Jaunt: The Story Behind the Name

“You’re going to need to sit down.” 

That was the understatement of the day.

Taking a seat in my client’s office, cluttered with computers, video equipment and prototypes, I strapped on the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset.

I was now looking at the same office, but in the monitor of the VR headset the room was neater. My three clients had shifted positions. As I turned my head, I could see them seated around the room; in front, to the side and behind me. They started throwing a Nerf ball to each other and my head turned to follow the ball. 

I could swear that the ball was being tossed around me. But it wasn’t. It was a 3D video recording that so closely mirrored reality, I could only react by gasping and giggling. 

It was a real “Mr. Watson, come here” moment. I was bearing witness to a new and profound invention: Cinematic VR. And I was honored with the task of naming it.

The Briefing

The opportunity came to me through Character, an outstanding branding and design agency whose work I admired. We had worked sequentially on the same projects but hadn’t yet collaborated. Character designed packaging for products I named, like the Plantronics Rig gaming headset, and they designed the identity for Zact Mobile, which I also named.

Character’s work designing the Android identity system for Andy Rubin, the mobile computing pioneer, had led to other interesting projects, such as this mind-blowing VR startup.

Character and I rendezvoused at Redpoint Ventures where our clients were “entrepreneurs in residence.” This unassuming office building belied the fact that within it, the future of entertainment was being invented. 

Three clients briefed us: Jens Christensen, Arthur van Hoff and Tom Annau. Their words flew around the room: immersivetransportingtranscendentvirtual presencemimics reality, a whole new mediumscience fiction, Jedi training ball. When Jedi training ball is used to reference a new technology, it’s going to be a big deal.

Left to right: Tom, Arthur, Jens
Meet the clients.
After the briefing, they whisked us to the office next door for the demo. It was weird, this nondescript, plain-vanilla space was strewn with crazy, never-before-seen inventions-in-progress. There was the 3D-printed sphere covered with lenses, the dev kits of the Oculus Rift, and assorted networking, videography and optics widgets strewn about.

Meet the camera.
To establish a baseline experience in virtual reality, I was handed an Oculus Rift headset loaded with an off-the-shelf demo called Tuscany. I put it on and saw a computer rendering of a well-manicured Tuscan estate. I rotated my head to look around. Using a trackball, I wandered the property. Wearing special VR gloves, I could grab or throw objects. It was pretty cool.

Tuscany: Cool. But not cool enough.
Despite being cutting-edge, the Tuscany demo was quickly eclipsed by the technology my clients’ were creating, which was nothing short of astounding. Their high-definition video feed in the headset was completely convincing. I really felt like I was watching something happening live all around me. In the Tuscany demo, I was aways aware it was CG. 

Ask your doctor if Jaunt is right for you.
The Strategic Framework

Being there. That was the promise of this new technology. Concerts, sports, family reunions, Presidential press briefings, sightseeing. All these things could someday be experienced remotely yet immersively. I’ll admit running a little hyperbolic, but I’m telling you: Cinematic VR will change everything. This technology represents a paradigm shift in entertainment and communications as significant as the radio or television. 

I reviewed the notes from the meeting and synthesized them into name objectives. Name objectives should be MECE: Mutually Exclusive and Collectively Exhaustive. It’s tempting to etch every detail about a product or company into objectives, but it’s better to leave details out that might distract or take creative down an unproductive or short-sighted path.

Here are the name objectives for the cinematic VR project:  
The new name should support or connote a brand that:
  • delivers unprecedented experiences presented in an entirely new medium
  • provides immersive, virtual experiences that are completely realistic
  • is capable of representing an entirely new category of experience
  • transports people to another place 
  • is not limited to a visual experience
The new name will refer to an experience, hardware, software, a website and app, among other things. 
The new name should have the ability to be appended as a modifier, as in ESPN 3D, The Avengers Blue-ray or Pacific Rim IMAX. 
The name should be relatively short and easy to spell. 
The trademark and domain should be available or acquirable.
  • The domain might include a modification of the name, or be something other than .com (though not .net or .org).
The Names My Destination

Upon approval of the objectives I started naming, plundering the worlds of immersion, travel, space, entertainment and verbs. I scoured science fiction – teleportation in particular – and found The Glossary of Science Fiction Ideas, Technology and Inventions, an alphabetic inventory of over 2400 glorious gadgets, gizmos and doodads. It is the go-to resource for studying futuristic, albeit fictional, advances in science. 

It was there, filed under J, that I found the entry for Jaunte Stage – a little space to teleport. Alfred Bester’s 1953 novel, The Stars my Destination, introduces jaunte to mean teleport. A Jaunte Stage is a platform for teleportation. 

Jaunting, in the novel, was not named after the word jaunt, but after a character, Charles Fort Jaunte, who discovered the ability to self-transport by mind power alone. Jaunting was not a technology, but a psionic capability.
Any man was capable of jaunting provided he developed two faculties, visualization and concentration. He had to visualize, completely and precisely, the spot to which he desired to teleport himself; and he had to concentrate the latent energy of his mind into a single thrust to get him there. 
–Alfred Bester, The Stars My Destination
Decades later, Stephen King wrote a short story about teleportation called The Jaunt. He got the name from the same place I did. Quoth The Jaunt:
“Of course you know that the Jaunt is teleportation, no more or less,” he said. “Sometimes in college chemistry class and physics they call it the Carune Process, but it’s really teleportation, and it was Carune himself — if you can believe the stories — who named it ‘The Jaunt.’ He was a science-fiction reader, and there’s a story by a man named Alfred Bester, The Stars My Destination it’s called, and this fellow Bester made up the word ‘jaunte’ for teleportation in it. Except in his book you could Jaunt just by thinking about it, and we can’t really do that.” 
– Stephen King, The Jaunt
Bester did not make up the word jaunt, only its use as teleport. We don’t really know where the word jaunt first came from. It might have originated in Old French. We do know that it was originally pejorative and meant “a tiresome journey” (1590s) or “to tire a horse out by riding back and forth on it” (1560s). The current, positive meaning of jaunt to mean “a short pleasure trip” came about in the 1670s. 

Oddly, the word jaunty does not come from jaunt, but from French gentil (meaning gentle, genteel). Despite jaunty meaning “having a lively, cheerful and self-confident manner,” and jaunt meaning a “lively, cheerful excursion,” their resemblance is just a coincidence. 

I created 1200 other names for the assignment and over 200 were screened for preliminary global trademark availability by my long-time trademark partner, Steve Price of Tessera. I worked closely with Character refining the list and over 100 names were presented in two rounds of work. 

Context is King

It’s vital to stage name candidates in a presentation so they have the best chance of acceptance. As a presenter, you must help the audience suspend disbelief that these are not just words on a page. That requires presenting name candidates in a fait-accompli, real-world context. The more a hypothetical name looks like it’s an actual living, breathing brand, the better. (More on that topic here.) 

I chose to present the names in a mocked-up entertainment website. The visual identity development had not yet begun and my client did not have a website, so I started with Ticketmaster’s website then altered it to fit my client’s prospective future. This is what the Jaunt name exhibit looked like for the name presentation: 
The right context makes a hypothetical name seem like a done deal.
Fortunately, Jaunt’s final identity and website is way slicker than my hack. 

The client loved Jaunt. Here’s why:
  • A jaunt is a short trip for pleasure, just as their technology offers a fast and fun escape
  • The name has already been validated – twice! – as a perfect name for teleportation, which is itself the perfect metaphor for cinematic VR
  • It’s short and pairs well with other brands as a technology platform (“See Wimbledon live in Jaunt!”)
Jaunting Ahead 

Following my client’s full legal screening, the name was adopted. Character created Jaunt’s iconic identity:

The name was launched on a snappy website highlighting power-player testimonials:
“Jaunt has created a completely new experience that will change the way we enjoy media.” 
–Brad Wechsler, Chairman of IMAX  
“Jaunt is a total sensory experience unlike anything I've ever seen.The creative community is going to blow our minds with this technology over the coming years.” 
–Peter Gotcher, Chairman of Dolby
I loved how the client incorporated the name into their messaging. From the website:
“The idea for Jaunt originated in early 2013 when one of our founders returned from an amazing experience at Zion National Park.  What if he could go back there for a brief jaunt, at any time, from any place?” 
For further reading on the technology and future of Jaunt, check out these articles:
Meet the Crazy Camera That Can Make Movies for the Oculus Rift 
Virtual reality has another ‘wow’ moment as Jaunt introduces 360-degree cinematic videos 
Jaunt wants to make virtual reality a platform for beautiful, immersive cinema
I’m deeply grateful for the opportunity to name Jaunt. Thank you Tom, Arthur, Jens, Ollie, Ben and the rest of the talented team at Character.

- Anth