By Leah Lamb
Venice, California-based Wemo Media is celebrating the launch of theBlu by honoring the ocean through a global love letter that will be featured on the Nasdaq screens in New York’s Times Square on May 4th. People in NYC will get to engage in the streets and see their faces and fish swim across the big screens from 5-11pm EST.
People around the world can virtually participate by tweeting and Facebooking their love letters to the ocean (selected comments will be featured on the Nasdaq screens). (Watch the Launch Live in Times Square on May 4th: http://bit.ly/theBluNYC)
For example, I recently tweeted: Dearest ocean, I love it when I step into u sometimes u get all crazy and crash on top of me reminding me of who’s really in charge. #theblu
If you prefer to Facebook your love letter, and want it to be considered for being on the big screens in Times Square, be sure and post on theBlu’s Facebook page. For nature-loving freaks like myself it’s kind of thrilling to get to see the hyperactive screens of consumerism in Times Square get taken over by images of the deep sea, with featured love letters to the ocean streaming in from around the world.
Meanwhile, sad to say, outside of my fantasies of swimming with whales and diving off the coast of Kauai, the majority of my thoughts about the ocean tend to gravitate toward frightening topics such as mercury poisoning, oils spills, acidification, over fishing, too much plastic…and on and on. I think that’s why I got excited when I was introduced to theBlu.
Every time I return to my computer, and theBlu pops up, it reminds me of my passion and love of the ocean, and as Jacques Cousteau said, “We protect the things we love.”
A global community of makers: artists profit while protecting the ocean
Wemo Media, created by Neville Spiteri and Scott Yara, recently announced that their Venice, California-based entertainment studio released an ocean-inspired “app’ called theBlu. (It just won the SXSW accelerator award). The team built the app on what they call their Planet Participation Platform™ (PPP), a cloud-based system that connects creative and engineering talent from all over the world, ranging from students to Academy Award® winners, and provides them the opportunity to showcase their work, build an online fan base, receive mentoring from industry leaders, and make money from in-app purchases.
TheBlu, a fascinating marriage of art, technology and ocean conservation, is possibly the largest globally shared art and entertainment experience ever created by an international community of artists and developers that provides a unique online social exploring experience of the world ocean. TheBlu’s world-class team is comprised of Academy award winning artists, technology innovators and execs from film, games and the web, including: Andy Jones (Academy award winner, Avatar), Louie Psihoyos (Academy award winner, The Cove), Kevin Mack (Academy award winner, What Dreams May Come), Joichi Ito (Director, MIT Media lab) and Sylvia Earle (National Geographic Explorer and Time’s first Hero of the Planet).
Can artists and technology protect the oceans?
When Wemo Media first approached me to assist them with engagement I was…shall we say…skeptical? The oceans are in crisis and they’re making an animated world that provides the illusion that the ocean is healthy and filled with fish? How does that help the situation?
But then as I started playing around with the app (the first scene of dropping below the surface of the ocean really did stimulate a visceral memory of what it felt like to be snorkeling off the coast of Kauai), and as I listened to the stories of how founders Neville and Scott developed Wemo Media and the impact they want their first project to have on the planet, what can I say, I was enthralled.
It seemed like the exact dose of creativity we need at this moment to engage people with the ocean. Since most of us only see the top layer of the ocean that covers 71% of the planet, theBlu lets us dive in by providing a diver’s perspective of the ocean in all of it’s beauty and magnificence. After living with the theblu on my desktop for a few weeks, I’ve started craving being in the ocean. I think it’s working…I’m feeling oddly more connected with this underwater world. I think my nervous system is responding to seeing images of a healthy planet.
Now…don’t get me wrong: given that most Americans only spend 5% of their days outdoors, in no shape or form am I advocating this program as a replacement for time in the great big Momma Ocean. However, it was rather fascinating and unexpected to realize it was feeding my desire to start diving again.
Meeting the eye of a whale
Co-founder Neville Spiteri had an encounter with a humpback whale in Hawaii that inspired the creation of theBlu. “I had been snorkeling for over an hour when I saw a gigantic humpback swim by out of the blue, there was a moment when we made eye contact. Her eye was the size of my head, I felt like my brain exploded. Something changed in me on that day. It refueled my passion to tell a big story about the ocean – a personal mission which my cofounder Scott Yara and I share and have been pursuing for over a decade.”
Protecting the oceans one fish at a time
But how does this app save the ocean? It doesn’t. We do. (Especially when we reduce our use of single use plastics and give the ocean a break by reducing our intake of fish). Some of the fish have been chosen to be ambassadors of conservation organizations, and every time you or I purchase one of those fish, 25% of what we pay goes directly to ocean conservation. (Now I don’t have to feel guilty every time I don’t have a present on the day of a loved one’s birthday– I can send them a few fishes!!!) theBlu will reveal the lucky organizations who were selected to receive the donations at their launch in Times Square on May 4th, and will have an ongoing rotating program of giving to conservation organizations.