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Wrestler's AR/VR World Tour, part 4: New York

The co-founders of Wellington production company Wrestler recently travelled around the real world to look at the future of the virtual world. In part four of the series, Ben Forman recounts his time in the Big Apple.

It always amazes me at how unique each of the States in the United States are. New York, I feel is the best for us. Fast-paced, action packed, a city full of hustlers who are keen for a good time. This means little work, lots of play. Luckily for us, in the VR world, play is kind of work too…

First things first, it was off to check out the latest VR at Tribeca Film Festival. This year they had a whole floor dedicated to VR. It was very eye opening. It solidified for us what we were discovering on this journey throughout the States; VR experiences are generally pretty crappy… Even the latest and greatest, being premiered at world class festivals in the capital city of the world, lacked any real depth or wonderment.

It kind of got us excited though. Everywhere we went we were expecting to be put in our place, something in the back of our minds was saying “there are people out there who can do this stuff better than you, what are doing wasting your time in this new industry, leave it to the experts”. But what we continued to discover was that there are no experts. None. It’s a completely open space waiting for people to claim, still. The tech is there, the big guns like Samsung, Apple and Facebook are allll over that, but there’s just not enough good content. If you’ve been following this little series you probably feel like I’m saying this over and over, but it’s simply the biggest learning from our research; the opportunity for anyone who wants to create is there.

Second stop on our New York adventure was to Facebook, to meet with the chief creative officer, Mark D’Arcy. This was a classic New Zealand Mafia situation. We ran in Rod Drury into San Francisco, who had just met Mark at F8, and thought we should meet. Based on the fact we're all Kiwis (Mark’s a Kiwi too) it seemed the right thing to do. Mark was pretty damn impressive. He’s one of those people who is so onto it, you just leave the conversation feeling really, really dumb. But that’s okay: always surround yourself with people smarter than you, right?

Anyway, Mark’s advice was relatively simple but very helpful. Invest in AR. VR is cool, but it’s AR that will win. With Facebook opening up their AR development tools and integrating AR support into all of their apps with a camera, and the likes of Apple adding depth tracking to all future devices, we’re inevitably going to live in an AR world. Not only that, but by some stroke of genius, Snapchat has managed to get current mobile cameras to track depth extremely well. So we’re already in the AR future, we’re just failing to see how massive it’s going to be. The youth probably do… Classic.

We also went to ‘Sleep No More’ again, to get another dose of inspiration in immersive storytelling. It was just as incredible as the first time we went, and just as immersive. If you’re ever in NYC, it’s a must do. Five levels of incredibly intricate set decoration with around 20 actors roaming unpredictably throughout the set. You wear a mask and don’t speak a word. The actors occasionally interact with you, and if you’re game enough, they may pull you into a secret room and serve you tea. It’s the perfect example of the power of immersive storytelling, and if they digitised this experience, it would undoubtedly be the most impressive VR experience on the market. I wonder who has the rights?

So, if you’re a content creator, there’s a world of assets that need to be created. And if you’re a brand, there’s a world of opportunity in putting your brand into this digital future.

The trick to it all, as Mark told us, is to make sure you’re entertaining. If you’re not giving your audience something they want, then you’re not engaging. You can’t force feed your content to audiences now, it’s got to be content they seek out and actively want to engage in. 

Ben Forman is founder/director at Wrestler

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