If you’ve teleported
inside a VR experience or used snap-turns to rotate then you’ve already
experienced some of Cloudhead Games’ contributions to the modern VR industry,
according to co-founder and CEO Denny Unger. In addition, their pioneering
efforts in VR hand interactions caught the attention of Valve, who approached
them to create a demo on Valve Index hand controllers. And Cloudhead has been a
pioneer in using VR performance capture, using it for its 2016 VR
adventure-fantasy The Gallery: Call of the Starseed, which won multiple
awards. Its 2019 first-person-shooter VR game Pistol Whip was similarly
much lauded. Cloudhead Games is nothing if not a VR multi-tasker.
Read more (at VFX Voice).
5G Will Turbo-Charge Streaming, VR, AR, Video Games, Interactive Movies and VFX
By CHRIS McGOWAN
Minecraft: The Multiplayer Giant Will Get a Boost
With its blazing speed, 5G – the next generation of
wireless technology – is expected to spark plentiful innovations and burgeoning
growth in entertainment and the arts, especially for streaming media, video
games, virtual reality and augmented reality, all of which will create new
opportunities for content creators and visual effects artists. “All of a sudden, people will have more access to
high-quality data streams, very fast, with low latency,” according to David
Bloom, a Santa Monica-based writer and consultant who tracks the collision of
technology and entertainment. For television, there will be options galore as 5G will bolster IP services that stream “all your different video content.” That different
content may include new forms of interactive TV, music and advertising.Read more in VFX Voice.
(translation of Aldicir Scariot interview by Luciana Dutra)
Could a little-known nut from Brazil become a global
super food and help save South America’s two biggest ecosystems? Baru is
a smooth brown nut with a delicate taste that is somewhere between a peanut and
a cashew; it is packed with protein and nutrients. It comes from the baruzeiro
tree (Dipteryx alata Vogel), which grows mostly in the Cerrado region of
Brazil, a giant savanna in the heart of the continent that covers some two
million square kilometers, about 21% of the country.
A Cerrado savanna landscape.
The Cerrado is South America’s second largest biome
after the Amazon rain forest and has come under even greater attack – it has
lost some fifty percent of its original vegetation, due mostly to cattle
ranching and soy production, which are powering Brazil's current agricultural boom. The vast region is important for its great biodiversity (five percent of the planet's) and because it provides watershed
for many rivers in the Amazon basin and elsewhere in South America. If the
Cerrado loses much more of its native vegetation, the consequences could be
profound in the neighboring Amazon rain forest – as goes the Cerrado, so may go
its neighboring ecosystems. Cultivating a native tree like the baruzeiro, or at
least preserving those still standing, is one small step towards reversing the
ecological devastation in the region. There is a big incentive for local
farmers to do this: the baru nut is a powerhouse treat that could generate
serious national and global sales and join the pantheon of better-known nuts.
The baru tree (baruzeiro) can grow to 25 meters in height.
The leguminous baru tree grows to twenty-five meters
in height, produces high-quality timber and provides generous shade from the
tropical sun for people and animals. The baru tree is also known by the names barueiro,
baurjo, coco-feijão, cumaruna and cumbaru. It grows in such Brazilian
states as Goiás, Mato Grosso do Sul, São Paulo and Minas Gerais, as well as in
neighboring areas of Bolivia (where the nut is called “almendra chiquitana”),
Peru and Paraguay.
Baru nuts and fruits
The baru nut works well as a snack by itself (roasted)
or as an ingredient in brownies, cookies, cakes, ice cream and other desserts,
not to mention granola. The nut is nutritionally packed: it is composed of approximately
25% protein (depending on the study) and is impressively rich in iron, vitamin
E, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium. It contains tryptophan, a precursor of
seratonin, which might qualify it as a "feel good" nut, and is loaded
with zinc, which has gained it a folkloric endorsement as the "viagra of
the Cerrado" region because of the mineral’s link to fertility. In
addition, an oil extracted from the nut is reportedly effective for rheumatism
and other ailments. And studies indicate baru nuts can lower cholesterol and boost
Each small baru nut is encased within a fruit pod (one
nut per fruit) with a tough covering, which makes the harvesting more
labor-intensive and the nut more expensive than some others. The fruit is also
useful and is eaten by locals as well as by livestock, birds, bats, rodents and
moneys. The baru fruit matures in September and October, which falls in the
region’s dry season and is an important food source for these animals at that
The commercialization of baru nuts in Brazil began
about twenty years ago in the city ofPirenópolis in Goiás
state, according to many reports. It is still little
known nationally, but over the last few years baru nuts have caught on more
and become available in upscale supermarkets in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.
Outside Brazil, baru nuts are available through the Erewhon health food markets
(Southern California). the wholesale importer Cerrado Superfoods (baru-nuts.com) and via online retailers vitasave.ca (Canada), kinominuts.com (U.K.) and nuts.com (U.S.). There is also a package of baru nuts sold as “barùkas” nuts by the sites superlife.com and barukas.com
(which have the same owner); that product is also available on Amazon.com.
To find out more about the baru tree and nut, I interviewed Aldicir Osni Scariot, a researcher in Genetic Resources & Biotechnology for Embrapa (a Brazilian owned research organization). Scariot has a PhD in Biological Sciences from the University of California, Santa Barbara***. How much of the
Cerrado still has native vegetation? I read that the Cerrado had 49.9% of native vegetation at the end of 2017.
This data is official. It can be found in reports issued by IBGE (Brazilian
Institute of Geography and Statistics) or MMA (Brazilian Department of the
Environment). Also, please refer to
http://www.mma.gov.br/biomas/cerrado/mapa-de-cobanket-vegetal.html. What is the
rate of decrease of baru trees (if they are disappearing)?
This is not known, but the loss of baru trees is directly related to
deforestation. However, part of the baru tree population (adult, reproductive
plants) is generally maintained when land is cleared for pasture as baru trees
provide shade for livestock, increase thermal comfort, and provide food for
livestock, which eat the fruit pulp. Eating the pulp does not threaten the nut,
which remains intact, protected by the fruit, and can be removed and used for
Are baru trees threatened? There are no studies on this, but with the total removal of Cerrado vegetation
and consequently of baru populations, it is possible that the genetic
variability of the species has been reduced (this is part of population
genetics theory), but there are no studies proving anything (or disagreeing)
about the baru tree.
Will overall baru
tree populations be helped much if the trees are preserved near pastures?
An important aspect that our studies show is that even if the adult plants stand
in the pastures, the "maintenance" of pasture by mowing or using
herbicides prevents new baru saplings from reaching the reproductive stage.
Thus, over time the previously existing plants that remained in that area will
die and will not be replaced, leading to the (local) extinction of that group
of plants (it cannot be said to be a population in the biological sense). What about on
family farms vs. large industrial farms? Since
maintenance is less intense on family farmers' farms, more baru plants of all
sizes will often be found on those farms than on industrial farms. In addition,
there is the interest of family farmers in keeping the baru trees to harvest
(pick up) the fruits and sell the nuts, generating an additional source of
What is the annual production of baru nuts? Is it growing or falling?
Consumption in urban centers has been increasing, as are exports. Indeed, there
is great interest on the part of U.S. companies to import large quantities of
baru nuts for consumption. The appreciation in the price of baru has
contributed to expand the harvesting of fruits, which in many regions were not
(or are not yet) harvested. Therefore, the increasing consumption is generating
greater demand for harvesting. There are even areas with plantations [of baru
Where are some other poles of nut production, besides Pirenopolis? The Arinos region, in northwest Minas Gerais, is a strong hub, as is Corumbá, Mato
What is the
distribution of baru trees outside Brazil?
There are reports of their occurrence in Bolivia, Peru and Paraguay.
If you have more baru tree cultivation, will this help improve the health of
the cerrado ecosystem? Native species cultivation is always better than exotic cultivation, but in
the end homogeneous cultivation will always require the use of pesticides.
Therefore, if you really have to cultivate, it is best [for the baru tree] to
be intercropped either in Agroforestry Systems (SAFs*) or Silvopastoral systems**.
The best thing is to manage the natural vegetation and harvest the various
products from the various species.
discovering baru nuts?
Yes, just like the Americans. Due to the nutritional characteristics of the nut, sold in the USA as a superfood, it will likely gain a large international
*Successional agroforestry systems (SAFS) are complex,
multi-strata systems composed of species assemblages that resemble native forest
systems (SPS) are a type of agroforestry arrangement that allows the
intensification of cattle production based on natural processes that are
recognized as an integrated approach to sustainable land use. ***Thanks to Luciana Dutra, for her translations of the above interview and countless other works. Further reading: I published the following article about the Cerrado in 2010 (originally in the Huffington Post) and mentioned the baru nut, which at that point was far more obscure: The Importance of Being Cerrado: Brazil's Other Huge, Endangered Ecosystem.
Jeff Gipson, who directed Walt Disney Animation Studios’ first-ever VR film, Cycles, was a lighting artist on animated works such as Frozen, Zootopia and Moana, and was about to work on Ralph Breaks the Internet when he decided to present his virtual-reality concept to the higher-ups at Disney.
“We had a program where artists could pitch ideas, and so I pitched this idea as VR, kind of thinking, ‘Well we’ve never done one before, so I’m just going to suggest it,” and then when they green lighted it, it was, ‘Oh crap, now we’ve got to figure out how to make it.’ We hadn’t done something like that in the studio.”
The first-time director, who grew up in Colorado and now lives in Los Angeles, worked with a small team for four months on the three-minute movie and overcame technological and narrative challenges in the new medium. Cycles debuted in 2018 at SIGGRAPH and went on to garner three nominations at the 17Annual Visual Effects Society Awards this year. The film is viewable on Oculus, VIVE or flat screen (for theater screenings), and has received a warm reception at various film festivals (it is not currently available for public download). “People have been saying, ‘It’s so cool to see Disney characters right here with me,’ ” says Gipson. Read more.
Leading VFX and animation schools these days must ensure that students graduate “studio-ready,” says co-owner and director Ria Bénard of Lost Boys Studios in Canada. “With more and more demand for complicated visual effects shots, studios have much less time to train new artists, so they need the graduate to hit the ground running, transition into studio work faster and more efficiently.” Ron Honn, Florida State University Visual Effects Filmmaker in Residence adds, “The biggest, and I find most rewarding, challenge for preparing students for work in the industry is preparing a curriculum that is software agnostic – to find the essential technologies that all VFX artists need to know.” Read more.
John Allen: Bringing Stakeholders Together to Restore the Forest and Protect
(an article for the WWETAC website)
by Chris McGowan
If there is one phrase that best summarizes John Allen’s career philosophy, it might be
“shared stewardship.” In his supervision of forest restoration, collaborative programs, and
friends’ groups, he has repeatedly taken the initiative to bring stakeholders together to
implement projects. This is necessary in part because there is no one answer when it comes
to reducing devastating wildfires, saving old-growth forest, protecting watershed,
extracting resources, or managing recreational use of the land. A holistic approach must be
used that brings all the interested parties together. Read more.
Forest in the West Bend Project (in Oregon) after successful restoration work (source: DCFP)