For One Tech Intern, Viacom’s Experience Room Stands Out

The psychedelic animated VR world of “Chocolate,” an experience created for the song of the same name by San Francisco based musician Giraffage. Created by 3D animator Tyler Hurd and executive produced by Viacom NEXT.

Viacom’s global headquarters at 1515 Broadway shoots 53 floors out of the endless hustle of Times Square. Even amid all this frenetic energy, though, one part of the building really stood out to me as a Media and Technology Services (MTS) Finance intern: the Experience Room.

Situated amid the MTS teams on the 11th floor, the room hosts an ever-updated showcase of the new and emerging technologies that Viacom is exploring, developing, and strategizing to promote MTV, Nickelodeon and other brands. The room doubles as an incubator for Viacom engineers developing products and a fun, engaging place for other employees to experience them.

The room feels futuristic – it is outfitted with integrated smart assistance and voice-activated lighting. One of the gadgets I found particularly fascinating was a voice-activated smart wall mirror, which provides weather information, displays the time, takes notes, and even compliments you.

A section of the room is a mini-museum, outfitted with a chronologically arranged line of devices ranging from a flip phone to Microsoft’s “Hololens” – a headpiece that projects holographic images.

Viacom engineers rotate into the room to work on new technologies, join an existing project, or develop new ideas using the room’s resources. One rotating engineer is at work on a SpongeBob SquarePants robot. The prototype can move around and interact with kids. The engineer would like to equip it with enough information that it can be used as a source of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) education for children.

The engineering team is also working on a smart photo booth that can transform its background, factoring in different color combinations and even the type of clothes people are wearing.

The highlight of my time in this space was a Virtual Reality (VR) game where I smashed things to collect points in a ring within a simulated Experience Room. I also immersed myself within the first ever VR music album with Viacom’s The Melody of Dust, which had such an incredible level of optimization and features embedded within it that I felt as if I were physically in a different world altogether.

The Experience Room now has open hours where employees experience what the team is working on: Wednesdays from 2:30 to 4 p.m. and Fridays from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. I hope you’ll visit the 11th floor to enjoy this amazing space and draw inspiration from the way that Viacom is developing its present and shaping its future.

Comedy Central PSA Takes Action Against Sexual Assault

Comedy Central’s recent short-form video isn’t exactly slapstick humor. It’s a PSA in partnership with national organization #ItsOnUs, which is committed to ending sexual assault on college campuses.

The video features a young, male college student named Guy Davis. It’s narrated by a man with a deep, sonorous voice who deems Davis “Action Guy,” a heroic figure with superhuman powers to prevent sexual harassment, armed with a shield to repel obnoxious bros.

Picture a millennial Clark Kent at a frat house, who overhears an argument between fellow students. He rushes downstairs and finds a guy groping a young female student.

“Stop,” says the woman. “I said stop!”

Action Guy tells the jerk to leave her alone. The narrator makes a reference to “superhuman detection skills,” but Action Guy isn’t having it.

“I just heard her,” he says, looking perturbed. “With my ears.”

The message is obvious, but the PSA spells it out anyway: “Be an action guy: no superhero powers required.”

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The 24th Annual MTV EMA Awards Were Simply EM-Azing

With delightful decadence, audience engagement, and celeb camaraderie, the 24th annual EMA Awards, from London’s Wembley Arena, were a spectacle not to be missed. For those who didn’t catch the show, here are some highlights:

EMA Host Rita Ora was full of surprises

Between her singing and acting ventures, fashion collaborations with Adidas and Calvin Klein, TV coaching appearances on The X Factor and The Voice UK, as well as a hosting gig for VH1’s revamped season of America’s Next Top Model last year, Rita Ora is a renaissance woman—and a busy one at that. This was clear as she stepped out on the red carpet in a bathrobe and towel. Well, a diamond necklace, too.

From the sofa, to the car, to the @mtvema red carpet ❣

A post shared by Rita Ora (@ritaora) on

But the multi-talented host rolled through 12 costume changes that night, from hotel-party-chic to 90s exercise gear to a slew of technicolor wigs and, inexplicably, a floor-length necklace in the shape of a garden fork. Her hosting duties included a pair of performances—her No. 1 hit, Your Song, followed by crowd-favorite Anywhere.

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MTV Heads South for Floribama Shore

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Over the course of a six-season run from 2009 to ’12, MTV’s Jersey Shore delivered an audacious brand of entertainment so compellingly addictive that it spread around the world in the form of spin-offs Geordie Shore (UK), Gandia Shore (Spain), Warsaw Shore (Poland), and Acapulco Shore (Mexico).

Now, the franchise is spinning right back to the United States, where eight twentysomething Southerners will inject the Shore spirit along a stretch of beach and party straddling the Florida-Alabama state line known as Floribama Shore.

The return of the Shore franchise to the United States comes as MTV continues to mine its heritage to fine tune its programming into an ongoing celebration of youth culture: TRL returned last month, following a resuscitation of My Super Sweet 16, Unplugged, and, on Snapchat, Cribs and Beach House.

Here’s a peak at the eight Floribama Shore cast members:

Jeremiah Buoni: 22, Amelia Island, FL

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Can’t Make It to London? Join the MTV EMAs Onstage With Augmented Reality

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

The MTV EMAs will air on Sunday, Nov. 12, broadcasting a hit parade of star performers from London to a worldwide audience. But those millions unable attend the show at SSE Arena can still interact with host Rita Ora and her fellow nominees onstage via augmented reality on the MTV EMA mobile app.

With their device plugged into select performances, viewers will see and be able to interact with digital animations transposed over the action. “3-D rendered objects can fill the environment around you,” Karmelina Parouka, MTV International’s vice president of digital content and engagement told Deadline. “We’re trying to immerse [fans] into the show itself, and tie it back to the artists they’re passionate about.”

What might this look like while watching the EMAs via your phone? To quote Deadline’s example“As a musician like Camila Cabello takes the stage to sing Havana, that might prompt a virtual Cuban flag to unfurl within the app,” evoking a sort of musical fantasyland realized over top of live performances, reminiscent of the animated monsters dropping into your everyday environment in Pokeman Go.

The EMA augmented reality activation follows the artist- and musician-fueled virtual reality explorations and fellowships pouring out of the Viacom NEXT innovation lab. Viacom has been sinking roots into the growing augmented reality space for some time – check out Dr. Beau Lotto, a Viacom Labs creator-in-residence, discussing the blend between the digital and physical realms at an employee event last year:

Augmenting the augmented reality announcement is the unveiling of the EMA’s 2017 social squad, a coterie of global influencers immersing themselves into the festivities to spread the energy around the world in their native languages. This year’s squad is Madison Beer (U.S.), Hugo Gloss (Brazil), Bontle Modiselle (South Africa), Geordie Shore stars Sophie Kaseai and Charlotte Crosby (UK), and Marcel aka KsFreak and Manuel “Krappi” Krappinger (Germany).

The EMAs will air in more than 170 markets. Visit the show’s website for more information on how to watch and vote.

Trumped Out? Broad City’s Tr**p-No-More Browser Extender Can Help

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

We may have collectively overdone it.

In the politics-everywhere-all-the-time days of 2017, it can be tough to find a zone of existence in which you don’t encounter the name of a certain commander in chief.

Comedy Central’s Broad City is here to help. After censoring the president’s name throughout the current season of the show, Abbi and Ilana have extended their efforts online, where you can download a Trump-No-More browser extension. Once you add this handy internet supplement, “Trump” will appear as “Tr**p” on pretty much any page you visit.

Here’s how to get started:

How well does the tool work? Well, here’s a screenshot of Donald Tr**p’s Wikipedia page before downloading the extension:

And after:

So there’s a little less politics in your life, and a little more Broad City.

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Erykah Badu Returns as 2017 Soul Train Awards Honor Industry Legends and Newcomers

Solange Knowles and Bruno Mars have soul. At least, BET thinks so.

The network has announced nominations for the BET Presents: 2017 Soul Train Awards, an annual ceremony that recognizes the best in soul, R&B and hip-hop music, honing in on artists from the 1970s—or newcomers whose music is evocative of the disco era.

So far, Solange is leading with seven nominations, including video of the year and song of the year for her hit single, Cranes in the Sky.

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Kid Power, Staying Grounded, India’s Pragmatic Youth: Viacom Global Insights Digest, November Edition

by Christian Kurz, Global Consumer Insights, Viacom

Viacom’s latest consumer insights from around the world include global kids’ influence on household decisions, how people remain grounded in stressful times, and the pragmatism of Indian youth.  As always, you can read these and all our stories in English, Latin American Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese.

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Nickelodeon’s Hey Arnold!: The Jungle Movie Is No Ordinary Field Trip

This Thanksgiving, Nickelodeon is serving up a feast of nostalgia with a feature-length TV movie revival of its iconic 90s cartoon, Hey Arnold! 

Hey Arnold!: The Jungle Movie will finally answer some unresolved questions about our football-headed hero and his missing parents. If you need a brief refresher, the show left off with a cliffhanger. Arnold discovered a clue regarding the whereabouts of his long-lost parents, leading the 9-year-old to believe they had disappeared into the Central American jungle.

And that’s where the two-hour TV movie special will take us.

Any 90s kid who grew up watching Nick’s idiosyncratic animated series will recall Arnold’s unconventional upbringing. He was raised in a fictional metropolis, evoking gnarly vibes of midtown Manhattan circa 1970.

Arnold lived with his eccentric grandparents in a dilapidated boarding house. But he slept on a retro Queen Murphy bed and gazed at the sky through his bedroom’s glass roof. Growing up in the suburbs, I always thought this looked like the ultimate crib. It seems other young fans felt the same way:

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CMT Artists of the Year Clocks Record Ratings With Moving Disaster Tribute

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

NASHVILLE, TN – OCTOBER 18: (L-R) Honorees Chris Stapleton, Brian Kelley of Florida Georgia Line, Tyler Hubbard of Florida Georgia Line, Jason Aldean, Keith Urban and Luke Bryan speak onstage at the 2017 CMT Artists Of The Year on October 18, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for CMT)

In a powerful display of unity and emotion honoring the victims of manmade and natural disasters across the United States, CMT’s Artists of the Year event aired to record ratings on Wednesday night, skyrocketing 61 percentage points over 2016 numbers while drawing more than 1.1 million fans. The program also ranked as the most social entertainment program in primetime on cable, while #CMTAOTY trended nationally on Twitter.

CMT recast the event – typically a celebration of the year’s premiere country artists – into a “night of hope and healing” following a savage mass shooting that killed 58 people attending the Route 91 Harvest country music festival earlier this month, as well as a trio of hurricanes and a plague of wildfires that have disrupted life throughout much of the nation.

“We felt a commitment to our fans to transform the event into a night where we honor human resilience through music, and hopefully in the process lift the spirits of our fans,” said CMT General Manager Frank Tanki. “We’re thrilled that the special connected with so many people, especially those who’ve been impacted by the recent tragedies.”

The show’s ratings success hits as CMT is riding a 10-month ratings streak, with sustained year-over-year growth over that period among key demographics.

Here are a few highlights from the show, which aired from Nashville’s Schermerhorn Symphony Center.

Artists of the Year deliver message of unity and resilience

When the gunfire erupted over the Las Vegas Strip on Oct. 1, country music star Jason Aldean onstage. His audience was the killer’s target. As Aldean rushed to cover, 58 people were killed and hundreds more injured in the unending barrage of bullets.

To open the show on Wednesday night, Aldean appeared alongside the other Artists of the Year: Chris Stapleton, Florida Georgia Line, Keith Urban and Luke Bryan. The performers – whom the network had selected in September, prior to the format change – had all agreed to forego formal awards and focus on victims of the recent tragedies. They opened with a message acknowledging the power and importance of music, the resilience of the human spirit, and the strength and courage of first responders and fans:

The show resonated especially powerfully in Las Vegas, where ratings increased an astronomical 1,877 percentage points over last year.

Country stars deliver a powerful genre crossover with a tribute to Tom Petty

CMT has a bold tradition of fusing artists (pop legends The Backstreet Boys performed country sensation Florida Georgia Line’s H.O.L.Y. during the show), and one of the night’s most uplifting moments came on just such a crossover. Aldean, Urban, Stapleton and country mainstays Little Big Town united on stage for a tribute to the late Tom Petty, belting out a stirring ensemble cover of the rocker’s I Won’t Back Down.

One of Petty’s most famous songs, the defiant anthem served as an appropriate tribute to the music legend while doubling as an apt rebuke to the fear and retreat that killers like the Las Vegas mass murderer hope to inspire:

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