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Reggie Watts talks social media and tech for creatives at CES 2021

Andre Stone and Ariana Escalante continue our comprehensive coverage of CES 2021 by chatting Reggie Watts, famed comedian and leader of the house band for The Late Late Show with James Corden. He joins the show to talk tech, social media, and what he looks forward to as we head into 2021.

Watts isn’t simply a musician or comedian — he’s an innovator in the field of music technology through his app.

“WattsApp was the result of me getting a little bored of the way that social media looks and functions — particularly with Instagram. I wanted something that didn’t track people,” he says. “A clean place for fans to go that wouldn’t get bombarded [by] targeted advertising.”

The app functions as Watts’s own social media hub/media network where he posts content, as well as runs a store where he sells his old electronics. It doesn’t cost anything (except for what he sells in the store), and Watts hopes it can serve as a template for other artists.

“At least in my circles [of musicians and performers], we’re tired of using other peoples’ platforms,” he says. “You can still make a website, but apps are really the way people interact with things.” The app is “a way to decentralize” and “put power back in the hands of the artist and directly to their fans.”

In Watts’s case, technology isn’t just for work and fans. He has both an Xbox Series X and a Playstation 5. “I’m more of an Xbox cat, I have to say,” he admits. “Although I will say it: I’m coming around to the PS5. The controllers are really great. It’s a really good experience.” But, he adds, “I’m just so used to Xbox. The Series X is awesome.”

His show, The Late Late Show, was one of the first talk shows to move to a studio setting, but this past year was full of shows and performances that were all virtual. “That’s been pretty exciting,” Watts says.

At one point, he and a friend built a setup that allowed him to appear as a hologram in real time to perform a concert of his music in a virtual environment, he says. He also appreciated the efforts of a famous comedy club “that built a wall of monitors in a semicircle, and you stand in front of the semicircle and you see all the people who have tuned in — so you’ve got like 60 people” on different screens and monitors while you’re on a stage holding a microphone. Stand-up comedians like Sarah Silverman and Chelsea Peretti have performed this past year at that virtual club. “That was the closest to a live performance,” he says.

“I was always interested in something I call ‘the Phy-gital Movement,’” he says, blending the words of “physical” and “digital.” That idea takes the “physical elements from our world and transcribes them digitally, using a volumetric camera in real time.” That’s what Watts hopes will continually develop even when quarantine isn’t a daily part of life. “The more we make digital more organic, and the more intuitive the way we interact with the real world,” the better, he says. “We want portals to go into amazing experiences … and we don’t always want to be engineers to do so.”

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