In anticipation of his presentation at Future of Immersive Leisure in Las Vegas, September 13-14, 2017, we asked Doug Griffin at Nomadic VR, a few questions about the immersive entertainment ecosystem. Check out his interview in relation to his Future of Immersive Leisure presentation entitled, Expanding Frontiers for Immersive Theaters.
Q: The use of immersive technology in the entertainment sector away from the home, what are the issues?
A: Location-based entertainment provides significant opportunity to expose the general public to VR, and to extend experiences beyond what can ever be achieved in the home. That said, it’s a challenging environment to execute within. The biggest obstacle is creating both a business model and experience suite that, when used together, can thrive even when the home market grows.
Q: The use of digital media in attractions, what are the key issues?
A: There are bound to be technical complications with any new technology and digital media; immersive VR is no different. Bringing a high volume of consumers through an intense VR experience is a challenging difficult task. This form of entertainment has an immense number of variables that could directly impact the consumer’s’ experience, and simply managing these technological barriers will prove challenging for any player entering the field.
Q: Is the new audience for attractions and experiences a harder audience to entertain because of the amount of technology in their lives?
A: Clearly the media expectations of consumers is higher now than ever. Console gaming and visual effects has driven the look of entertainment to new heights. Mobile has allowed for quick doses of varied content to be available at a moment’s notice. And streaming services and e-sports has developed a new audience expectation for media. Consumers no longer need to leave the home to access world-class entertainment experiences. But that said, there’s also a resurgence in the desire for social entertainment experiences, people want to share and connect around exciting content. There’s a high bar set for technology driven entertainment, but people are also eager to be delighted and captivated in new and exciting ways.
Q: Is the loading and unloading issues with VR technology impacting the experience?
A: Most VR experiences today are built for repetitive use at home, using game-like controllers and onboarding processes to teach the user how to interact with the virtual world. These onboarding processes are typically longer than with other forms of entertainment. On the ground this reduces consumer throughput and adds staffing requirements, both of which significantly impact location-based entertainment. Nomadic avoids these conundrums by providing physical props that resemble their real-world counterparts; by bringing these familiar objects into the fold, we see a much more natural, much more ‘real’ engagement with the virtual world.
Q: How can the digital out-of-home entertainment industry stay ahead of the home entertainment scene?
A: The out-of-home industry must deliver experiences that can’t be had at home. Nomadic is already doing this by creating an incredible sense of immersion through tactile components, natural human interaction with the physical world (as opposed to controllers), and large scale locomotion. These features are unachievable in a home setting. We’re constantly iterating and pushing forward new physical technologies to bolster our experiences in a way that couldn’t be replicated at home. Failure to do so will result in a similar phenomena that we saw with arcades when home gaming consoles grew in popularity.
Q: Why is there no officially recognized qualifications in development skills in this industry?
A: It’s a new industry, using similar tools as gaming, but with completely new challenges in storytelling and user engagement. With the proliferation of home-based VR, we will inevitably start to see an influx of students and developers seeking skills and qualifications in the space, it’s only a matter of time before we see programs at campuses around the world. As an industry, we are only beginning to learn these rules and just scratching the surface of what’s possible in this medium.
Q: What other immersive technologies beyond VR are you looking at?
A: Nomadic combines natural user engagement and large-scale interaction with uniquely immersive virtual experiences. Doing so engages our participants’ sensory perceptions at a much deeper level than other forms of entertainment or immersive technologies like 3D movies, allowing for more powerful storytelling and game-like experiences. We feel that VR is already on the cutting-edge when it comes to immersive entertainment and we are constantly looking into the latest technologies and methods to produce a powerful sense of “wow” with our users.
Q: Is it essential to have new immersive attractions and experiences every few years to survive?
A: Yes! Nomadic strives to bring these immersive experiences to neighborhoods everywhere at a rapid rate, to bring that sense of amusement and wonder to the people. To keep local communities engaged, you have to create immersive experiences that will create a “wow” sensation with each repeat visit, but you also need to deliver fresh content on a regular clip. While some other companies in the space believe in long-term installations with static content, we want to offer a brand new medium for many experiences. This is why Nomadic partners with 3rd party content developers to publish new and exciting experiences at a much faster pace than others, to bring to our physical venues.
Q: Could VR be more important in the out-of-home sector than in consumer application?
A: There will always be important uses both in and out of the home. Again, the industry is still so in its infancy, that we aren’t sure what the VR landscape will look like in 5-10 years. I expect the cost of home VR equipment to drop, while simultaneously improving in capability. That stated, some experiences can only happen in dedicated facilities. Bottom line … we’ll gradually see new and exciting uses in both of these environments that over time will differentiate further and further from one another.