What do you do in the industry?
My team and I focus on converging the wearable market with augmented and virtual reality to create. The best example of wearables is the Fitbit and the Apple iWatch. Augmented and virtual reality allow for visual overlays or create entirely new worlds through our computers, visual media, and smart devices. We decided to combine the two. We use apparel, initially t-shirts, to share approved digital information to anyone with a smartphone and the app, and to initiate and create short and long form game play for all ages.
Why and how did you get into the Toy and Game industry?
The last two books I authored were “Winning the Trading Game” and “Trade Like a Pro” published by Wiley and Sons. For twenty (20) years my background has been in futures, options, and commodities trading. So I am an accidental visitor to this space. The co-founder of WarePlai, LLC, Paul Jesus Limon, started his career as one of the first thirty (30) employees at Blizzard and has been involved in computer game development, in some form or fashion his entire life.
After twenty-three (23) years of us being friends he invited me to see something I had never seen before; he pointed his phone at a beverage can and immediately I saw a digital skate park showed up on the screen of his iPad. He arranged a few of the cans in different configurations and various other skate parks of different sizes popped up on the screen. It was the coolest thing I had ever seen, but I did not know how to make it practical or useful. I went home and began to mull over it. In the meantime my three (3) year old kept imploring my wife to wash his same “Lightning McQueen” t-shirt, so he could wear it the next day. This went on for three days in a row and hit me.
I called Paul and said to him “Imagine two kids see each other on the playground, they have their tablets or their smart phones with them, they point at each other’s shirt and the characters from each shirt jump off the shirt and battle each other on a virtual game board in space between the two players. He said to his knowledge he had never seen anything like that in the augmented reality industry and that this was like Skylanders or Disney Infiniti without the need for action figure. That was almost three years ago and since then we have moved from provisional patent phase into patent pending phase and look forward to debuting several of our games at “ChiTAG”, in addition to the first game on our AR system on kickstarter in May.
What are you working on now?
The first game to deploy, in what we call the “smart clothing experience”, is a story rich game we have developed that was inspired by the 1920’s sci-fi/horror writer H.P. Lovecraft called “Reign of Cthulhu”. We have three factions, with nine (9) avatars ( three (3) for each faction), that travel around the world to collect artifacts that bleed into our world from Cthulhu’s lost underwater city R’lyeh. To play the game is free, anyone will be able to download the app and join the game. The t-shirts that you can buy for each faction along with avatars open up new abilities, give you access to new realms, and builds on a players already fun experience.
What trends do you see in toys or games that excite or worry you?
The trend for gaming and entertainment in general is reaching it’s own singularity. Three historical activities are happening at once. The online strength of Amazon has had a significant impact in the way that toys are being distributed and experienced by customers. Big box retailers, such as Target and Walmart, are adding to the pure commoditization of the toy industry as well, all of which are hastening the decline of the specialty toy retailer, i.e. the bankruptcy of Toys R’ Us. At the same time as these two activities are happening mobile gaming applications have exploded and the growth of AR and VR are built into that future growth. The potential impact that we have in merging an AR mobile experience with a physical tangible item makes us feel like we are on the cutting edge of the next wave of digital toys.
What advice can you give to inventors who are presenting new toy or game ideas to you?
Our patent pending AR gaming system is fully licensable. We want anything presented to us to be first and foremost to be original and fun. This is a passion project for my team and I and we want to see the same thing in those that wish to team up with.
What advice would you give a young adult graduating from high school or college today?
As a father of both a son graduating college and a son graduating high school my advice is always the same, trust in yourself and your instinct. It is always easy to put aside what makes sense to you because of the “I don’t haves…”, “I don’t have…enough money, experience, know how, reach etc.” . This can defer dreams for years because it’s assumed you will magically know everything you need to know at some far off date. I am still learning and I am aware of the “I don’t haves…” in my life, yet my focus is on what “I do have.” and leveraging that to follow my instincts.
What is the worst job you’ve ever had and what did you learn from it?
The worst job I have ever had was a job canvassing, going door to door, neighborhoods to get signatures and donations to save the environment.
Unfortunately, I was hired for the job in one of the worst rainy seasons ever in Los Angeles. While Los Angeles doesn’t get much rain during the year, when it does rain it’s like the heavens open up to drown the city. So by the end of the third day out canvassing in the rain I was miserable and wanted to quit. At the time I was eighteen (18) and for the first time living on my own and if I did not keep this job I wouldn’t be able to pay my part of the rent to my roommate. So I hunkered down and stuck with it, rain or shine, in that experience I learned that you have to value your commitment no matter the circumstances and how you feel about a situation is secondary to that.
What and/or who inspires you?
I read a kid’s autobiography about Walt Disney in 2nd grade and I was in awe by his legend and brilliance and his risk taking. As I grew older I saw the same things, but in a more mature way, in Richard Branson and Reginald Lewis and all of them have/had a drive and a visionary passion that never quitted in the face of adversity and setbacks. To this day I own a “Oswald” Rabbit , for those that don’t know him the pre-cursor to Mickey Mouse, mug. It reminds me that sometimes even your best ideas may be a false start, but that doesn’t mean they don’t lay the foundation for something great.
What was your favorite toy or game as a child?
I learned how to play chess at four (4) years old and I have always loved the game even though I am not good at it, but it opened me up to all types of strategy games growing and I also believe it made me receptive to role-playing games. As a teenager I like AD&D and a cyber punk fantasy game called “Shadowrun”, and along the way I never stopped loving Super Soakers and Liar’s Dice.
What was your life like growing up?
After my parent’s divorced I grew up in rough neighborhoods. Sometimes we relied on missions and food banks to get us through the month and other times we fought homelessness. All the while my mom never gave up on her education and helped instill a strong faith in myself and that God has a purpose for us all, even during the bad times. My mom ended up a USC graduate and got us through some rough patches with her ingenuity and tenacity.
What is your favorite gadget, app or piece of software that helps you every day?
The car. I live in Southern California with nothing but urban sprawl. I sit in traffic somedays and imagine how much worse it would be if I had to be on horseback traveling for 30 miles to do a 45 minute meeting to then turn around galloping back. That’s when I count my blessings for rush hour traffic, as I chug along in bumper to bumper.
When is the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
I have five children, four boys and a little girl. The boys are twenty (20), eighteen (18), six (6), and (2), and the little girl is seven (7) months. I feel like I live in a second hand toy and video game store. There are nothing but well worn animal figurines, chewed up soft plush baby toys, and video game consoles of every decade in some part of the house. So obviously it should come as no surprise to me that my two (2) year old son would come up to me, insisting with his limited vocabulary, to put his socks on, not on his feet, but on his hands, and proceed to bear crawl/walk around the house making cheetah sounds, his current favorite animal. That made me laugh out loud…now if I can just figure out how to make that into an AR wearable game, “animal socks”… hmm.
What’s your favorite cereal?
I have two favorite cereals. My favorite cereal as a boy was Fruity Pebbles, all those deliciously colored corn flake thingies, which I would never let my own kids eat today, sadly. My adult favorite cereal is Grapenuts, which are neither grapes nor nuts, but give a satisfying crunch – before they get soggy, and don’t have any dyes in them that may exacerbate the latent ADD I have from all the dyes I ate and drank in my youth.
What’s the first thing you usually notice about people?