ETC’s AR Salon: Industry Experts Discuss Augmented Reality

On November 11, at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, ETC’s AR Salon gathered a group of industry experts to discuss their experiences in augmented reality. ETC executive director/chief executive Ken Williams opened the event to welcome attendees, many of whom are already engaged in producing AR projects. Phil Lelyveld, ETC’s VR/AR program lead, spelled out the salon’s organization, which consisted of 10-minute presentations on the business of AR and the art and technology of AR, followed by discussion workgroups.

Following Piper Jaffray senior research analyst Gene Munster, who spoke about growth in the area of augmented reality, Super Ventures partner Tom Emrich suggested that “It’s a misconception that AR will come into play after VR.”


“’Pokémon Go’ is proof of that,” he added. “AR is here.” He pointed out that most people already have a device — the smartphone — enabling AR experiences, and also called out Lenovo’s Tango as a new specialized AR device. Emrich also cited the need for 3D scanning and mapping and computer vision “to make sense of the world.”

“The Holy Grail is semantic spatial understanding,” he said. “World building must become more and more real. We need to augment the entire human experience for this to feel real.”

Boesky & Company principal Keith Boesky quoted the Jewish sage Baal Shem Tov as the first one to define augmented reality: “You are where your mind is.” He walked attendees through the history of AR, noting that, “the very first media room happened in 1977 … and then Moore’s Law caught up.”

Starting with “Pokémon Go,” Boesky identified other companies involved in AR applications, from Snapchat and Google Translate to Hyundai and IKEA. “The AR future is here now,” he said, predicting that AR glasses would replace “the screens in our pockets.”

“Right now, hardware is the impediment,” he added. “AR is a lot harder than VR.”

Focusing on the art and technology of AR, Rabbx chief exec Aaron Pulkka encouraged attendees to start developing AR projects now. “I’ve spent a lot of time in VR,” he said. “And now it’s absolutely AR over VR. That’s where the future is.” He also predicted that, once Apple reveals what it’s working on in AR, the Silicon Valley company will “dominate” the space.

“When they show what they’re working on, it’s likely to be transformational,” he said.

Niantic Labs creative John Zuur Platten talked about his company’s next venture, after the massive success of “Pokémon Go: Via Noir.” The storyline, around dark power and an ancient weapon, unfolded in nine cities around the world in a 24-hour period on November 12. “We try to treat all of this as one massive story you’re a part of,” he said. “We’re about adventures on foot — and we encourage you to interact. Ingress doesn’t have a tutorial; you have to talk to people to figure out how it works.”

His colleague, creative lead Flint Dille underscored Platten’s assertion. “Whatever you do, think of it as social,” he said. “This is all about alternate realities and sharing it with other people. The least interesting thing to us is the next big game. It’s how you make your life one long exciting game.”

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