Jens Christensen: The Innovation Interview

Jens Christensen, Founder & CEO of Jaunt shares his thoughts and insights on innovation, technology and cinematic virtual reality.

Prior to founding Jaunt, Jens was an Entrepreneur in Residence at Redpoint Ventures. Before that he was a founder and CEO of Ellerdale, an AI startup focused on real-time semantic analysis. Ellerdale assembled a world-class technical team and was one of the first companies to process the full Twitter stream, enabling it to identify and organize trending topics in real-time.

Flipboard acquired Ellerdale in 2010. Jens was also a founder of WebSwap, a pioneering barter site.

Earlier, he was a founder and CEO of PostModern, a software company that developed the first Java ORB. It merged with Visigenic, a private enterprise software company, where he continued on as CTO and board member through its IPO and subsequent acquisition by Borland. He holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Stanford University and a B.A. in Computer Science from Columbia University.

How do you define innovation and what does it mean to you?

True innovation makes people’s lives better, even transforming them. The telephone, air travel, computers, the Internet, and Virtual Reality are all examples of true innovation.

What industry needs to embrace innovation and take more risks?

The moribund health care industry.

What is the best piece of advice that you have been given and received?

Always try to assemble teams with complementary skills and strengths.

What is your greatest achievement and why?

Being co-founder of four companies. It’s been hard at times, but has given me great satisfaction.

Newspapers and Books: Digital or Physical?

Digital only.

What is the future of the movie business and how are you positioning Jaunt to grow and prosper from your vision of the future of the movie business?

We’re in the early days of cinematic VR right now, but expect it to ultimately have widespread adoption over the next couple of years as the technology becomes more affordable and more easily available. We believe that we’re going to see tens of millions of cinematic VR headsets reaching consumers. There’s been the PC, the web, and mobile and we think VR will be the next big platform to reach mass adoption.

Are Hollywood Studios currently experimenting with Jaunt’s technology? If yes, what has the reaction been from the Studios and Filmmakers? Are they concerned about alienating movie theatre owners?

Jaunt is currently working with New Deal Studios to produce the narrative cinematic VR content in Hollywood. Jaunt is also working with other major Hollywood studios to explore the possibilities of storytelling in cinematic VR as well as content producers across a wide range of non-entertainment verticals. Keep an eye out throughout the rest of the year for a number of exciting partner announcements we have coming down the pipe. The enthusiasm we have seen for our technology has been tremendous and we are working tirelessly to make VR experiences available to mass audiences.

Virtual Reality is inherently a non-social event, how will Jaunt’s technology change the way we think about VR as being something you experience alone?

We look forward to adding social features to our cinematic VR experiences. At a minimum, we believe users will be able to speak to each other while experiencing the same content in VR. Eventually, we think you should be able to attend events with your friends, all in VR.

The company touts the benefits of cinematic virtual reality, but to your average consumer that is just one part of the cool factor. How do you take that cool factor and translate it into experiences built around live events such as baseball game, a concert, or a walk through Central Park in the fall?

Jaunt’s technology can be used to create content for a wide variety of verticals including Hollywood, travel, education, corporate training, concert experiences, sporting events, advertising, and more. Our cameras capture a 360-degree audio and visual recording of an environment that can be viewed with virtual reality goggles, giving a sense of total immersion and of actually “being there.” You put the goggles on and experience your environment naturally, and in any direction with complete freedom.

What are your thoughts on Facebook’s purchase of Oculus Rift?

It’s a terrific acquisition for Facebook, giving them a front-row seat to what could become the next consumer platform. Facebook will be a driving force in making the VR experience more social.