When magic becomes reality: The new technologies fuelling our imaginations

The Drum has assembled an enviable panel of magnificent minds from the industry and beyond to identify the latest trends and brilliant ideas shaping our space. Here’s what’s been exciting them lately…

When art and science combine, magic happens. VCCP strategy and innovation director Adrian Gans looks at the new technology giving consumers something special to marvel at.

There are times, few and far between, when new technology offers people a glimpse of an exciting and magical future. Maybe for you it was unboxing an Apple product. I remember experiencing a moment like that while watching Avatar in 3D at Imax.

If you enjoy adventure sports, try searching for Lily Camera. I guarantee you’ll feel a small rush of excitement when you find her. She’s amazing. Outdoor or in, the best new technologies are fuel to our imagination, creating wonder and opening new possibilities.

Perhaps you, like me, wish technology did that more often. In business, tech is often hardworking and commercial by design. Big data, CRM, CMS… great tools in their own right, but come on, we can do better than that. When art and science combine, with the right funding in place, magic can happen and, quite frankly, we the people demand magic.

Any new wonder or possibility we may help to create is ultimately a human experience. As brands, businesses, publishers and platforms wage battle for the future of entertainment, it may be worth considering our nature as social animals and our need to find comfort in the real, physical world.

For this reason, I was genuinely excited by the Google Glass project. It felt like a massive step forward for digital tech. You may scoff, but it’s coming back. Glass 2, in your enterprise, before the end of this year. The return of the glassholes!

Microsoft Hololens has yet to receive the same fashion vitriol as Glass did. Its design is half Daft Punk, half Trekkie. It does however promise a fantastic rendering of ‘mixed’ reality, otherwise known as augmented reality (AR). Translucent digital objects magically appear over real world objects, waiting for your interaction. Hololens will be on sale in early 2016.

Despite the troubles finding an acceptable headset, the appeal of AR is that it can be a shared experience in the real world. It looks and feels like real progress. It is also the stuff of dreams. Beautiful crazy dreams. Exotic miniature animals stroll through your kitchen. You and the kids build a rocket in the living room. Plus, it’s useful. If you’re doing surgery for instance.

You’ve probably seen the smart Silicon Valley money flood into the other, more ‘virtual’ reality (VR). The tech being developed in VR is certainly amazing, and there are clearly a lot of uses for (cough) personal entertainment. But it forces you to exit the real world and, so far, I am struggling to see any demonstrable benefit to society. Harsh, I know.

Still, you can expect to see a raft (including a Rift) of VR headsets on the market early next year. Google Cardboard is already out there. For under a fiver you can have a fun, low-fi experience of VR using your mobile. It’s sweet. If you haven’t played with a Cardboard yet you really should, I find it lightens the mood in meetings.

VR needs 360° content and this too is about to proliferate. Specialist cameras such as 360fly are coming to the market at a fraction of the price of a commercial GoPro rig. 360° videos are freely accessible on YouTube too. Björk used one for her recent Stonemilker release. These are relatively simple camera and playback technologies but they are likely to be more important than any headset.

360° is here, and VR will be big. But rumour has it that the real revolution in entertainment tech will come from a lesser known, and most secretive source, an AR platform that goes by the name of Magic Leap. We know Magic Leap has received massive amounts of investment from Google and a wealth of other Silicon Valley and Hollywood heavyweights. That’s good.

The company has released a few mind-blowing videos intended to illustrate its potential. Great! The buzz on the web suggests that the Magic Leap tech involves some kind of fibre optic retinal projection. Wow! Perhaps they are just good at hype, who knows? We’re short on detail.

They clearly promise magic, though, and in the very near future.

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