Imagine if you could use any physical environment as a stage for a compelling and interactive digital experience. That is what augmented reality in 2020 is like, according to Chris O’Reilly, the Co-Founder of Nexus Studios, (with offices in Los Angeles and London) whose interactive team have spent much of the last year consumed with the developing potential of AR. For him, it is an extraordinary technology where buildings come to life, imaginary creatures believably walk among us, and a myriad of alternate versions of reality are made to exist on top of another. More than stories, these are worlds that we will be able to experience, intertwined with our own and at any moment, powered by new technologies and our imagination.
Enabling all of this magic are suites of technology including VPS technologies, like the recently Facebook-acquired Scape and 6D.AI, emerging 5G networks, and a creative tool set for AR locations Nexus has developed called Gilda. Together they enable “Enhanced Locations,” a term coined by Nexus Studios that describes the essence of a true AR experience. The result is the ability, like never before, to bring to life engaging content and experiences in real-world locations.
ProductionHUB spoke with Chris O’Reilly about the evolution of augmented reality, “Enhanced Locations,” and how all of this new technology will be used by content creators.
PH: So what is an “Enhanced Location” exactly?
CO: An “Enhanced Location” is any place in the real world that is mapped and ready to be overlaid with hyper-accurate layers of digital content. Forget any previous notions you had about AR, this is a fully integrated layer of digital 3D content accurately connected with its real-world location with centimeter accuracy. Think of it as a new digital platform for content; utilities and experiences that sit on top of the real world.
Imagine a giant hologram of LeBron beckoning fans at the Staples Center, Spiderman helping you find the next attraction at a theme park, or playing a multi-user game across the architecture of Time Square. This next level of AR technology can enable these personal, engaging, and entertaining experiences.
PH: Where does the Gilda toolset Nexus created, as well as other tech, fit into making “Enhanced Locations” happen?
CO: There are several third-party tools, such as Scape and 6D.AI, that can accurately locate us within the real world. That provides the spatial anchor, computer vision helps your phone understand where it is within a space, and real-time game engines render the content. A 5G network is not critical, but it is rocket fuel to these types of experiences, as it provides an ability to stream higher-end content including volumetric capture content or play multi-user real-time games with little latency. Gilda is simply our own pipeline and suite of tools, technologies, and techniques that have been developed to allow a creator to work in this new space.
At its heart, Gilda is a storytelling tool; only for stories told in the places you inhabit as opposed to books or screens.
PH: So how do you see brands using this technology?
CO: High-value venues like stadiums, museums, expos, and amusement parks are obvious examples of where we might see this technology initially make an impact. Imagine a social, AR gaming event during half-time or enhanced game stats and real-time game data at your next NFL game. Imagine a virtual guide giving tours of a city or reenactment of historic scenes and moments in the very places they happened.
Additionally, it’s a whole new world for the entertainment and advertising industry to unleash their IP.
PH: What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in getting to this point?
CO: We have had to solve countless technical challenges since the pipeline for these types of experiences simply didn’t fully exist, and this is obviously improving all the time. We have also had to think about user experience design in completely new ways because we’re no longer designing interfaces for 2D screens. We have to consider how people interact in 3D spaces while holding their phone. Looking ahead, I think the next challenges are going to be about scaling as we see increasing demand for brands who want to be ready for this next level of digital experiences.