"The eye of the whale was as large as my head. It felt like my brain exploded, and something changed in me on that day. It refueled my passion to tell a big story about the ocean." That's what Neville Spiteri shared in a recent interview when discussing the backstory of what inspired the creation of theBlu.
Inspired by the oceans: a global interactive screensaver created by artists everywhere
Scott Yara and Neville Spiteri are the co-founders of theBlu, an app (developed by Wemo Media) that provides a diver's view of the living and breathing deep ocean complete with fish and fauna swimming through the screen of your computer. They organized a crew of unusual suspects (technology wonks, animators, and people in the entertainment industry) to each engage in the thing they are most passionate about with an end result of creating a virtual playground that promotes the protection of the ocean. The way it works is that Wemo Media put a call out to artists around the world to create original works of animation and 3-D art. People from from Los Angeles to Seoul to Mumbai responded. Once submitted, the artists enter into a collaborative process and receive feedback from world-renowned animators such as Oscar award-winning animator of Avatar, Andy Jones. So for artists, it's a collaborative platform and global gallery where they make a percentage of the profits every time someone purchases their fish. For mere pedestrians such as myself, every time I leave my computer I get to return to an ever-changing underwater world that appears as an interactive screen saver on my desk top.
When Wemo Media first approached me to assist them with engagement I was ... shall we say ... skeptical? The ocean's 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 and provides a diver's perspective of the ocean in all of its 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 the ocean. It's a little bit like what I experienced while watching Avatar. 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.
The eye of a whale
So back to how Neville swam with a whale. During our interview, Neville shared that he was snorkeling in Hawaii when a humpback whale did a drive by, and looked him in the eye (if we could all be so lucky!). I've interviewed several people who have had direct contact with whales in the wild, and Neville said what every person who has ever looked a whale in the eye has said -- that his head and heart just about exploded and that life would never quite be the same again. But then Neville said something I hadn't heard before, that he came away recommitted to telling a big story about the ocean. When Neville and Scott joined forces to create Wemo Media (Wemo stands for world emotion) and aspired to rock the world with a radical new technology that would serve as a new platform for artists to engage and create on the internet as never before; they decided to make their first project about something they both cared dearly about: the ocean.
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 tell them it was a choice! That I decided to give to the ocean to honor their birth and just send them a few fishes! (OK ... and get them a chocolate cake ... and ... balloons. Wait -- no balloons, turtles swallow them when they land in the ocean. So no balloons, just cake and fish. But not in that order.) Anyhoo, they will be revealing 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.
Write a love letter to the ocean: get your tweet shown in Times Square
And Neville and Scott's dream is coming true: Wemo Media is telling a big story about the ocean by celebrating the launch of theBlu by honoring the ocean through a global love letter to the ocean that will be featured in Times Square on May 4th. People in NYC will get to engage right there on the streets and see their faces and their fish swim across the big screen in Times Square (5-11pm EST), while 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).
For example, I'll probably tweet: Dearest ocean, the thing I love most about you is the way you hold me when I float on my back so I can look up at the moon #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 and 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 authentically 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 says, "We protect the things we love."
Follow Leah Lamb on Twitter: www.twitter.com/leahlamb