Augmented Reality – Beyond the WOW and Gimmick. By Anna Nadolna
Exclusive article by Anna Nadolna on the CW Future Technology Event ‘Living in the Virtual World’
Do you remember what Erica Albright, the young Zuck’s girlfriend, said in one of the ‘Social Network’ movie scenes? She brushed him off with ‘Good luck with your video-game’ when he already had a billion-dollar concept that would later change the entire social media landscape and the way we communicate with each other.
That movie scene crossed my mind when I headed for the Future Technology SIG event at Cambridge Judge Business School last week. The line-up of talks looked great featuring young entrepreneurs with hip products and services revolving around immersive technologies. An all boy’s crowd toying with virtual and augmented reality for a living. There were two things to expect: live demos and punchy lines (“FB is an opportunity to upload a profile which isn’t your reality, it’s just the best parts of your reality”, “This is not a murder scene”, “We have the duty to push boundaries”, “The Content is Technology”).I got both and then more.
The session was kicked off by Caspar Thykier, the CEO of Zappar, who demonstrated a user-friendly and intuitive app that augments real-world products with computer-generated images. At one point we even saw Eric – a fluffy penguin from ‘Happy Feet’ – tapping away in the middle of the lecture room. The audience was later encouraged to take some of these tech wonders home – a child-like picture book full of scannable ZAPS and a Christmas tree decoration revealing some cute festive characters hidden inside. I was hooked and just zapped the entire evening, bringing to life Zappar powered creatures at home.
Having a soft spot for motion pictures myself, I really enjoyed the talk from Callum Rex Reid, the Director of Digital Consultancy Ltd and one of the 3D AR technology creators behind Marvel’s Captain America Experience (CAE) app. He discussed generating high value content suitable for Freeview point media platforms, captured in a unique 3D scanning process that transcends flat image. Reid stated that the combination of both, appropriate 3D point content like 3D scanning, with these fantastic new media platforms like VR and AR could be more than just a marketing tool, especially when we start to see it in a wider context of interactive entertainment which represents around 11% of current media consumption trends. Questions about photorealism were asked and it seemed like the only motivation behind his vision is not to fool the audience with that complex tech, but trying to capture an actual moment: “When you see something actually happening naturally, especially in motion, there is a genuine feeling of something real happening to you that you don’t get when it’s an animated creature” he argued. “And that’s part of what makes films today so appealing to us over animations”.
There was a strong link between his presentation and the tour de force of user-generated narratives in gaming industry presented by Ashraf Samy Hegab, the Founder of Playir and CW’s 2014 Discovering Start-Ups Competition Finalist. With his startling opening line: “So we’re here to say: we’re gonna take the power back, we don’t want to just be consumers, we want to own this virtual world that becomes ours”, he guided the audience through “purely virtual, purely simulations” games like Minecraft, Jewels (loved by his mom, girlfriend and a big demographic of gamers that we didn’t know existed), SimCity, to the hybrid ones like Google’s multiplayer augmented-reality game Ingress, neural games and eventually to the core of his talk that stems from the belief that anyone should be able to create. But there’s a big barrier of complexity where we would have to learn code, so there has to be another solution – visual design tools that translate the text into more scratch-like flowcharts, building blocks in real-time. And this is where Playir positions itself, between Scratch and Unity, driven by the assumption that the virtual world that we’re moving towards is not just 3D graphics but the ability to change the underlying matter, the logic of these worlds in real time.
Mikko Martikainen, the CEO of Sayduck, the company that has been disrupting retail sector allowing consumers to preview products and virtually map their location at home via state of the art Augmented Reality tools, shared a similar approach to advanced VR and AR technologies as his predecessors. He stressed the importance of taking visualisation of stuff beyond the WOW and gimmick in order to create deeper product experiences. To leverage this hi-tech know-how and skills in different areas like architecture and solve real-life problems.
It was actually this idea that dominated the debate during the panel session: understanding technology transfer as a social and cultural process allowing collaboration and problem-solving in new and creative ways. And although to some people “the acceleration of innovation and technology is hard to gulp”, the mix of the real world with virtual items enabling users to create their own content and personalise experiences is the next big thing reaching way beyond advertising and mobile gaming industry.
At the end of the panel session I no longer wanted to say ‘Good luck with your video-game’, but actually good luck with the cultural change leading to a new sense of information and end point devices where everything “has a pulse with the Internet”. Inherently “the wheel is for us to advance”, as so is the future technology.
About The Author
Anna Nadolna is Events and Marketing Executive at CW
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