By Ethan Mickelson
Photography by Hillary Ehlen
Imagine for a moment a trip to the river in the middle of winter. You stop at the frozen water’s edge and brush some snow off a fallen tree to take a seat. The sound of snowflakes falling fills the cold, white silence. From your pocket, you pull out a virtual reality headset and slip the sleek device over your earmuffs.
At the touch of a button, you are suddenly transported through time to the colors of summer. Where a hardened stream once encased icy rocks, a roaring current of binary code now washes over your eyes. You bathe in the glaring sun, contrasted by the dreary skies of reality seen only seconds ago.
While this type of transcendental tech experience may seem far from reality, one Fargo startup is at the forefront of making virtual reality an actuality. Creating entire worlds within the 360-degree images they capture, the cofounding couple is bringing the visionary advances of VR to the frameworks of conventional platforms.
“They do have that wow factor, but it’s not plausible to expect that everyone is experiencing our content with a VR headset. So we use what are called mobile VR platforms,” says Be More Colorful CEO Matt Chaussee. “Regardless of whether they have a headset or not, users can load these tours through a browser and have the same experience no matter what device they use.”
If you’re familiar with Google Street View, then you can probably envision the images that Be More Colorful creates. From any angle imaginable, you get a sense of what it’s like to walk down streets around the world past buildings, cars and people.
Now moving into their second year as a startup, Be More Colorful is using their all-encompassing 360-degree imagery as the base of their business, taking the technique off the streets and into the spaces of businesses throughout Fargo. The following three business sectors are just some of the areas where the technology has potential to improve brand interactions.
Meet the Cofounders
Matt Chaussee, CEO
- Background in website merchandising, internet marketing analysis, programming, mathematics and technical services
- Bachelor’s degree in mathematics and MBA from NDSU
Katie (Cumber) Chaussee, President
- Background in visual arts, including photography, painting, and digital and mixed media
- Bachelor’s degree in psychology with minor in art from NDSU
Never before have time and space been so intertwined as in the virtual place. Whether transporting to a new time and space altogether or analyzing the finest details from a split second in time, virtual reality enables what could be grandiosely described as time travel. Take, for example, Google’s Street View, which has a feature that lets you see past dates for locations where multiple images were captured over time.
Yet virtual reality is only at the beginning of its development. With further advances and adoption by the public, future populations might be able to virtually experience a completely different era from their own. That magnificent idea begins with the startups of today capturing high-quality and enduring images. But it’s not just photographing a space, it’s also tailoring the digital mass of information to simulate an authentic experience.
“We’re not trying to replace the space, we’re trying to give just enough of a glimpse inside it that you’re compelled to want to go and interact with that space,” says Matt about the virtual spaces they capture, process and customize for local businesses.
One glimpse they’re providing is inside Wild Terra Cider & Brewing. A recent development project in Downtown Fargo, the former horse stable was left unused until it was reimagined. The resulting transformation was the perfect backdrop to demonstrate the business’s historic roots and promote their new space. Through 360-degree imaging, Be More Colorful has made it possible for anyone to see comprehensive images of the restoration from before to after.
Just like Street View enables people to engage with the exterior of businesses from the comfort of their own devices, the 360-degree images Be More Colorful captures offer a simulated brand interaction. Now, businesses can give potential customers a chance to test drive their brand, product, or space and give an idea of what an experience might be like all before actually entering the space.
“One of the big differences with this type of media is you can come back and look at it again and again because the experience is different every single time.”
“Comparing this type of photography to traditional photography, it does capture a lot more,” Katie says. “It captures everything you can see. In that sense, you literally have to look at everything differently to picture how the photo is going to turn out.”
As part of creating these virtual spaces, Matt and Katie work with their clients to create a customizable business solution for communicating specific elements of a space. In the wedding industry, a space must fit into very specific customer needs, thus making it difficult for venues to describe exactly what their space is like — even with the use of photography and video.
“One of the big differences with this type of media is you can come back and look at it again and again because the experience is different every single time,” Matt says.
The technology also allows venues such as Rustic Oaks in Moorhead to show off their space from multiple angles and perspectives. In addition to showing a blank canvas, they’re able to give an experience of what it’s like while a wedding is underway thanks to Be More Colorful. Paired with a pocket VR and a mobile device, these images allow potential customers to easily step into a space and understand it more intimately
As with any emerging industry, one of the obstacles Be More Colorful faces is communicating the real-life value of their virtual products. While they work to utilize new and exciting technologies, they must also get people excited about how these advances apply to their own lives.
One of the most exciting applications of 360-degree imaging paired with virtual reality is the ability to travel around the world faster than the speed of light. Imagine shuffling through the Seven Wonders of the World all in one afternoon.
Particularly excited about the potential to bring their tech to the industry, Katie and Matt have already explored a majority of the local wonders through their super-wide-angle lens. By adding hotspots with information and tailoring the tour’s behavior, they achieve custom interactivity that’s perfect for promoting area destinations such as parks, museums and historic attractions.
“We’re very hands-on with the production process because we want to commoditize the experience,” Matt says. “We want every one of those photos to be a compelling scene that tells a story. Every photo should be a spot that you want to stop and look around and say, ‘This is cool!’”
The far-reaching potential of 360-degree imagery doesn’t end there, though. With potential applications in countless other industries, including real estate, e-commerce and education, there’s an entire world of possibilities inside virtual reality. That’s why Matt and Katie continue to create customizable solutions for area businesses while exploring the applications of future technologies.