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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly in the Digital Landscape

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With marketeers ever more enthusiastic about using the latest digital technology to generate brand engagement, John Martinelli, head of production at Solarflare Studio, explains the benefits and pitfalls of the latest trending techniques

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly in the Digital Landscape

“There’s no doubt that new digital tech opens up opportunities for all brands and industries. We’ve collaborated with some incredible brands, agencies, and individual geniuses over the past year, from creating a digital racquet with Wimbledon’s Virtual Hill experiences, providing everyday athletes the ability to see the impact of movement on their minds with ASICS, to putting users in the driving seat of a life-sized Lego Technic Lamborghini Sian FKp 37.” says John. “There is an established trend toward richer, more immersive experiences and ways of interacting, using new technologies. This seems to be accelerating as brands search for more engaging ways to communicate with customers and we search for ways to work remotely and collaborate more effectively.” 

“By learning early on about the possibilities and working with experienced partners, clients can take advantage of opportunities as the tech evolves,” continues John. “Established brands often have the resources to make the most of the tech, while new brands can use them to disrupt their industry and leap over established businesses. The most sensible thing that brand owners can do though, is to look before they leap, and to educate themselves on both the breadth of the opportunity and the risks attached to it. For example, there is a huge difference between building a METAVERSE in Decentraland versus Roblox.”

John advises that client and agency discussions should be based on the same criteria as they would be when assessing which platforms to use for a social media campaign: “Marketeers and their agencies need to examine the core problem, and ask what issue they are trying to solve, rather than getting excited about pioneering NFTs for their brand for example.”

John also believes there are many misconceptions of new digital tech, and a key mistake is that people talk about a concept that covers a range of technologies, with a broad range of capabilities, as the single entity of METAVERSE. 

Similarly, NFTs are a broad topic that can manifest in a number of ways, but everyone’s first thought is of the BAYC (Bored Ape Yacht Club) and Twitter hexagon profile pictures. There is a real opportunity to be giving brand fans ownership of something more unique than a picture of an asset.

Here is John’s summary of the good, the bad and the ugly examples of campaigns using the latest digital tech:

Looking into the future, John predicts the following tech will have the brightest prospects:

The use of webAR will continuously expand 

WebAR is a foundation of technologies that allows AR experiences to run directly from a smartphone’s web browser. With the latest merger from Niantic and 8th Wall, we’ll continue to see a greater push for browser-based experiences that utilise Large-scale Visual Positioning Systems. 

These types of platforms will also be pushing discovery capabilities that provide Developers with the necessary tools for increased visibility of their web content. A similarity to this model has been made popular via AR Filters, on platforms such as SparkAR & Snap Lens, enabling the expansion of a global dev community.

Unreal Engine and real-time rendering are pivotal for VFX, TV, and film production owing to UE5 solutions and growing capabilities.

The inclusion of UE5 has brought a number of ground breaking technologies to the mix, one being its new lighting system called Lumen. The system provides Global illumination which is essentially bounce-lighting that comes from different surfaces. Previously the process for TV & Film was to utilise path tracing, which typically took a single frame to render a substantial amount of time. Lumen is different to this process as it provides true real-time global illumination, so creative and developers are able to adjust elements within a scene without the need to render again. 

Another function is Nanite. Typically, the presence of more polygons in a ‘world’ can slow down video games, however Nanite uses dynamic level detail in which millions of polygons can deform, enabling high poly assets to be used within experiences now. This means that scenes can look richer in quality and provides an easier way to speed up production workflows.

Most importantly, UE5 and Epic Games are putting high quality game/film development in the hands of everyone who has a computer that can run the software. This has opened up so many options for individuals starting out, as well as solo game developers, to AAA studios too.

Social Media for NFT promotion

With NFTs being such a popular means for people to buy and sell within digital marketplaces, it was inevitable that it would become culturally necessary for social media platforms to be part of the boom. Given that certain platforms such as TikTok, Snapchat and Instagram have become a means in themselves to promote any artist, you could easily understand how social media can also be ideal for showcasing NFTs. Under an artist’s own page/ identity, you will see this become more common, especially with Instagram and Twitter adding NFT functionality.  

Monetised metaverse add-ons

In-App purchases within games have been available for a while now, through free games such as Roblox, Fortnight etc. While most console releases make money from selling a hard copy, or digital version of the game itself, these games make revenue from in-game purchases. Furthermore, Ios & Android experiences offer the same type of process, which have become hugely successful in recent years. 

It is inevitable that this will crossover into the Metaverse worlds given its decentralised nature, however, we will no doubt see the tech giants taking on this functionality within their experiences too. For example Meta will be championing this with Horizon Worlds - its social space platform available on Quest 2 virtual reality headsets, that will be testing in-world monetisation with a number of creators, allowing them to sell virtual items. Certain features could be creating specific avatars, or paying for access to a new part of the individual world. We will see this becoming a common theme in these platforms in future releases, which will play a vital role in revenue.

The architecture is just becoming so similar to games, with buy-in features, enabling you to evolve your own identity within your own virtual world. You can create a picture on the wall, share it and trade it crafted to someone else. People may not like the idea of it, but it will happen in five to 10 years.

In conclusion, John comments: “I would predict an evolution of the web into a multi-metaverse connected by a smart-hub-style umbrella, enabled by secure tech like blockchain, and experienced via a merger of AR and VR devices. Ubiquitous high-speed wireless data will make physical location irrelevant. AI will populate the metaverse with rich environments and do ever more complex tasks that once only humans could do. Tech devices will continue to improve and reduce in cost, giving more people access to a richer ‘metaverse’ experience. Human societies will continue to adapt to this future with all the opportunities and challenges it will bring.” 

“It’s important to remember though that we are at the formative stages of this new world, and have already seen that mistakes can be made that, if continued, could permanently damage the industry, so it’s all about ‘education, education, education’, for brand owners.” 

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Solarflare Studio, Thu, 01 Sep 2022 16:40:54 GMT