Unobstructed: The Impact of XR (eXtended Reality) (EP.41)
INTRO: [00:00:00] You’re listening to unobstructed your view on the live events industry.
Casey T: [00:00:10] Hello and welcome back to the UNOBSTRUCTED Podcast Review on the live events industry. I’m your host, Casey Thomas, and my guest today is an enthusiast of Web 3.0 and virtual reality technology, with a particular interest in how these technologies are disrupting and impacting the live events industry. She has a background in computer science and over 20 years in the tech industry and is self-proclaimed obsessed with staying up to date with the latest tech trends, even if it means wearing a VR headset for three days straight to learn as much as she can. She is the chair of our council and co-chair of the women’s group at Audience View. In addition to her professional pursuits, she’s an active member of Toastmasters and a volunteer with PMI Toronto. She’s committed to using her skills and expertise to make a positive impact, both in her professional and personal life. Please welcome Jo-Ann Chiam. Hi, Jo-Ann. Thanks for being with us with me today.
Jo-Ann C: [00:01:09] Hi, Casey. I’m so happy to be here.
Casey T: [00:01:13] Well, I appreciate you taking the time and I’m really excited to learn more about our topic today, which is Xrw, otherwise known as extended reality. And I think just so that everybody knows what we’re talking about, Can you explain what is XR?
Jo-Ann C: [00:01:29] Sure. You know, lately we’ve been introduced to so many terms like XR, VR, MR, so, so they’re all just slightly different aspects of how, I guess, technology is transforming our space. If you were to think about it that way, you know, VR was start with VR because that’s probably what we’re all thinking of when we think about transforming our space and the metaverse. Vr is virtual reality. It’s where, you know, it’s the environment in which you create is entirely computer generated. So it’s virtual and so you’re immersed in it. That’s virtual reality or VR and then you’ve got AR and that’s augmented reality. So that’s a flip side of VR in, in essence, your, in your physical space and your physical space becomes the place in which things start to appear. So think about Pokemon Go, right? So you’re in your physical space and then you catch, you catch a little Pokemon that’s augmented reality and mixed reality is just a combination of the both of those two worlds colliding. And XR is, is the umbrella term really, It’s the umbrella term for all of those. So that’s in a nutshell what XR, VR, AR and VR really is all about.
Casey T: [00:02:56] Remember, I think it was 2020, the Macy’s Day, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade did. I could like use my phone to see different things at the parade that weren’t really there. Is that mixed or is that augmented?
Jo-Ann C: [00:03:10] That’s augmented. That’s augmented. So it depends when you’re looking at different objects that are in your phone that’s primarily augmented. It’s when you are able to bring in a virtual world into your physical world that’s mixed. So think about somebody like so the example I have is think about your classroom. I’m sure you know, you went to school in your biology class. You used to have to dissect a frog. Terrible experience, really.
Casey T: [00:03:39] Visceral memories.
Jo-Ann C: [00:03:41] Like today. Today, you know, you put on you put on these glasses and you have a virtual frog and you have got a virtual like scalpel knife. And so you’re able to match your physical world where you’re sitting in your class and you match in this virtual environment that has got all the virtual knives and and all of that in a virtual frog that you just walk in in real time and dissect. And so, like, that’s not going to give the person any trauma of actually physically touching the frog. And we didn’t have to dissect an actual frog. So so those are some mixed reality examples.
Casey T: [00:04:20] That’s so cool. Yeah. So what are some ways in which this is showing itself in the entertainment world?
Jo-Ann C: [00:04:28] Well. So with entertainment, you know, the innovators are really our virtual concerts. You know, that all started primarily with Marshmallow in in 2019, and then the pandemic hit in 2020. And then everybody was at home. The artists couldn’t tour. And so you started seeing all of the artists just experiment with virtual concerts, right? Travis Scott did 1 in 2020 that was massive, had a lot of press coverage, and that’s a classic because he made so much money from that ten minute virtual concert that it was 40% of his entire, you know, in real life tour from the year before and then from ten minutes. And that made such huge news. So there was a lot of innovation. There is still a lot of innovation with concerts. Lots of innovation with spots. So World Cup last year. So FIFA basically came up with an augmented reality piece. They had an app for people that were lucky enough to be in the stands and watching the game. You could take your phone out and you could scan the field and the app would detect the players that were running on the field. And so it would overlay the name of the player, the team they were in and give you stats as they’re running through. So you viewing all of that on your phone. So that’s you know sports and mean they have money to throw behind behind all of this technology.
Jo-Ann C: [00:05:59] Yeah um festivals Coachella Coachella is a big huge festival in January this year they also started experimenting. And so there was a if you were at Coachella, you brought out your phone, they had the app. You could see a giant butterfly, like a massive one just come out from behind a building and envelope, you know, kind of like the entire space and sky. And so we’re seeing a lot of this experiences that people are bringing into like sports concerts and festivals. I mean, when we talk about entertainment industry, we have to talk about theater and would say, like theater probably hasn’t used this as much as all of the other areas. And but the possibilities here, again, very, very large in terms of what they could do as well. I mean, we were just talking before, before the podcast about how, you know, maybe if you’re going to watch Wicked, for example, and you bought a ticket to Wicked, that wouldn’t it be great if you had some kind of augmented reality app that would just let you go find treasures that were related to Elphaba or related to Glinda? And just have that as a bit of fun too, you know, and engagement prior to go, going to watch the show, you could have memories of that after the show too, right?
Casey T: [00:07:20] Yeah, I’m picturing a bunch of people walking around like they’re trying to capture Pokemon in Times Square, but it’s flying monkeys or something.
Jo-Ann C: [00:07:27] Yeah, exactly.
Casey T: [00:07:29] That way all the parents can relive their flying monkey trauma as kids.
Jo-Ann C: [00:07:34] Exactly.
Casey T: [00:07:37] Do you think there’s any resistance with that or do you predict any resistance with theatres in particular, since that’s so? Like that sanctity of of of the live performance space. Like are there any theaters that have started getting into this, dipping their toes into it?
Jo-Ann C: [00:07:56] I think the one area where we’ve seen a little bit of this, you know, we talk about like the immersive experience, like that’s gone around the immersive Van Gogh, for example, and the creation of immersive spaces. That has definitely shown like there is interest in in it. I think it’s harder to get into like the, the classics, you know, the Wicked’s like cats and, you know, shows like that. I think that’s a little bit harder. But, you know, we’re talking about how do you engage a younger generation, right? The younger generation is growing up on gaming the growing up on things that are short and everything that’s online. And so I think there’s definitely a huge opportunity. Um, yes, there’s a bit of resistance, but I think over time, very quickly, people that resistance would break down and will start seeing this kind of engagement going into the future.
Casey T: [00:08:51] This may be kind of a. Deeper question. Don’t know if you know about like what are the costs associated with this? Like what’s the, you know, think what’s great about augmented reality in my perception is that I don’t necessarily need a VR headset to experience it, but for a venue or would there be like massive startup costs to making something like this a reality?
Jo-Ann C: [00:09:15] So the cost of the technology behind it has just been coming down very rapidly. That’s one. And secondly, when you think about like augmented reality, it’s driven out through community. So a lot of the code is available. So for example, Niantic, Niantic is the company that did Pokemon. They essentially release their code freely into the market. So today if you go and look at, you know, their their software, you’re able to and they give you training, you’re able to using a computer, just have the software free, free of charge. I will add to generate just kind of these games. And what we’re seeing is there’s a huge community that exists today. I am part of one of these communities. It’s called XR Women. It’s got a it’s just so wonderful to go into a community where it’s all about exploration, people just trying to find things to do, whether it’s in education or in health or just in entertainment. Like you meet all kinds of different different women just exploring and it’s very new. Nobody’s got a perfect answer. Everybody’s still figuring it out in this space. So I would add like it’s brand new and and so try, try it out. Lots of free resources.
Jo-Ann C: [00:10:38] Yeah, that’s so cool that they’re, you know, letting that technology out there free of charge. Yeah, I can see that becoming like a new major. Like, Oh, I’m in the theater school, but I’m in the theater coding. Is it code that may have just completely outed how little I know about technology.
Jo-Ann C: [00:10:57] It’s it’s it’s actually so interesting because when you think about generative AI and like, you know, everything that’s hitting the news now with chatgpt and and technology like that, you’re able to use words to describe what you want to do. And AI is able to then at least get you a kickstart into the basic building block of it. And then you take that and you run with it. So I always think generative AI is going to be such a great augment to, um, getting people to be more productive. So you could imagine what you want, get to just start it off and then you can do the finishing touches on, on it. Um, so yeah, so I think the cost for technology would just continue to come down. So the barriers to entry would just continue to come down and then it just becomes how, how creative are you, you know, in trying to find something that’s fun to do.
Casey T: [00:11:52] It would be really cool. I mean, I know last year when I was at Broadwaycon, there was a whole panel talking about the, the merits of of live streaming performances and opening up that audiences not only all over the world, but even just, you know, even within the US, New York’s not incredibly accessible to a lot of people. Um, and obviously, as we know, cost ticket cost can be a whole thing. So, you know, the idea of. Someone putting on a set and all of a sudden basically mean they’re still buying a ticket. It would still be a revenue source. But being in that show, like, what would that look like? It’s really cool to think about that.
Jo-Ann C: [00:12:35] That is really cool. And also the other thing that’s happening now is we’re talking about how do you engage the audience. So today, traditionally the audience sits in their seat and they observe the theater that’s in front of them. And then, you know, we’ve got the immersive ones where you’re part of your part of the theater as well. You’re part of the action and think I also see a trend there where you’re immersed in it and you’ve got different things like the virtual aspect of it. You’ve got your physical world, but you’re also now part of that, that production. And so that’s really interesting. Started seeing more of a trend towards that over the last, I would say, couple of years. And it’s really accelerated. So interactive content creation and ownership is just another area that with the metaverse is just really growing.
Casey T: [00:13:26] Wow, yeah, it’s really exciting.
Jo-Ann C: [00:13:28] It’s fascinating. It’s a little frightening when you think about like how fast everything’s changing. But part of that is that there’s a things are fast, but yet they’re slow. You know, the things still take time to to really get out there and but when you’re in it it can feel like you’re in a rapid and going down a waterfall. Yeah.
Casey T: [00:13:50] When did when did virtual reality of like it feels like it came out of nowhere.
Jo-Ann C: [00:13:56] Virtual reality has been around for years and years. And that’s why you know you know, you think about that and it might feel like it’s so new. It’s been around for like 50 years. Honestly. It’s been around. You can find videos going back to like the 60 seconds where they’re, you know, looking at prototyping this and saying this will revolutionize the world in ten years. And then, you know, ten years pass. It’s the 70 years this will revolutionize the world and then it’s the 80 seconds. So it’s while it’s fast, it’s still slow. And so that’s what I mean by that very contradictory statement. Yeah. I have seen, though, I will say like the awareness of it has just hit mainstream much faster now, I think, than before. And I am seeing, uh, what’s happening is the generative AI component is just accelerated a lot in the last few years because of the pandemic. You know, part of it was that the pandemic accelerated a lot of this. And so we’re seeing just a big shift. And and it does feel like 2023 is a bit of an inflection point. It does feel like it that things would just change a little bit into a new way going forward. Yeah.
Casey T: [00:15:13] Yeah, definitely. If I ever went to see a football game, in reality I would need the lines. So I’ll need an app similar to the FIFA one that’s showing me like the yellow and the blue line. They count on them on the TV to know what’s happening. So. So if somebody wanted to go and learn more about everything we’ve been talking about, what are some good resources to just, you know, learn more.
Jo-Ann C: [00:15:36] There are many, many communities out there. So the one that I mentioned earlier, women, they are a great community here in North America and even beyond. So they are quite global as well. If you think about if you’re new and you want a good website, Meta Mandrill is a really good website that just gives you an introduction to the metaverse, everything that’s related to that and web3. So that’s another great resource. And the third one I would suggest would be LinkedIn. I mean, if you go to LinkedIn and you just did a search on VR or the Metaverse or XR as a hashtag, you’ll be able to quickly find a bunch of topics, follow that and just find the people on LinkedIn. They are all it’s very much community based, so they’re all very friendly, I find.
Casey T: [00:16:27] Cool.
Casey T: [00:16:28] Love that. Like when people are welcoming in any regard.
Jo-Ann C: [00:16:32] But everybody’s still learning. Everybody’s still learning when it comes to this. You know, that’s what everybody says. And it’s just so nice to have that as an approach versus like, I know what it is. I’ve solved it and I can tell you what it’s all about. Everybody’s still learning about the metaverse, so that’s exciting.
Casey T: [00:16:53] Cool.
Casey T: [00:16:55] Well, thanks again for the time to talk about this and I’ll add the links that Jo-Ann mentioned in the description so that people can check out those resources. Thank you. And yeah, we’ll see you next time, Jo-Ann.
Jo-Ann C: [00:17:11] Oh, I’ll be so happy to come back and chat again. We’ll talk about what else has changed. That’d be.
Casey T: [00:17:15] Fantastic. Yes. Yeah, we can look back on this next year and be like, Oh, remember when we thought it would take ten years? It’s 2024 and here it is.
Jo-Ann C: [00:17:22] Yeah.
Casey T: [00:17:26] All right. That’s our episode. Thank you to Jo-Ann for coming on and thank you for listening. Hope you learned a thing or two. Be sure to check out the description of this episode to follow those links to the resources Joanne mentioned. Follow her on social. Follow AudienceView.
Casey T: [00:17:42] On social, and we’ll see you next time.