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Reality check: Wrestler’s VR/AR World Tour

Back in 2010, making content was a pretty different scene. People didn’t really get what I was up to. Seven years on, everyone’s watching online video, all day, every day, even on the toilet (or is that just me?). And I feel like VR/AR may be a similar story.

I run a content creation company called Wrestler. We make all sorts of videos for all sorts of brands, both here and internationally. Some you may have heard of; Allbirds, Education NZ, NZ Post, Hyatt Hotels, Kiwibank and Trade Me. I started the company with my wife, Kat Lintott, in March 2016. Our goal was to make awesome content, with awesome people, for awesome brands. So far it’s worked a treat. Together we also started one of New Zealand’s first commercial drone companies.

Before starting Wrestler, Kat was at 8i, a virtual reality startup that is getting lots of attention (and funding). There she was in charge of building the brand, organising shoots and helping raise sweet, sweet cash. I came along for the ride at times too, helping with camera tests and generally getting in people’s way. That’s where our passion for VR/AR was sparked.

We sat on the VR/AR thing for a year. Our experience with the drone business was that if you invest too early in a new technology, you end up spending all of your money on educating the market and have no energy for the actual work. We knew things were heating up when Facebook implemented 360 video into its player and decided at the start of 2017 that we would form a VR/AR division of Wrestler, led by Kat. Once we made that call, we got our hustle on.

Having been deeply involved with the industry for three years, we were pretty clear about what we wanted to achieve in the space: create story-based, immersive experiences that empower people in the real world. What does that mean? Create something that people can lose themselves in and give them something good to take away from it. We feel like a lot of the current experiences are the low hanging fruit: zombie games, shoot ’em ups, scary shit.

Our idea was to start small, create some 360 experiences and build from there. The first step was to get some gear and start playing. I was at a shoot for Garage Project and decided I would bring the 360 camera and see what I could get. They were making a beer with the NZSO, so I had them all play around the camera in the brewery. It looked awesome. From that, we worked with NZSO to came up with a more in-depth experience. That’s looking to launch in June – and it’s pretty flipping cool. We’re also working with Allbirds on a ‘sheep to shoe’ experience that’ll be filmed in four locations around the world. And an international brand that I’m not allowed to talk about yet for a ‘room-scale’ experience.

We’re pretty excited about where this industry is headed, and we’re willing to put our money on it. In April, Kat and I decided to head to the States (LA, SF, NYC) to see what’s going on over there in this space (we even got a meeting with the CCO of Facebook). After that, Creative HQ in Wellington organised for Kat to go to Chengdu, to pitch some VR concepts to a bunch of Chinese investors. Then we’re off to Europe where I’ll check out what’s going at Cannes. Over the next few weeks we’ll be sharing the journey, and hopefully leave you with some insight into the world of VR/AR.

To us, it feels like there is a massive opportunity. The possibilities are endless and it’s only just beginning.

Ben Forman is founder/director at Wrestler. 
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