The site is being built with Unity 3D technology and housed on the Amazon EC2 cloud. All the 3D species and habitats in theBlu are created by international artists and developers who use the Wemo Maker Media Platform. TheBlu is co-created by a few thousand artists for the project, without whom it would be impossible to create such a massive simulation of life under the seas. Wemo Media opened its platform to both professionals and students. Artists who want to participate go to theBlu website and select which fish they want to create from a list of approximately 380,000 aquatic species. Wemo worked with marine biologists to design how each of the species should behave in the wild and programmed this information into its proprietary computer system. Wemo’s goal is to create all of the underwater species. Users can tag the fish to find out details on the species and learn about the artist who created it.
How Will It Make Money?
TheBlu is currently free, but Wemo may eventually offer monthly subscriptions. The site will make money by charging users to buy fish. In my experience sharks seemed to cost the most to purchase and the Hammerhead Shark was very popular. Part of the money made from selling the fish would go to the artists, part would go towards ocean conservation and part would go to Wemo to keep the lights on.
TheBlu was in private beta since October 2011. Wemo Media launched public beta two weeks ago at SXSW Interactive. At SXSW, TheBlu won first place in the Entertainment Category in the Accelerator Competition. TheBlu is now available in public beta as a Mac/PC download at theblu.com
Wemo views the website as a tool that could be used in schools and museums to teach children about the ocean and its complex ecosystems. This is not a video game or a pixar movie or facebook for fish, but it shares many aspects of these media. The goal of theBlu is to raise Ocean awareness and funding for ocean conservation via art and entertainment. But beyond all of those good reasons to try out the beta version of The Blu, you should check it out, just because it is beautiful.