Past, Present and Future: Augmented Reality and the Entertainment Industry

12th February 2021

Remember when mobile phones were fun? Their sliding facets, useless button layouts and changeable plastic designs were all the rage despite their lack of practical function. That satisfying ‘click’ when you closed your Motorola Razr flip phone after an intense conversation was undeniably good… But we’ve moved away from these design features because, well, we learnt that phones can be more useful and user friendly. Comparably, this is the stage we are at with Augmented Reality (AR): it may be fun, but perhaps it’s not completely established.

 

By now you might have a good idea of what AR means, but as a quick summary: 

Augmented Reality (AR) is a computer generated experience in which 3D graphics are combined with the real world. Here is an example of AR in one of our Instagram Face filters. As you can see, the graphics interact with the subject, allowing developers like us to track motion and ‘augment’ reality.

 

Pictured: One of our AR Instagram Filters

 

So where are we at with this new technology? Actually, it’s not that new. With early examples arising in the late 60’s, and the first usable, fully-formed AR system being developed for the US Airforce in 1992, AR has actually been around for a while. If it were a person, we like to think it would be in its late teens, just breaching the awkward phase and just starting to become a little bit useful…

 

AR Today

It might be news to you to know that you’ve been interacting with AR for some time now. From Pokemon Go’s news-dominating debut in 2016, to prime-time TV shows like Strictly Come Dancing’s using virtual objects and feature films like Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D using camouflage suits - AR is a popular developer tool to easily enhance aesthetics and provide more engagement with media. Perhaps the most famous example of AR today is the aforementioned Social Media Filter: while you may prefer the more subtle effects now, we know you took 100’s of photos with the dog ears when Snapchat first debuted its AR potential - and for that we’ll forgive you. But what about AR’s future? Will it stay bound to being a film-making tool and a novelty past-time?

 

AR Tomorrow

 Over the next 5 - 10 years, AR is set to change the structure of almost every piece of media we interact with day-to-day. The entertainment industry is making new advancements all the time and we are beginning to see what the future holds. If you’d like to read about how AR is used for business purposes, check that out here. We’re just going to focus on the entertainment side of things here.

 

Live Performance

Both virtual and real-life live events can benefit from AR technology. Take U2’s Giant Bono as a (slightly self obsessed) example of AR adding a new dimension to music, or Sam Smith’s virtual performance used to supplement the release of their track ‘Diamonds’. Though up-take has been sped up by the Coronavirus pandemic, there is a huge amount of evidence to suggest that virtual performances will continue on, and with strength. With virtual venues like Oculus Venues and Lost Horizon receiving more visitors and increased funding, AR will become a standard feature of these digital performances thanks to its capability to do pretty much anything. And wow - you’ve come to the right place! At The Music Trip we love this - and we make it too. From AR enhanced live streams where the live music directly influences the environment and CGI within it, to using AR to place Taylor Swift in your kitchen (Taylor - call us.)

 

Television

Judging by Apple’s development of AR supplemented TV shows, we are about to see some really futuristic looking stuff coming to our humble television sets. Imagine if you will: you are watching the Formula 1 Grand prix; the driver’s POV is on the screen, the cars are going around the track on a floating island placed neatly on your coffee table, whilst the leaderboard is conveniently obscuring the view of your oven smoking away while your pizza burns to a crisp... Will AR be a distraction? Maybe. But it'll be a fun one. So could this be the future of TV? Well, according to Mark Zuckerberg and other tech giants, it's not. AR and holograms will eventually replace the TV entirely. Sorry Nanna.

 

Consumer Tech

(Photograph: Bram Van Oost)

(Photograph: Bram Van Oost)

Unfortunately, we may be a little way away from being able to buy smart Ray-Bans or contact lenses (watch this space: Mojo Vision are working on a pair of AR contact lenses - though unlikely to be commercially available for a good 5 years). Indeed, we have a crime against fashion on our hands at the moment with current, enterprise focused AR glasses and Mixed reality headsets such as Microsoft’s Holo-lens, but the future is bright and we may need to look to AR’s cousin, VR for an insight into things to come.

VR headsets are getting smaller, more affordable and featuring more technology - and this is the direction AR is heading in too. When the world gets AR right, it’s going to take over - it’s just a lot harder to reach that perfect product that people will want to incorporate into their daily lives. Remember, with all XR hardware, we’re still only just getting out of that awkward phase, so prepare for major changes as we make that transition from the antenna brick to the iPhone X.  Check out C-NET’s coverage of the new Apple headset rumours and what it means for AR and the Extended Reality (XR) industry as a whole.

 

Where We Come In

We are at the cusp of AR really kicking off. It is therefore up to companies like The Music Trip to keep trialling and applying it to new things, and the wider XR community of developers, designers, editors, computer modellers and coders to keep refining it until we can eliminate the bezels and clunkiness of this promising tech. Just imagine going to the Superbowl -  front row seats in the action and watching the famed half-time show - without even noticing the hardware you are experiencing it through. No laptops, no TV, just total immersion in an experience that wouldn’t be feasible in reality. We will be able to sit with our grandparents in the room through portals, draw collaborative schematics of our plans in thin air and eliminate unnecessary travel, all resulting in a more sustainable existence. Further to this, envisage having no tv, no laptop, no cables to power anything - just software attached to a tiny device. Tech waste at its current scale could be a problem of the past.

If the future seems scary at all, then that’s no bad thing.  Every significant technological advancement starts with an element of fear, but we no longer cower at the sight of an automobile or scream when the phones ring, so why be afraid of AR? It’s up to us to make sure its purpose is a positive, life-enhancing one, not the terrifying dystopian future that technophobes have planted in our heads. So join us, and find out more about AR and how we are working with artists and brands as we move into a more digital future.

 

Want to create some AR for your business? Contact hello@themusictrip.co.uk to start discussing how AR can change the way your audience experience your brand.

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