by Cindy Davis
Mapping your concept and message to create the ultimate immersive experiences.
For centuries, branding agencies have shaped the consumer experience with the goal of creating enduring and emotional attachments with customers.
The past decade has seen a confluence of digital AV advancements, including immersive experiences such as augmented, virtual, mixed and extended realities. Generations X, Y and Z have grown up with smart devices—and they are willing to create a brand attachment for the right engaging experience.
Britelite created an AR-enhanced beer pouring machine for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia to help its customer, VISA, show customers the power of the VISA payment system and allow them to experience the future of contactless payments, all while having an immersive and fun World Cup experience. To enhance the experience, Britelite incorporated a variety of sensor technologies, AR face-mapping system, animated Visa storytelling elements, and an automated beer pouring system that poured the perfect pint.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Britelite
Lest you think immersive technologies aren’t ready for prime time, a report by International Data Corp. (IDC) shows global spending on augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR) will increase from $9.1 billion in 2017 to nearly $20.4 billion in 2019, with a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 69.6%.
“The word ‘immersive’ has taken on an interesting definition since we began this work in 2012,” says Justin Gelinas, Co-Founder & Chief Creative Officer at San Francisco-based Britelite Immersive. “To me, it is the ability to draw people in and hold their attention in a way that provides a positive emotional response. The deeper we can pull people into the world we’re creating, the more memorable the experience is for the user, which allows for a stronger connection, and a richer, more positive outcome.”
Justin Gelinas, Co-Founder & Chief Creative Officer at Britelite Immersive
Traditional creative agencies, pro-AV integrators and event teams are branching out to ensure they remain relevant. And new breeds of creative technology agencies have sprung up to help ensure you’re not throwing digital spaghetti at the wall or wasting money on wow-factor rather than substance. Today, creating immersive experiences requires input from more stakeholders than previous communications mediums.
“Once we understand our client’s goals, objectives and pain points, our team evaluates options and experiences through that perspective, which ultimately leads us into a production phase,” says Gelinas. Activities in production may include UX design, storyboarding, wireframes, design documents and style guides, interaction design, 3D animation, motion graphics, and visual design. “We’ll often weigh-in on or manage the AV and engineering or production phases of the project.” The level of involvement depends on what is required of the project, and how Britelite can add the most value for its clients.
Whether you want to engage with an audience in a corporate lobby, a museum exhibition, a retail location, medical facility, a trade show, or live event—the basic tenants of communications haven’t changed in millennia. You need to have at least a kernel of an idea of the story you want to tell, and you need an end-goal in mind.
Created by Belle & Wissell, the Tribute Wall is an interactive media experience at the heart of the new Bill & Melinda Gates Center for Computer Science & Engineering. The Abstract Canvas Mode uses code-driven generative visuals to shift between an array of color palettes, motion settings, shapes, lighting effects, and typographic phrases to attract students from across the building. Sensors embedded at the base of the wall identify the user’s presence, triggering shifts in color and the appearance of story “hooks” to encourage touch. With the tap of a finger, interactive stories are revealed as curtains of content.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Belle & Wissell
“At Britelite, the ‘why’ behind what we produce is more important than any immediate shock value that we could conceive of,” says Gelinas. Interviews are conducted with various department heads, creative visioning sessions are held with marketing teams, and brand strategy meetings occur with key executives. Technical evaluations are also done at this time, which helps inform comprehensive project planning. “We walk away with a holistic vision of what direction we should work toward together, and this becomes the framework for us to deliver those core goals and brand values.”
To best shape the narrative and determine how to effectively deliver the experience to a visitor, Gabe Kean, Principal at Seattle-based Belle & Wissell, says his company begins with workshop sessions that focus on:
“A simplified, guiding ‘experience brief’ document is produced from these sessions,” he said.
Gabe Kean, Principal at Belle & Wissell
There are endless combinations of technologies that can be used to illustrate a narrative. “We generally create a decision matrix to compare the potential technology solutions across software and hardware,” says Kean. “Once we flesh out criteria for each solution, we can then quickly compare and rank each for their individual pros, cons, risks, etc.” This structured approach helps the team make tough decisions.
YAH created a 360-degree LED theater and interactive kiosks for its client at the 2016 CTIA Super Mobility Week.
CREDIT: Courtesy of YAH
Immersion stimulates a combination of the senses—so it isn't always about a new technology, says Kean. “A common theme for our current projects is to make environments that respond to visitor presence—inviting and including them in the story experience.” This is usually accomplished through inputs such as cameras and sensors, and outputs that include programmable light systems, generative visual engines, and invitations for touch interaction (or user visitor contributions).
“Brands that start with the idea of using VR or AR because it’s exciting or new, risk losing the narrative along the way for the sake of the technology,” says Cathy Hackl, Futurist at Atlanta-based experience agency, You Are Here (YAH). “At the end of the day, humans are drawn to stories, and the tech is just one more tool that helps tell these stories to our audiences in new and innovative ways.”
Cathy Hackl, Futurist at You Are Here (YAH)
“I always talk about my 50-20-5-foot rule,” says Adam Sharpe, Director of Content Strategy at YAH. “How do I grab someone’s attention from 50 feet away? How do I pique their interest further when they’re approaching at 20 feet?” Sharpe starts with display technologies such as 3D projection mapping, LED curtains, cubes, and panels. “Finally, how do I bring them in once they’re close?” The team at YAH likes to pair VR experiences with the Leap Motion Controller. “This tech allows guests to use nature’s best controller: their own hands.”
“We’re using more and more computer vision, machine learning, and connected devices to enhance guest experiences,” says Sharpe. “These technologies allow us to tailor custom experiences for each guest based on what we know about them.”
Britelite’s Gelinas agrees, “It’s absolutely vital for our team to think of why we’re developing these experiences, to begin with, and then use that lens to influence concepts that work with the right technologies that make absolute sense.” Just because something can be done, doesn't always mean that it should.
Adam Sharpe, Director of Content at You Are Here (YAH)
“Call me old fashioned, but I still feel very moved when visuals are executed on big beautiful LED walls, or stages, [and they] feel big and bold,” says Gelinas. With an eye toward newer interactive technologies, “wearables have the possibility of giving permission to go a layer deeper, which always has an interesting angle,” adds Gelinas.
“The most exciting thing about all of this, is that it’s forever evolving. Just when you think you’ve got your head totally wrapped around capabilities or possible outcomes, something comes along and pushes it even further into unchartered territory,” concludes Gelinas.