In anticipation of his presentation at Future of Immersive Leisure in Las Vegas, September 13-14, 2017, we asked Michael LaFleur, Director, Writer, Choreographer & Creative Entertainment, a few questions about the immersive entertainment ecosystem.  Check out his interview in relation to his Future of Immersive Leisure presentation entitled, The ROI of Creating a Big Blockbuster Experience for a Small Box Attraction with 21st Century Immersive Technology.

Q: The use of immersive technology in the entertainment sector away from the home, what are the issues?

A: Anytime we change the way we experience presented entertainment, there will always be a period of adjustment. For example; when television arrived, people had to adjust to seeing their beloved characters of their stories, which often went against the image they had created for that character in their mind. Immersive technology takes that big step even farther. It’s not just the subject, but the entire environment that surrounds the subject that is introduced. The challenge is in keeping the audience’s imagination active, while spoon-feeding the imagery, sounds and even scents to the audiences. They still need that sense of mystery to keep them engaged. They still need to be an active part of creating the story.

Q: The use of digital media in attractions, what are the key issues?

A: For me, the biggest challenge is in keeping the story alive, and not having the technology upstage the experience. We want the audience engaged in the experience, the story, and not have them come out talking about “how we did it”. In other words, we want them to remember the adventure, not the technology.

Q: Is the new audience for attractions and experiences a harder audience to entertain because of the amount of technology in their lives?

A: I believe it is a question of maintaining their attention, their involvement in the experience. Today’s social media, smart phones, etc…Plus the age of the “quick fix” (YouTube, Hulu and the like), has created very impatient audiences. Immediate gratification has developed very short attention spans for traditional methods of storytelling.

Q: Is the loading and unloading issues with VR technology impacting the experience?

A: Hopefully, by the time our audiences are invited into our experiences, those issued will have been solved. It’s a very exciting time for this new world of storytelling…the challenges and necessary creative thinking will insure an amazing experience to come.

Q: How can the digital out-of-home entertainment industry stay ahead of the home entertainment scene?

A: Nothing will replace the thrill of going to the circus! Although home entertainment will take us to new and exciting places, no doubt, going to a theme park, an exhibition, or live theatre will always offer an unbeatable experience for our audiences. Gathering with our fellow humans has been and IMHO will always be a necessary part of the human experience. That we can always count on.

Q: Why are there no officially recognized qualifications in development skills in this industry?

A: Oh, I think there are! They just have not been fully recognized, yet. For example; no matter how fantastic the technical advances may become, there still needs to be a storyteller at its heart. No matter how eye-popping the visuals may become, there still needs to be an artist creating those visuals. Those creative minds, the ability to use the new technologies to their fullest, these are the creative minds that are beginning to surface, and they are setting the bar for what is around the corner.

Q: What other immersive technologies beyond VR are you looking at?

A: Every day brings a new and more exciting development in this blooming industry. I am always amazed at the advances. All new opportunities for how we tell a story. By the time this is printed, someone will have introduced yet another amazing opportunity in technology. So, I guess the answer would be, “all of it”! And, how exciting is that?!

Q: Is it essential to have new immersive attractions and experiences every few years to survive?

A: I think it is more essential to have a thrilling experience. The Cyclone Roller Coaster at Coney Island is still rated one the world’s greatest coaster experiences. It hasn’t changed in decades, yet competes with today’s steels monsters, because of the unbeatable experience it delivers. If we start with a strong story, a great experience, the ever-evolving technology will only help in making it more thrilling.

Q: Could VR be more important in the out-of-home sector than in consumer application?

A: So much is possible. Sitting around a tribal campfire, who would have even imagined where storytelling would be able to go? The invention of the radio, motion pictures, television…each new advance in technology opened remarkable vistas for the storyteller. But, no matter how cozy we may be in our home, our cave…there will always be the need to find out what lies beyond the mountain, across that sea, or just within the mouse hole in the wall. Imagination makes us all mental nomads. And we are always looking for that next adventure.

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Don’t miss Michael’s presentation, The ROI of Creating a Big Blockbuster Experience for a Small Box Attraction with 21st Century Immersive Technology, at Future of Immersive Leisure on Wednesday, September 13, 2017, at 2:40 pm.  Click here to register for attendance.

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