The Power of Location-Based Settings for AR/VR Experiences

During a CES 2018 panel, specialists in bringing AR and VR outside the home talked about the social value that location-based venues bring to the experiences. “If you want proof that people like to get together, CES is the proof,” said Fake Love director of new business Jared van Fleet, whose company was acquired by The New York Times. “It’s inconvenient to come here, yet people do it every year.” Fortune 500 companies ignore AR/VR at their peril, added Hollywood Portfolio founder/managing director Mariana Danilovic, who moderated the discussion.

The conversation quickly pivoted to a focus on Hollywood, and National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) vice president of data and research Phil Contrino talked about the members’ enthusiastic embrace of AR/VR.

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“We’re seeing a lot of members are moving into the VR/AR space to augment experiences already happening in movie theaters,” he said. “For example, Regal is working on an AR magazine that moviegoers will be handed when they go into the theater. 2018 will be a tipping point for AR/VR in movie theaters. Our members look at AR/VR as an opportunity and a social experience in the movie theater.”

Kite & Lightning head of studio Jennifer Chavarria and Skydance Interactive director of business development Douglas Buffone spoke about how their two companies utilize VR. Kite & Lightning is a VR content creation studio specializing in experiences that blend social, gaming and narrative, said Chavarria, who pointed to a fan experience for “The Voice” and another for the “Divergent” series as examples of the work.

Skydance Interactive, which opened last year, complements the company’s film and TV divisions; it launched VR game “Archangel” last year. “We really look at this as a long-term play and delivering across all the media, not as a marketing extension,” he said. “When we get scripts, we ask ourselves how AR/VR can be a part of it.”

Contrino noted that NATO is in close communication with numerous film/TV directors, including James Cameron. “They don’t want to get lost in the VR clutter,” he said. “And they want the best technical environment. A VR experience will be seen in the best way possible in the movie theater, and if you put it in a theater first, people will pay attention. There’s a prestige with being outside the home.”

Accenture managing director of global digital experiences Mary Hamilton described the current challenge of getting gamers and traditional storytellers together. “They can be at odds,” she said. “What we’ll see in the future is a convergence of the tools, but we’re still very early in terms of how to create content. As we establish the right kinds of tools and standardize them, the market will accelerate.”

Brand engagement is another tricky topic. “It’s powerful for brands to have users in this totally immersive experience, but they have to be respectful,” said Chavarria. “We have to remember to remain authentic. You can’t hard sell them in the environment.”

“We’re still in the evangelizing mode,” said Buffone. “Location-based entertainment does a phenomenal job of hand-holding the regular consumer. Setting up VR is hard for the consumer in the home. It will eventually become easier, but we’re not at that point. The curated location-based experience is of vital importance now to what VR is all about.”