Enchanting the Whole City with the Magic of XR Interactive Media
Ken Fukazawa is the CEO of Tyffon Inc., which develops XR (extended reality) content, such as AR (augmented reality), VR (virtual reality), and MR (mixed reality). He discussed with us his collaboration with the Umekita 2nd Project, and the future potential of XR.
Fukazawa established Tyffon in 2011. It gained prominence as a startup when its selfie AR app ZombieBooth 2, developed in 2013, became a hit. The ZombieBooth series of apps, which renders one’s face as a scary zombie, was downloaded some 40 million times. Following this success, in 2014 the company was the first in Asia to be selected for Disney Accelerator, a program sponsored by the Walt Disney Company to nurture technology-driven startups in media and entertainment. “My original starting point was the Haunted Mansion attraction at Tokyo Disneyland, which I experienced when I was four years old,” he says. “My childhood dream of creating a magical experience taking one to a different world remains intact to this day.”
After graduating from university, Fukazawa worked as an engineer at a foreign company, before striking out on his own. He taught himself the classic European painting technique, tempera, then jointly produced a film based on such paintings with his friend Koji Fukada, a film director. Fukazawa demonstrated his artistic talents in this production based on “La Grenadière,” a short story by Balzac, for which he and director Fukada were jointly awarded the Soleil d’Or Newcomer Award at the Kinotayo Film Festival in France. “At Disney, the people who design theme parks are known as ‘imagineers’—a portmanteau of ‘imagination’ and ‘engineer.’ I too wanted to create theme parks and new experiences by combining creativity and technology, so I established my own company.”
Currently, Tyffonium—a VR theme park opened by Tyffon at DiverCity Tokyo Plaza in Odaiba—is an immersive, interactive entertainment facility featuring next-generation technology. Users can choose from multiple content options, such as horror, fantasy, tarot, or monsters, and experience a magical world in a dedicated booth. Players are guided into an elaborately constructed fantasy world as soon as they don their goggles. Fukazawa says, “We aim to provide a memorable experience. From now on, we want to apply VR across a wide variety of areas, not just entertainment.” Virtual media has boundless potential in various fields, including schools and corporate training.
In its collaboration with the Umekita 2nd Project, the company is exploring ways to turn this urban space into an interactive medium. “In the demonstration experiment conducted in the Umekita 2nd Project area in March, participants were asked to wear earphone-like devices to measure their brainwaves during the VR experience. We would like to provide a more personalized entertainment experience in the future by measuring brainwaves during their VR experience and assessing their psychological status.”
What type of experience affects an individual differs from person to person. As a result, Fukazawa said that he wants to use human data to flexibly provide content suited to each person. This also marks a new effort to create a virtual world that can be experienced outdoors rather than indoors. “Right now, smartphone screens are our main platform for accessing media. Many people enjoy video and other content on this small screen, but that tends to be a rather passive experience. For the Umekita 2nd Project, an experimental demonstration event will be held in November in the real world, i.e., the park, for technical verification so that visitors can enjoy this fusion of real and virtual worlds. We hope this enables us to propose a shift from passive on-screen experiences to active real-world experiences through which you physically move. XR is predominantly an audiovisual experience, but when taken outdoors, the breeze, temperature, smells, and other elements impinge to create an experience that can only happen in the immediate here and now.”
Tyffon’s vision is to “Enchant Your World.” By casting a spell over the city and changing our world, we can all become heroes and heroines of our own stories…. Such exciting experiences will soon be realized.
Worked as an engineer for Sun Microsystems after graduating from Yokohama National University. Later, he painted and worked on video production, as well as exhibiting at international film festivals and art festivals. He has won many awards, both within and outside Japan. After establishing Tyffon Inc. in 2011, he has mainly been engaged in the planning and development of entertainment-oriented VR/AR/MR content. Tyffon’s selfie AR app ZombieBooth 2 was a worldwide hit, leading to the company being selected for the Disney Accelerator program.
Photography: KENICHI FUJIMOTO Text: JUNKO KUBODERA