Away from his day job as president of Axon, makers of police body cameras and other products, Luke Larson has been busy creating another universe in the form of IGIST, a young adult novel and interactive sci-fi experience. On Monday, he stepped into Amazon’s world in Seattle.
Larson ventured where no man has dared and attempted to compete with the tech giant’s free banana monopoly by setting up a makeshift stand himself on the plaza near the Doppler office tower.
Just steps from one of Amazon’s own Community Banana Stands — the company has said it gives out more than 5,000 bananas a day — Larson staged a banana standoff in which he distributed about 100 bananas and more than 20 banana smoothies.
His IGIST-branded stand was live for about 30 minutes on Amazon property before security gently asked him, another man dressed as a banana and another dressed as the IGIST character Balin, to move down the street, where they worked for about another hour on 7th Avenue.
Larson told GeekWire that Amazon security was great about the stunt and that the mood and energy were fun throughout.
Larson, who grew up in Forks, Wash., served two tours in Iraq as a Marine Corps infantry officer and he was awarded the Bronze star with V for valor on his first tour. He joined Axon in 2008 and was product manager for the company’s first cameras. He’s been president for about 4 1/2 years, and the company, which has extra-geeky offices in Seattle, is known for stunts of its own, especially around recruiting. They previously floated a boat past Google offices in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood making a call for engineers to write code that saves lives. They later offered new recruits a chance to commute in a Tesla Model 3.
Under the name L.S. Larson, the aspiring sci-fi storyteller wrote IGIST (pronounced “eye-gist” and short for Intergalactic Institute of Science and Technology) over the course of 3 1/2 years, and over the past year he put together the accompanying app with the help of a small team. In a blog post on his website, he called the banana stand a “microcosm of IGIST’s grand operation.”
“The IGIST movement has set out to reinvent the digital reading experience with the galaxy’s first Immersive Novel,” the blog post read. “In contrast to traditional E-Readers that have a history of minimal innovation, IGIST’s Immersive Novel app includes stunning photorealistic illustrations and cinematic animations called ‘Sputniks’ that depict compelling scenes as the reader scrolls through each chapter. As they advance through the story, readers also earn badges and coins which they can use to attain virtual goods like Character Packs with behind-the-scenes concept art, backstories, and interviews featuring [Larson] describing how each character came to life.”
Larson thought it would be cool to reinvent the classic Tom Swift sci-fi adventure series with a strong, smart female protagonist that his daughters could look up to. IGIST follows a teen Earthling named Emi who is determined to escape her plague-ravaged planet and make it to the elite space academy where she can create an antidote to save her fellow Earthlings.
“Smartphones have all these amazing technological capabilities which are crucial to apps like Instagram and TikTok. I wanted to augment the digital reading experience with these incredible functionalities to immerse the reader in the stellar IGIST universe,” Larson said in the blog post. “My ultimate dream is that the first person who walks on Mars is a scientist who was inspired by IGIST.”
He’s currently on a 30-city book tour and he’s writing the second book in the series. The app is available on the App Store and Google Play. And the book is on Amazon.