What does the future of live experiences look like? During a time where we’re forced to translate life as we know it into the digital world, how will augmented and virtual reality play a role?
Alley’s CEO Noelle Tassey spoke with industry leaders Ben Nunez, CEO & Founder of Evercoast, Rebecca Barkin, VP of Immersive Experience at Magic Leap and Amy LaMeyer, Managing Partner at the WXR Fund about the future of AR/VR experiences, including how the future of live entertainment will change, how to represent connection in virtual spaces, and which platforms could help early adopters become acquainted with AR/VR technologies.
The Shift From IRL to Virtual
Developments in augmented and virtual reality have been underway for quite some time—long before we all made the jump to a fully remote environment.
Noelle asked our panelists where they imagine AR & VR technology will soon be integrated, and how it’s been already adopted in response to the COVID-19 crisis.
Amy and Rebecca shed some light on where they’ve seen this technology integrated, and where they see opportunity for AR and VR:
- Enterprise—the enterprise market is valued around $26 billion, and specifically, manufacturing, logistics and training are big areas of opportunity for integration of AR/VR technology.
- Telemedicine—The current crisis has made it clear that AR and VR could be extremely valuable in telemedicine. This technology could allow you to meet with and sit across from a doctor virtually, without running the risk of exposure.
- E-commerce—The integration of AR/VR technology in the e-commerce industry could completely change the way we shop, it could allow for a more seamless exploration of products, and potentially lead to quicker conversion.
- Exercise—In recent years, there’s been an organic growth in the home workout sector, incorporating AR/VR could transform that experience and make it even more seamless.
- Remote Work—Productivity apps and virtual venues are organically gaining a lot of traction right now in response to the crisis and transition to remote environments.
Ben also reminded us that funds had been shifting from IRL to virtual experiences long before the crisis, and those on the forefront of AR/VR are working to do more than meet a need for telepresence during the COVID-19 crisis—they’re playing the long game, and they’re focused on finding ways to transition flat, non-immersive 2-D content to fully-immersive 3-D worlds.
The Future of Events
We’ve grown accustomed to building community and culture around in-person events. Musicians connect with their fans through live performances, the fashion industry revolves around Fashion Week, and countries all over the world collectively tune into the olympics.
We asked our panelists how they think the live entertainment industry will shift as augmented and virtual reality technologies take off over the next few years, especially with the spread of COVID-19 changing the way people think about large gatherings.
AR & VR can transcend the way we consume music. This technology can bring two artists from different parts of the world onto the same stage, and it can even feature artists who’ve passed, like what we saw with Tupac at Coachella a few years back.
It can also change the way that we interact with artists and their music by bringing concerts into a virtual environment—Astronomical, a recent collaboration between Epic Games, Fortnite and Travis Scott, is a great example of this.
Fashion Week has been a staple of the industry and culture, but it’s likely that the COVID crisis has affected its future.
In its simplest form, Fashion Week is an unveiling of new products, so developers are now thinking of how they can replicate that experience virtually. There are a few factors to take into consideration:
- Accuracy: How can developers replicate the physical experience of a model walking down a runway, and accurately capture the dimensions of a garment as they would be seen in person.
- Accessibility: Recreating Fashion Week virtually would likely require AR/VR headsets, but what if fashion editors don’t have access to that technology? The challenge then becomes how to create an immersive and elevated experience, but not so immersive that it excludes those who don’t have access to the technology.
- Opportunity: There’s an opportunity to integrate e-commerce into the virtual experience of Fashion Week—if attendees are tuning in virtually, there’s opportunity for developers to incorporate a shoppable component to the show so viewers can purchase products from the new line on-site.
The Olympic Games
The live entertainment industry was caught off guard by the crisis. To avoid this happening again, we need to find ways to incorporate virtual accessibility into live experiences.
For example, if the Olympic Games can only allow 30% capacity in 2021, developers need to think about how to integrate the capability to capture that event in real-time, and broadcast it across several different mediums with real-time compositing of 3-D elements.
Human Connection in Virtual Spaces
When we think of a virtual reality where 3-D avatars are standing shoulder to shoulder at a concert, it’s hard to imagine how that compares to the energy of a festival, or the physical experience of being in a large venue surrounded by thousands of people.
Magic Leap is exploring ways to recreate that feeling of human connection in the virtual world, so we asked our panelists what they think is needed to do that, and how that might look when executed.
Developers are still exploring the ins and outs of human interaction across augmented reality—much of that experience needs to translate across audio, visual, and haptics. Haptics refer to technology used to recreate the sensation of touch by applying forces, vibrations, or motions to the user.
In the early stages of AR and VR, developers were concerned with how they would represent people in virtual spaces, and focused heavily on creating realistic avatars that users would identify with. Now, they’ve switched gears and are focused on replicating the euphoric experience of being at a concert, or how to represent the intricate ways that humans interact with one another and share a connection.
Our panelists also mentioned that transitioning away from headsets or handheld controllers to hand tracking—allowing users to engage with the technology handsfree and in a way that feels more natural—would contribute to a more authentic human experience.
Adoption & Obstacles
The first iphone launched in 2007—if someone had told us that 13 years later most of us would own one, that this technology would be an integral part of our lives, and that we’d treat it like an extension of ourselves, we wouldn’t believe them.
Yet, it’s 2020 and here we are.
With this in mind, we asked the panelists what they think some of the obstacles are to mass adoption of AR & VR technologies—each of them brought up some really great points.
Amy highlighted 3 key factors that contribute to the likelihood of users adopting this technology:
- 1. Cost—headsets, controllers, and other technologies need to be accessible in terms of cost. Oculus Quest is a great example of a brand inching towards accessible prices.
- 2. Comfort—plain and simple, the technology has to be comfortable and user friendly.
- 3. Content—the content that's streamed or consumed through this technology needs to be interesting and appealing enough to motivate users to engage with it.
Rebecca pointed out a few things that need to be developed further on the back end:
- Rendering—the development of remote rendering, and advanced graphic processing are critical.
- Volumetrics—this refers to the process of capturing and compressing content, which is essential to having a real-time transmission and broadcast of AR/VR content.
- Interaction—at one point, we all had to become familiar with computers and smartphones, right?! Increasing human interaction and exposure to this technology will alleviate any fear or feelings of uneasiness that so many of us have in regards to this technology.
Lastly, Ben highlighted some factors that apply to the front and back end of this technology:
- Integration—slowly introducing core infrastructure into the home, like 5G or fiber, to avoid there being an expense barrier where someone would need to buy all new machinery to engage with AR/VR.
- Compression—finding ways to compress AR/VR content, and then having the ability to stream it through devices that people are already using like laptops and smartphones.
- Latency—this refers to the amount of time that it takes for a device to send data to a server, and then have that data ping back to your device. The stronger the latency is, the more realistic of an AR/VR experience you’ll have.
As is the truth with anything, innovators in the AR & VR industry will continue to build off the progress they’ve already made. We’ve already seen this technology integrated in some really exciting ways, like when Verizon created a 360-livestream view of the Thanksgiving Day Parade last year, or when 5G Labs partnered with the Chainsmokers to incorporate special AR effects into their live concert. Things are only going to get more advanced!
Where to Start
Lastly, we asked our panelists to share any resources or recommendations they have for any early adopters looking to become acquainted with this technology. As it turns out, there are a handful of user friendly platforms for us to test out and become more familiar with the world of AR & VR:
- Mozilla Hubs is a great platform for early adopters looking to learn more about this technology, and it’s compatible with most home devices!
- Spatial a platform that adds a layer of human collaboration to a remote work environment through holographics and AR/VR technology.
- Wave is transcending the way we experience live music through the integration of AR & VR.
- Microsoft HoloLens is also changing the way teams collaborate by creating a mixed reality for users to engage with.
- Display.land generates 3D renderings of physical spaces using the everyday smartphone camera, so users can create shared digital spaces.
We could’ve gone on for hours talking about the world of augmented and virtual reality—but for the sake of time, we packed all of this incredible information into an hour.