'Gorillaz Presents', created by Nexus Studios, involved AR concerts at Times Square in New York and Piccadilly Circus in London.
If 2022 saw the industry get excited about the metaverse, the output from that excitement didn’t always live up to the dream. So, instead of thinking about the metaverse in terms of a ‘Ready Player One’ style virtual bubble world that has a high barrier to access and cuts us off from the world around us, will 2023 see a more nuanced and mature pivot to ‘extended reality’ (XR) - a digital layer enhancing our physical reality?
We’re already seeing it take root in the ad industry with the growth of virtual production and extended sets, and there’s growing buzz around Apple’s XR glasses. Snapchat filters and iPhone LiDAR cameras are second nature now, so perhaps extended reality will prove to be a more grounded, actionable space to experiment and create meaningful and useful experiences and services.
For some helpful answers, LBB’s Addison Capper posed all of that to a series of experts from across the global advertising industry.
Executive creative director, Nexus Studios
Nexus Studios has been dreaming up this future where the real world is perfectly enhanced by the digital, and long poured creativity and expertise into the space to make it a reality, first seeing the possibilities back when AR could only be triggered by markers
We always ask ourselves how we can meaningfully ‘extend reality’ through XR and the technologies that make geospatialised experiences not only possible, like our 5G fan experience for the Dallas Cowboys
, but feel believable and importantly fun to be in!
Our work for Gorillaz, ‘Gorillaz Presents
’ marked a seismic shift in the perception of this nascent space and we’re very excited to continue growing this parallel world that has opened up with the help of easier access to technology and faster data connections (and the leading tech companies all competing to own a large piece of the pie). Gorillaz Presents was directed by Emmy-nominated director Fx Goby and Jamie Hewlett, artist and co-founder of Gorillaz.
2023 is a year to build on our vision of a persistent, shared reality that does more than overlay the real world, but really inhabits it. A feat that requires a solid understanding of where we are in the world, something we first explored in HotStepper
, a character-based wayfinding tool that taught us how we could literally take users on a journey with AR. We went on to develop a mixed-reality tour, Changdeok ARirang
, that fused character wayfinding, volumetric capture performance and geospatialised storytelling at an ancient palace in Seoul, Korea. Its extensive grounds became more accessible, improved utilisation and in many ways built a case to preserve it. That was a milestone for us that proved, again, the value of XR in the real world when thoughtfully applied.
We’re also working with real-time techniques and merging our learnings from the immersive space with our film and animation expertise in the studio. One example is another Gorillaz project, also directed by Fx Goby, where we fused digital puppetry and live performance
. For brands, adopting this practice should be a no-brainer, we can take new or existing characters that are established as the mascot and provide a two-way interaction with users and consumers. Where previously animated characters were produced and comped in the studio with no flexibility after delivery, now we can produce characters that have a non-scripted life of their own, to engage on social platforms, host award shows, present new products or even give live virtual performances using any city in the world as a stage.
Finally, as AI continues to make great leaps, we will become even better at contextualising how our creations behave and respond to us and the world they find themselves in. Computer vision to better understand the dimensions of our world, map data provides information about where it is, object recognition to understand the immediate vicinity and so on better. With the flurry of excitement around Chat GPT, it’s easy to see how AI-driven imaginings will become part of our creative toolbox in building more complex, surprising and rewarding encounters to happen across while walking around our new mixed reality world.
Executive producer - experience at BUCK
Reality is subjective. We all see and feel and hear things differently, even if experiencing the very same thing. Emerging technologies such as augmented, extended, virtual and mixed reality will over time further expand and blur this line of perception.
With AR available on mobile devices and head-mounted displays and even transparent screens such as windshields, we’re well into the early stages of living an augmented life. We’ve been having fun for some time transforming our faces
and environments into endless playthings through easy-to-access filters. Meanwhile, utility for AR in enterprise, healthcare, physical design, education and retail are already transforming businesses and spawning new possibilities of commerce and industrial process. In the cultural sector, we see museums enhancing interpretation of displays, and contemporary art icons using AR to marry their creative vision with the architecture of the exhibition environment, such as BUCK’s location-reactive AR effects for Murakami and The Broad in partnership with Meta
. The goal was not to add virtual razzle dazzle, but to increase engagement and even serve as a guide for how visitors move through the museum — in the case of The Broad project starting at the East-West Bank Plaza and flowing all the way through to the exhibition gallery space.
For marketing, and in the immediate term through 2023, the possibilities for extended storytelling and expanded brand universes will be exciting and energising. Integration of intuitive gestural control will make interaction more accessible and more playful. Brands who think truly about how their followers and consumers can interact authentically with their messages across these layers will be the real winners. Brand identities and design can take on a greater dimensionality in 3D. This campaign BUCK worked on for Dior Beauty with Meta
, explores a collection of AR experiences that comprise a deeply integrated campaign which added engaging layers at pop-up experiences, in the retail environment, and everywhere in the world.
Creators across social media will have access to even greater tools through avatar systems that work across ecosystems and start to embed the processes and behaviours of everyday life. The metaverse ambitions of today, many still unfulfilled, are largely a stepping stone towards an ‘always on’ digital and physical reality. Eventually, it won’t be mixed reality. It’ll just be reality. And we can’t wait.
Executive producer, interactive at Psyop
It is possible that in 2023 the focus on XR will shift towards a more nuanced and mature approach, as the technology and its uses continue to evolve. In 2023, XR may be used to enhance and augment our physical reality, rather than replacing it, and may be leveraged to create more practical and useful applications.
This could include fields such as healthcare, manufacturing, architecture, design, and transportation, where XR can be used to improve efficiency, communication, and safety. Additionally, there may be a focus on designing XR experiences that are more accessible and inclusive for a wider range of users. Some of these use cases could include:
- Entertainment: XR technology can be used to create immersive gaming and movie experiences.
- Retail: XR can be used to create virtual showrooms and stores that allow customers to try on clothes, test products, and see how furniture would look in their homes before making a purchase.
- Healthcare: XR can be used for medical training, therapy, and remote consultations.
- Education: XR can be used to create virtual classrooms and simulations to enhance the learning experience.
- Training and simulation: XR can be used to train employees in a realistic and safe environment, without the need for expensive equipment or putting them at risk.
- Construction and Architecture: XR can be used to create virtual walkthroughs of building designs, allowing architects and builders to visualise and test ideas before construction begins.
- Automotive: XR can be used to create virtual test drives, allowing customers to experience a car before buying it.
- Advertising and marketing: XR can be used to create interactive and engaging ad campaigns that allow customers to interact with products in a virtual environment.
These are just a few examples, XR technology is expected to be integrated in many other industries and applications in the future.
EVP, creative technologies and innovation at 4A's
Although a bit of the excitement (and likely funding) for the metaverse as a general purpose digital destination has faded, there is a great deal of development still happening in augmented reality/extended reality. One can expect various leaders like Snap, Google Maps, Niantic Labs and many others to continue to develop useful and entertaining experiences through the coming year.
In 2023, experiential brand work will continue to grow, especially in fan contexts like concerts, sports, conferences and trade shows. One example, The Famous Group
, created some extraordinary work for brands in sports arenas for fans using their smartphones, and there's every reason to think this will be a growth area for agencies. People are very happy to get out into the world, and the utility and fun of XR provides opportunities for growth even with a dampening of interest in VR.
With Apple entering the market there will be an uptick in interest, even coming in at a high price point. A new, or small, audience will be drawn to try it. And if the quality of their experience is better, the market will grow. Or it will be another HomePod.
There's still a lot of momentum behind the development of these technologies that will continue to grow and find new applications in the coming year whether brand activations level off or not.
Director, experience design (XR) at VMLY&R
The biggest move in 2023 will be a push towards more maturity in the professional areas of enhanced and mixed reality - methods of reporting, user experience, strategy and a greater focus on efficacy. It will certainly be another record-setting year of enhanced reality consumption, but that also doesn’t mean it will be ubiquitous with everyday life – yet.
Around the first quarter of 2018, we marked the moment when most smartphone cameras were capable of displaying an enhanced reality layer, so there have been roughly 5 years of infrastructure being built for these enhanced / mixed reality experiences to be mass-consumed in the same way we think of other digital engagements.
This infrastructure has been created by Meta (Facebook, Instagram, etc), ByteDance (TikTok), Snap (Snapchat, CameraKit, etc), Niantic (Pokemon GO, 8th Wall, etc) and others to learn how people use, engage and share in these experiences - and how we need to record and report the metrics to show efficacy to the people who fund them.
Because of this, we’ll see enhanced reality start playing a larger part of the greater strategy of brand campaigns, events, locations and other engagements. Instead of being presented as a “fun-to-have” extra at the end of a deck, expect to see these experiences right in the middle of the communication strategy, fully integrated into the communication funnels for consumers.
Director of strategy at GLOW
As a gamer, I can’t help but feel two things: we already have a viable metaverse (my console), and most people like sitting on the couch (meaning standing to experience AR/XR/whateveR isn’t life-changing… yet).
Growth in this area can’t and likely won’t happen until there’s the killer thing: an app, a device, or a service (or all three). AR/XR/Metaverse/etc needs its ChatGPT breakthrough to reach the next level. We’re all probably waiting for Apple’s XR goggles and glasses and of course they’ve got the ecosystem to connect it all (phone, watch, headphones, and services).
Until then, AR-enhanced IRL experiences will make our world seem more and more like a metaverse. The Gorillaz Times Square AR concert, AR mobile gaming, real estate virtual tours, and any AAA online gaming coming out in 2023 are what we’ll see more of this year. Or maybe, the best metaverse is the one we’re already in?”
Strategic partner, FMCG at Clear Channel
Over the past year many organisations have been quick to climb aboard the metaverse bandwagon. Last year Manchester City FC announced it was launching in the metaverse, by recreating a digital Etihad stadium so that even more fans could virtually experience live matches and the club could therefore grow its global brand. But nothing compares to those experiences that exist in the real world. These experiences have become even more special since the pandemic forced many of us online to buy and experience things we would normally seek out in person.
As more and more online-only businesses emerge and the make-up of our high street evolves, marketers and brand managers must seriously consider the implications of losing real-world visibility with customers, both existing and prospective. There are so many creative ways to retain a foothold in the physical world, through events, experiences, and advertising. Research shows that public broadcast channels are seen to be more trustworthy by consumers versus other channels, with YouGov reporting that 28% don’t trust online advertising at all.
The value of community engagement must not be overlooked, and while emerging online communities may look attractive to target, there are important conversations to be had about the psychology of engagement in the real versus virtual worlds.
Chief strategy & transformation officer, APAC at Wunderman Thompson
While I strongly believe that XR (extended reality) will pull significant focus in 2023 in lieu of the fully immersive style of metaverse and virtual worlds that dominated conversations in 2022, this does not yet mean that XR technology is fully mature.
Already we have seen HTC launch its new VIVE XR as a competitor to the Oculus Pro, and it is expected that Apple will launch its XR headset in the spring or summer of 2023. That said, with prices ranging from $1,100 for the VIVE XR and a rumoured price of up to $2,000 for the much-anticipated Apple glasses, all these devices come with prohibitive price tags. This means that we shouldn’t expect everyone to instantly be able to access the new mixed reality headsets.
Instead, I believe that the convergence between the digital and the real world will really be seen through AR. The technology and software behind AR is maturing at a time when most people already have AR compatible phones. With that in mind, I think we are likely to see continued improvements in location-based and spatial targeting. A great example of this is the technology recently used by the band Gorillaz to host AR concerts at both Times Square in New York and Piccadilly Circus in London (which you can see in the main image above, and was created by Nexus Studios).
But don’t think these experiences will be limited to PR-able stunts such as the one mentioned above. Building on the success of commerce use cases such as Adidas’ virtual shoe trials and IKEA’s AR furniture placement, we will see brands experiment with new ways to extend the relevance and reach of their products and messaging, by connecting digital experience through space and time.
Beyond this, I would expect 2023 to see the connection between the digital and the real world further enhanced through token-based technologies such as POAPs (proof of attendance protocol). These are free tokens that don’t require the user to have a crypto wallet but can be used to unlock additional value or limited-edition products through token gating.
But while the accessibility of both AR and POAPs will likely start to deliver tangible value to larger audiences and brands, the talkability of hardware devices and the launch of a new category of device by Apple in particular will likely mean that conversations in 2023 will be dominated by the promise and potential of mixed reality and extended reality hardware.
CEO at Cheil UK
As the first ‘immersive native’ generations become key consumers (having grown up with the ‘pinch to zoom’ action from the use of digital screens so hardwired into their brains that in early childhood they attempted it on physical books, expecting the whole world to be multi-layered), the move to immersive will be irresistible. There are now large swathes of the population for whom non-immersive, flat 2D experiences simply seem like black-and-white TV.
So, the question then is not whether it is immersive, but how immersive. It makes sense that mixed reality experiences will lead the way, because in many ways there is no new behaviour required here; we jump between the physical and digital all the time. Mixed reality advances simply enable us to do so more seamlessly, with a single view encompassing both the physical and digital.
We are also seeing platforms act to increase this acceleration. Snap’s recent extension of monetisation opportunities for filter creators may boost XR reality offerings in the same way that app stores turbocharged mobile experience development.
Whilst XR adoption may initially be driven by offering better ways to deliver existing experiences, we are also seeing the creation of an incredibly exciting new world; we get to build a new layer over our existing physical reality. This comes with many questions – including, who owns the persistent digital layer over the physical world? If, for example, I own a landmark building in a city, do I also own the digital real estate that sits on top of it?
It’s also worth noting that, whilst it is easy to think of this purely from a consumer experience point of view, much development is already being driven first and foremost by industrial application: from training and education, medical utility, to enhancing our daily meetings (which is seen as the initial tipping point in XR adoption).
Maybe it stops at XR. Perhaps, as humans, we are simply hardwired to always maintain one foot in the ‘real’ world. Time will tell on this, but what seems certain is that in our move to immersive, mixed reality will likely go mainstream more quickly. We should not see this as a gentle first step, as the potential for the reinvention of our daily lives in itself is immense and will likely change our daily lives in significant ways.
Group director, experience at Siegel+Gale
Historically, innovation for most companies has been driven by two notable business KPIs: scaling and creating value. While those metrics haven’t gone away, companies are pivoting from what they require. For example, diversity has become a requirement for success. Without diverse people, you don’t get diversity in thought; without diverse thought, you can’t create the best solutions; without the best solutions, the value you’re able to produce will be limited. By these new measurements, diversity is a key driver of business. To achieve that, accessibility becomes a requirement, which means that using technology to help people gain access to the table has to be a focus of innovation. The metaverse is being re-thought of in terms of problem-solving and working towards helping others, versus creating something new.
The technology of the past was a competition to answer the question, ‘what can we do?’ The shock and awe came from the creation of the new things with all the shiny bells and innovative whistles. Moving into 2023, there’s a pivot to, ‘why do we want that?’ The experiences that will win will be the ones that connect with their audiences and work towards solving a challenge and making the world more accessible. Just look at one of the most talked about tech coming out of CES this year: L’Oréal’s Hapta. It’s not new technology. This combination of algorithms was introduced by Verily in 2012 as Liftware, a company focused on providing accessible flatware and eating solutions. However, it’s being used in a new way that leverages the digital space to address real challenges and obstacles.
I believe this will be an era of action versus exploration. It won’t be about web3 or extended reality or shoehorning some other new technology into experiences. Instead, it will just be focused on using all the tools and ideas we have and can imagine - both digital and real - to solve the challenges we face.