Let me immerse you

February 24, 2015

Cultural Mapping: Arts & Entertainment

Image Source: Flickr, Stig Nygaard, Roskilde Festival 2012

Watch this space

The Consumer Electronic Association (CEA) recently flagged “immersive entertainment” as one of the five emerging global trends in 2015, and it’s a development worth keeping abreast of in the world of arts and entertainment. Entertainment has traditionally been limited to audio-visual engagement, but the future holds greater possibility: a fully immersive experience charming all five senses.

In the future, we will actively engage with content, rather than passively viewing it, whether that’s a concert, sporting arena, or stage performance. If that’s all too abstract, here’s a concrete example from the report: “Imagine watching the winter Olympics on the “Immersive Channel”, skiing with your favourite athlete. See what they see, feel what they feel.”

All of which sounds very far future. But the CEA has a more optimistic time horizon: “within three years, advances will come together to be so vivid and immersive that it will completely engulf our senses”.And there are good reasons to believe that this is possible. Chief among them is the investment by tech heavyweights. Below, we canvass one existing and one emerging offering, which will pave the way for immersive entertainment in 2015 and beyond.

Google Cardboard

Google is known for its deceptively simple design, but in the case of Google Cardboard, it’s just plain simple. A brainchild of Google’s 20% time, Google Cardboard is a straightforward, cheap, fun way to immerse in virtual reality. As the name suggests, it consists of a bit of cardboard encasing a smartphone (Android), and a strap around your head, playing virtual reality through the phone’s applications.

The applications are simplistic, but the significance lies not in its quality, but rather in its accessibility; all previous VR offerings have been cost prohibitive. But now, for $15-20, the public can experience the first wave of VR. Google is conditioning the mainstream to embrace VR through simple offerings, providing a gateway to more sophisticated offerings from companies like Guitammer.

Image Source: Flickr, szczym bzzz, 20141024_132956

Guitammer: the next generation of immersive technology

Guitammer is leading all comers in immersive technology. The Silicon Valley Business Journal reported that Guitammer is partnering with the San Jose Sharks to create a system that transmits signals from arena sensors to in-stadium / at-home seats that vibrate. Sensors capture the motion or vibration from a person (e.g. a hockey player) or object (e.g. a puck) in the event, and that haptic/motion data is encoded and broadcast along with the audio and video for a more immersive experience. The CEO of Guitammer believes that, in the not too distant future, “Literally everyone will have some kind of sensor transmitting all types of information.”

The Future of Entertainment

There is clearly still water to go under the bridge before this emergent technology disrupts the mainstream, but when/if it does, it is likely to first impact live entertainment. It’s not difficult to conceive of a future in which in-home entertainment is a more immersive, more compelling offer than live entertainment. Then again, the kickback may be a ‘preimumization of liveness’ – a greater focus on the ‘real deal’.