Amber: Hi, I’m Amber Ambrose. Welcome to The BusinessMakers. Today, my guests, plural, are Maria Tapias (Maria: Yes.), got it right guys.
Maria: Thank you for having us, Amber.
Amber: And, not to leave you out Leo, Leo Basterra.
Leo: Thanks for having us, Amber.
Amber: I’ve been practicing that R roll there at the end. Anyway, welcome to the show.
Maria: Great to see you, Amber, thank you.
Amber: Today we are going to be talking about your company, koob audio, and Maria, why don’t you start, just give us sort of the quick version of what it is.
Maria: Sure thing. It’s virtual reality audiobooks, and we use a combination of technology, which includes 3D audio as well as binaural beats, and that pretty much creates an audio experience so that you feel as if you are inside the story, living the story.
Amber: Ok, so Leo, I’m going to go to you to ask you a few extra questions off of that. What is a binaural beat, and what does 3 audio mean in, sort of, if you can explain it in words.
Leo: Right, well everyone’s acquainted with 3D video, right, which is an experience that allows you to identify depth and space within the video component.
Amber: Right. So the visual part of that.
Leo: The visual part. So, what we’re doing is we’re replicating that experience, tricking the brain into thinking that there’s an actual space, that characters and people are in actual positions; left, right, up, down, front, back. We’re replicating that experience, and we’re allowing the brain to interpret that as we read an audio book.
Amber: What is the progression of this idea to where you are now? Starting out with the Voice Society.
Maria: Sure. So, we are marketers and advertisers by trade, and this actually started by working on a couple of different brands, like Verizon and Wal-Mart, excuse me, and Samsung. They’re constantly asking for innovation, and actually, Leo’s team came up with this as a gimmick for an advertising campaign, but ever since then we’ve continued to think about it and just brainstorm around it. We became an independent agency, the Voice Society. We still do marketing and advertising, but we believed in this a lot, and just through work sessions and work sessions we came into that particular opportunity to create pretty much a story telling experience with virtual reality audio, and koob is an extension of us.
Amber: Ok. So, what is your plan going forward? I know you have some things on the horizon, and that is children’s books, audio books, children’s audio books to use the technology. But you have more planned.
Leo: Yeah, that is exactly right. We’re starting with children because we think there’s a huge opportunity there, but the technology and the idea of the virtual reality audio books is not just for children. In the pipeline, we have adult novels, as well as religious books and stories, as well as therapy. So, it’s an endless gamut of genres that we can start producing. The thing is that we have a certain capacity, and we want to do it in order, and we are starting with children.
Amber: Yeah, because as of right now, you’re a pretty new company. How long has it been since the idea came to you to say, hey, this is more than just a cool gimmick for advertising, to the point at which you actually went for a patent, and you’re patent pending right now, as of this conversation. What were the steps in between there?
Leo: It’s been three years in the making. So, the first time that we were exposed to binaural audio, as an advertising agency, was around four years ago. But it wasn’t until three years ago that we really started thinking about how we could use 3D audio and binaural beats to produce a product, something that would really make a difference in entertainment (Amber: Like a platform.). Like a platform. So, it’s been three years, and once we honed into the opportunity of creating audio books with this new technology, that’s when we started the patenting process. The patenting process took us around three months of working every single day, in and out, something that you can’t do by yourself. It’s super specialized. Of course we did not invent 3D audio, or binaural beats, but we did create the vision of putting together that audio technology, together with storytelling, together with a delivery mechanism, which is, a computer, or a mobile device. And that’s exactly what we are actually patenting.
Amber: It’s the combination of everything.
Leo: It’s the combination of everything (Maria: Correct.).
Amber: Ok, well that clears a lot of stuff up, thank you. So, obviously, you’re in a partnership. I would love to know what your roles are in that partnership, Maria.
Maria: Sure thing. So, I am the leading client management and anything related to marketing. And Leo is actually a lot more digitally and tech savvy, from that perspective. I’m the one that likes to go out there and talk to everyone and get the word out.
Amber: Make the relationships
Maria: Yes, exactly. So, we balance each other out pretty well from that perspective. Would you agree?
Leo: I agree, and we have a broader team working behind koob. We have developed partnerships with multiple studios; studios that can help us record the voices, studios that can help us record the sound effects, kind of like foley artists, and studios that are specifically devoted to doing the audio mix. And all of them.
Amber: Which seems like it would be very important in this.
Leo: Of course. Every single aspect is important. Even if you don’t have the 3D effect, it’s very important to have the right voices, it’s very important to have the right sound effects. And, well, actually we’re working with studios based out of Houston, based out of Mexico City, and based out of Argentina. And they’re all coordinating with each other for everything to come together.
Amber: Ok. Well, it’s an international effort (Maria: It is.). I was not aware of that; that’s very interesting. As far as people looking to help you voice things, or give you content and books, and all that, where do you plan on finding all of that?
Maria: So, right now we’ve been focusing on public domain books, just mainly because, obviously, it’s something that we all know, and the goal, like Leo mentioned, is to move on to original and/or partner with publishers. So, those are two paths that we are going to be pursuing. And yes, excel in point as far as content and making sure that you’re developing correctly for recording. Because, we can’t just grab a book, and then start reading it and making up sounds just as we go. It’s something that requires a lot of thought, a lot of planning, and a lot of technical design. So, that’s another aspect of it as it relates to content. So, it’s got to be content that lends itself for an audio experience, and again, we’re just open to obviously where it’s going to come from.
Leo: Not every book or every story works for this technology. Since you have the binaural experience, the 3D space, you need to have those scenes and context that lend themselves to maximize the experience. So, for example, with our first two books, which are Peter Pan and Peter Rabbit, we’ve adjust, they’re public domains, so we have the ability to adjust them. And we have adjusted not only the length of the story, but also the specific situations and the specific moments that lend themselves best for this technology. So, going forward, we do envision creating our own stories, partnering with authors, partnering with publishers so that we can have a broader gamut of stories that lend themselves to that technology.
Amber: It’s sort of like reverse into your technology (Leo: Exactly.) instead of going the other way around.
Leo: Exactly, and having the ability, if the story has already been written, having the ability to work with whomever owns the rights, to make those adaptations so that it works perfectly for that technology.
Amber: So how do you plan on bringing your product to market?
Leo: We’re planning on rolling it out in Spring of 2017. The way people are going to have access to it is like any regular library of books: through an app, or through a website where you can actually look, search by genre, and download the books that you want to purchase (Amber: Like an online library.). It’s an online library. You can purchase individually, or you can purchase a subscription, a monthly subscription with unlimited downloadable books. And apart from that, we’re going to use retailers that already exist, the big ones like Audible.com, like Hachette. We’ll just send them all of our content, and put them up in their library. So, people will have access through very different ways to our content.
Amber: Ok, but there is a direct way once that launches?
Leo: That’s exactly right.
Amber: Ok. And lastly, I know you guys have already worked extensively with kids to just sort of test this product. I’d really like to know what that process was like. How did you find the kids, what did you do, how did you decide on the books, and what is it like to watch them when they’re listening?
Maria: So, clearly we’ve tapped into our network of family and friends. They have been extremely collaborative from that perspective. It is one of the most validating, fulfilling experiences to watch a child react as they’re listening. You know, they squirm, they this, they that, they even kick, which is great because that means they are living and feeling the story.
Leo: One of the most fulfilling things of the product and watching kids interact with it, is after the fact. It’s amazing to see them, as Maria said, squirming, and clinching, and laughing, and turning around because they truly think someone is behind them. So, one of the things that the actual scientific research that stems from binaural beats and 3D audio is that people that are exposed to it become better thinkers, quicker thinkers, and better conversationalists. They know how to express their feelings and express what they want to say in a better way. And that shows immediately. Once they take off the headphones, they can tell you exactly even what color the socks of each character wore. And when you have a focus group with different kids that listen to the same story at the same time, they share their different experiences, and it’s amazing.
Amber: Well, on that note, thank you so much for joining us. And you can check out koob audio on koobaudio.com (Maria: Yep). And then, plug your headphones in, and you can listen to the full experience, just like the kids. Thanks again for joining me, Maria Tapias, and Leo Basterra of koob audio. I’m Amber Ambrose and this is The BusinessMakers.
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