The road to new generation immersive content

October 2018

This article summarises the keynote delivered by John Cassy, CEO of Factory 42, at the CMS annual Technology, Media and Communications Conference 2018.

When it comes to the world of immersive content it is fair to say that we are still practically in the stone ages. We are in the early and exciting days of an emerging technology that can be confusing to the uninitiated, not least because it is often referred to by a host of different acronyms, including AR (augmented reality) VR (virtual reality), and MR (mixed reality) among others. 

In short, immersive content is about being able to connect with what you are seeing either by the user stepping into a story (usually a fully digital world that is totally different to physical surroundings) or a different type of content where the story steps out of its digital world and comes to users in the real world. This is augmented or mixed reality – think Pokemon Go. Computer-generated sensory inputs, such as sound or touch, are often overlaid on both to create a deeper sense of user immersion in the world.

It is a major disruption in a world where the lines between television, films and games are already blurring. Consumers are increasingly demanding – and prepared to pay for – experiences that traditional platforms like TV or computer games cannot give them and this is where the potential for immersive content lies. 

As Sir David Attenborough, arguably the world’s most famous naturalist and someone who has always been associated with innovation, said when BBC first introduced limited hours of colour programming some 50 years ago: ‘You have to start sometime and you have to give people something to watch.” It is a motto to live by and this is why at Factory 42 we have already started to position ourselves to get ahead of the disruption – we want to create immersive experiences that are worth paying for and are clearly differentiated. 

It was only natural then for Factory 42, a start-up business that is part of CMS’s equiP programme for emerging companies, to turn to Sir David to help create the interactive virtual reality project “Hold The World”. 

Sir David does not need any introduction – he consistently tops polls as the most trusted person in Britain and is considered by most to be a dream dinner party guest. He also has an incredible global reach when his Blue Planet 2 production played in China on Tencent streaming it attracted a reported 80 million viewers. Hold The World – released earlier this year – is the first formatted experience where a consumer can go to a physical location, in this instance the Natural History Museum, and come face-to-face in a digital world with one of their idols – Sir David. 

It is a truly sensory experience where a consumer can simply put on a headset and alongside a holographic David Attenborough virtually travel to the back of the Natural History Museum. There it is possible to select a number of objects and explore them, coming into virtual contact with fossils that in real life would simply be too rare, fragile and scientifically important to touch. It is an experience that is bringing forward technology which did not even exist a couple of years ago and combining elements of technology that have never been matched before. Sky has funded the project as it pushes forward in virtual reality and immersive content to deliver ever more innovation and new services to customers.

Hold The World is available at the Natural History Museum and distributed on Sky’s VR app and it is about to go international in different markets and across different channels. We are channel agnostic, even if producing VR for different technologies can be painful. Through Hold the World we managed to bring together a number of different areas of the creative industries and combine a different way of working and language to create something special.

There has been huge hype in this sector and there are a lot of experiences being made right now that are not amazing or technology-led. It is important to remember that while the technology is important it is the story you are telling that always matters. Notwithstanding the hype, this is a medium that is undoubtedly progressing and is incredibly exciting. 

Since Hold the World launched the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive and Sir David when confronted with his own hologram declared it “the most convincing and bewitching visual experience that the world has yet produced”.

Authors

John Cassy
CEO of Factory 42