Immersive technology helps businesses and landmarks stay relevant

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More than ever before, businesses and landmarks need to be innovative to manage the challenges presented by Covid-19, writes Stefan Berens of Panasonic Canada

To feel briefly removed from physical space as I know it and transported to somewhere that is completely limitless and otherworldly, all I need is a virtual reality headset.

Even without the illusion of being removed from space with virtual reality, we are now seeing the digital entertainment industry embracing the power of technology to capture audiences and generate revenue through immersive experiences that transform the familiar into something new and captivating. As our society relies more and more on online offerings for myriad reasons, we’re seeing a shift to incorporate more immersive experiences, both in-person and digitally.

For example, this past spring, Fortnite, an online video game, hosted a virtual concert with American rapper Travis Scott—a first for the gaming company.

With 12 million visitors in attendance, Fortnite successfully flipped an event generally thought of as being best experienced in-person into something engaging enough that the audience felt they needed to attend in real-time and in-game to fully appreciate it.

Immersive tech in the analog world 

Beyond the digital world, we have seen exponentially popular infinity mirror installations and escape rooms that demonstrate the ability to transport visitors to new, temporary worlds by immersing them in transformed spaces. The key to these experiences is immersion, and in the analog world, the technology at the heart of these types of experiences is popping up in unexpected places.

Immersive technology is presenting businesses and landmarks with the opportunity to diversify their revenue streams and stay relevant among audiences.

Landmarks, historical monuments, museums, art galleries, and even cruise ships are turning to immersive technology in an effort to breathe new life into their offerings and revitalise their revenue streams.

The business case for immersive experiences

Immersive projection mapping can be scaled, adapted and applied to fit the needs of small and large activations. It can transform physical spaces into 3D canvasses that paint visitors into the action and create storytelling experiences that inspire and amaze.

By changing the way people experience art and culture through these unique and immersive experiences, businesses and landmarks can expand visitor traffic, increase revenue and stay relevant.

The current global health crisis is drying up traditional revenue streams, requiring some businesses to re-evaluate their business models.

This includes considering long-standing changes to businesses until a vaccine is widely available, and looking for ways to leverage immersive experiences to adapt to changes in consumer behaviour and demand.

Bringing history to life Montréal en Histoires, a not-for-profit organisation based in Canada, developed Cité Mémoire, a multimedia project created by Michel Lemieux and Victor Pilon in collaboration with Michel Marc Bouchard.

Cité Mémoire incorporates approximately 20 sites in Old Montréal and downtown Montréal, with large-scale projections of faces, figures and monuments on buildings, trees, and cobblestone streets. The project aims to bring the history of the area to life by creating a unique and customised experience that transports visitors into the past in an unforgettable way to illustrate how the city has evolved over nearly four centuries.

Also in Montréal, Moment Factory used immersive technologies to create Aura.

Aura provides visitors with a sonically and visually captivating experience inside the historic Notre-Dame Basilica, while highlighting its history and reimagining the art within the landmark.

As a testament of the project’s success, the Basilica extended the show beyond its 2017 opening after tourists and locals alike continued to flock to the landmark to experience the show. With sold-out shows on weekends and sustained popularity, the site continues to attract new visitors.

Earlier this year, to adapt to restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Aura’s organiser moved the experience to a digital format and reached an even wider audience, by providing a free 360° capture of the immersive part of the Aura experience viewable on a mobile phone or virtual reality headset.

On the other side of the world, the National Museum of Singapore turned to immersive technology to maintain its relevance and bring to life history in the most engaging way possible beyond traditional dioramas and wall-mounted artifacts.

The museum’s Story of the Forest exhibit is an immersive installation that transforms 69 drawings from the William Farquhar Collection of Natural History Drawings into 3D animations.

Through the use of this technology, visitors are given a new perspective of the collection and a chance to experience the influence that Singapore’s flora and history had on the collection, while widespread and international attention reinforced the museum’s innovative reputation.

Drawing in audiences

Big ideas that leave a lot to the imagination can be difficult to envision. So difficult, that it may deem the idea improbable.

The implementation of Terra Lumina at Toronto Zoo in Canada solved this with immersive technology.

Immersive technology helps businesses and landmarks stay relevant
Main image: Aura. Credit: Moment Factory

Created and produced by Moment Factory, the immersive experience uses technology to simulate time travel and transport visitors to a world 80 years into the future where humans and nature coexist harmoniously.

The experience of seeing and interacting with a thriving future version of the planet as if it was superimposed onto the zoo’s landscape allows visitors to look beyond what might seem like an unrealistic idea and help them see first-hand what it could actually be.

As an experience unique to the zoo and unable to be recreated and truly appreciated outside of its setting, Terra Lumina diversified Toronto Zoo’s traditional programming with the aim to draw in visitors during the winter season for a different experience.

More than ever before, businesses and landmarks need to be innovative to manage the challenges presented by Covid-19.

As we begin to adapt to a post-pandemic reality and the next normal, we will continue to see immersive technology leveraged to stay relevant, draw in audiences and diversify revenue streams.

About the author
Immersive technology helps businesses and landmarks stay relevant

Stefan Berens is head of Panasonic Canada’s media and entertainment business division. For more information, visit na.panasonic.com/ca/integrated-solutions/immersive-experiences

This article was originally published in issue 4 off VRWorldTech Magazine

Main image: Terra Lumina. Credit: Moment Factory