ETC@USC Student Challenge: Future of Themed Experiences

On October 22, ETC@USC began a one-week student challenge on “The Future of Themed Experiences.” Leveraging the tools, techniques and resources of today and those that could emerge in the next few years, students were asked to come up with an original idea for an experience that: 1) has a specific location-based experience, and 2) extends the experience out into the real and virtual worlds before and after the person has the location-based experience. Eighteen 3-minute pitch videos were submitted and an esteemed panel of industry executives chose to reward five of them. All 18 videos with follow-up Q&A discussions are available online.

Location-based experiences are not just centered on theme parks; they can be tied to supermarkets, schools, hospitals, parks and any other venue that could potentially be themed.

Student pitches detailed each proposed experience, how the location-specific and non-location-specific pieces work together, what would serve as memorable moments or hooks, what the experiences are trying to achieve, what is unique about the experiences, and why the intended audiences would enjoy them.

Students were told that judges would be looking for interesting storytelling or audience-engagement ideas that use the relationship between a physical location and scalable “anywhere” (i.e., not location-specific) elements in engaging and creative ways. The judging criteria was based on: 1) how engaging the experience is, 2) its originality, and 3) its repeatability.

On October 29, the students presented 18 pitch videos and answered questions from the judges. It was determined that the following five submissions best met the judging criteria:

  • Prism (Sophie Shack, Junior, Iovine and Young Academy)
  • World Prism AR (Aleksandre Lomadze-Gabiani, Junior, Viterbi School of Engineering)
  • Pop Up Park (Kimisha Renee Davis, Junior, School of Cinematic Arts; Jaden Kirshner, Sophomore, Marshall School of Business)
  • “Today I Will Take the Road Less Traveled” (Powen Yao, Graduate Student, Viterbi School of Engineering)
  • Urban Shadows (Nathan Huh, Sophomore, Viterbi School of Engineering; Tiffany Yoon, Senior, Viterbi School of Engineering)

The students who developed the 5 selected ideas will be rewarded by participating in a one-hour Zoom discussion with senior industry executives on the future of the metaverse and experience in general.

The ETC@USC Student Challenge is an ongoing program that encourages the next generation of creators to develop and pitch possible futures for emerging entertainment technology-related topics. It also gives USC students and senior industry executives a chance to interact in a casual yet structured environment. Please watch for announcements of future challenges for USC students and recent graduates.

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