“We don't want to create experiences just for the sake of using cool new technology,” says Ben Forman, CEO and co-owner of Wrestler. “Oh no no no.”
Wrestler, he says, is a company on a mission: to create VR/AR experiences which have real world impacts.
“Let's use virtual and augmented realities to make our actual reality that much better,” he says.
So far, they’re managing to do that nicely. With a portfolio already containing high-flying brands like Albirds, ecostore, the NZSO and Mercedes, and Wellington Airport, the group is becoming known for unique and interactive storytelling, both virtual and otherwise.
Owners Forman and Kat Lintott both saw the potential for the virtual medium while involved with 8i. Having started one of New Zealand's first commercial drone companies, howeverm they knew that trying to push new technology into market too early can be a challenge.
In 2013, the pair founded a boutique production company, which later merged into creative video agency making called Wrestler. At the start of 2017, the market felt right, so a new VR/AR arm of Wrestler was established after three years of dreaming and scheming.
“With a combination of commercial and original projects under development, we were able to get a feel for where all of this tech was heading,” says Forman. “The high road and the low road, effectively. We chose the high road – creating experiences that impact people positively in the real world.”
“We're not saying we’re the best at gaming or film or theatre or anything specific like that, we're saying that we're coming at VR/AR with a completely new perspective, open to whatever discoveries come our way. Clients seem to be drawn to that honesty, as everyone knows that if you call yourself an expert in an emerging field, then you're just an egotistical wanker.”
But what about those real-world clients? Though the tech is exciting, it's still new, so the company knows that it's getting real-world bums in seats that counts.
“This is technology and experiences people don't even know they want,” says Forman. “Even we don't know what this stuff is going to look like until we start exploring and creating.”
“The key for us is to get people into our studio, have some beers, play some VR/AR and then start riffing on ideas. The great thing about experiential is that it’s tactile, and for that reason anyone can start imagining ideas and experiences they would like to experience or create. This gets buy-in really well because we're taking them on the journey, and at the end of the day, we're all human and we like to be included.”
Foreman says that right now, the goal for Wrestler is to keep working, keep learning and be ready for the boom when it happens.
“We know in its present state, the industry is premature, but the promise in the future is big,” Forman says.
“Therefore, our game plan is to put our heads down and develop enough IP in pipelines, concepts and processes, so that when the money does start flowing and real interest builds, we'll be perfectly positioned to dominate the market.”
Just what those opportunities will be is unknown, says Forman, but the promise is “insane”.
“This has the potential to change the way we engage with our world and communicate. No biggie.”
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