This article is part of our March 2019 series about emerging technology. Click here for more.
While companies have been experimenting with immersive media formats for a number of years now, it’s still early days in realizing the full impact that such experiences can add to a consumer’s perception of a brand.
But, according to panelists at the March 12 SXSW 2019 session titled “Immersive Tech: Hold On, Things are Getting Real,” development of the “R” technologies—augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), mixed reality (MR), and extended reality (XR)—has been accelerating. That’s because key industry players are collaborating to help content creators more easily create compelling content and realize their storytelling visions.
The expert panel included Chris Bobotis, director of immersive at Adobe; Eric Cheng, head of immersive media at Facebook, and Christina Heller, CEO of Metastage, which specializes in holographic video. (CMO.com is owned by Adobe.)
This May marks an immersive media milestone as Facebook celebrates the five-year anniversary of its acquisition of Oculus, which is largely seen as the catalyst for bringing immersive technologies more mainstream. Since then, there have actually been lots of advances in the hardware, software, and best practices for workflow. We are fast approaching the point where immersive technology reaches a scalable reality.
“On all of immersive media R’s, I think we are seeing the calm before the storm,” Metastage’s Heller told attendees. “It has taken time to create a robust immersive ecosystem. Major players are ramping up for major developments happening over the next year. I expect that during SXSW 2020 we will see even more energy in the immersive tech space.”
Developments over the past year include the continued integration of AR support directly into both Android and iOS smartphone devices. In addition, last June Adobe worked with Apple and Pixar to add support for the “usdz” AR file format in Creative Cloud Apps and Services, enabling Photoshop users to tweak and modify AR imagery.
VR also has seen developments.
“I am very proud that [the industry] came together to agree on one format for VR,” Bobotis told SXSW attendees. “This is huge. The fewer formats that we have to deal with, the more energy that can be focused on the storytelling. … Our goal is to help storytellers better tell their stories with immersive tech.”
As with any new technology, it is important to start with the end user’s experience in mind before diving into the tech. Facebook’s Cheng suggested that creators take into consideration how the content will likely be consumed. Will a person use a headset or a mobile device? Is a user in a location-based entertainment scenario where physical objects are mapped?
Heller agreed. “Whichever tech you are using, it’s important to start by defining the outcomes and goals of your project and the budget to make it happen,” she said. “If you are using one of the R’s for the first time, start with a prototype, something small, and make it look amazing, instead of creating an epic production.”
While the immersive tech industry is getting closer to having readily available, easier-to-use tech, there still are hurdles, Cheng said. He cited cameras, acquisition systems, tooling, distribution pipeline, ideation around storytelling, and devices. “They are all constantly changing forms—more rapidly than we can keep up with,” he said.
Ultimately, if immersive tech is to become a commercial reality with true end-user adoption, experiences that are universal need to be identified and focused on.
“Something important for the industry and creators to figure out is to identify use cases that are entertaining and pragmatic and will become part of people’s day-to-day lives in a very meaningful way,” Adobe’s Bobotis said. “This will create a tipping point where the R’s go from being a novelty to mainstream consumption.”
Visit this link, shared by the panel, for examples of leading-edge immersive media and resources.