Nate is our Head of Creative Technology. He builds engaging and immersive digital experiences; from mobile apps and games, to AR and VR experiences, spanning across the leisure and entertainment industry.

 

Over recent years, we’ve seen a shift in the ways we like to be entertained. In the past, we’d typically go to the cinema or out to a restaurant, more recently we’d prefer to stay in and watch the latest nail-biting series on Netflix or Amazon Prime. Arguably, this is partially down to the fact that in-home leisure saw growth due to consumers having limited surplus cash during the recession.

As spending decreased and technology improved, people were able to enjoy a ‘theatre-like’ experience in the comfort of their own home. This is an industry growing at a blistering rate, with an abundance of streaming services available to us, who are continually pushing to produce their own content. Which recently featured Apple arriving late to the party with the launch of Apple TV+ at this year's keynote event.


In more recent times, there’s been a resurgence of physical experiences, driven by the need for something more tactile, immersive and sociable, which can be experienced as a group with friends or colleagues. As our spending has increased, so have our expectations from the leisure and entertainment activities on offer. You can find various novelties littered across our towns and cities, such as ping pong tables, electronic darts, and crazy golf to name a few.

We’ve also seen changes in our travel habits, where holidaymakers are opting to take shorter breaks going to numerous locations, as opposed to one long package holiday in a mega-resort with everything under one roof. People want quirky and unique experiences - the success of Airbnb speaks volumes, who has recognised this more-so with the launch their own ‘experiences’ feature where you can book activities recommended by well-travelled jet setters.

In the food and drink sector, we’ve seen a rise in craft beer, artisan gins and boutique coffee shops. No longer do younger generations just want to drink the cheapest drink on offer in the local student union.

Cue the rise of the escape room.

We’ve seen an explosion of escape rooms, a concept which was inspired originally by a game and only first came about in 2007. Relatively low start-up costs and reasonably priced tickets have contributed to its continuous growth over the past few years. Companies can charge anywhere from £20 and £40 per person, per hour. People instinctively perceive the value of something physical much higher than a digital item.

Since 2014 there’s been an increase from 22 rooms to 2400 rooms in North America as escape rooms (and similar experiences) have continued to evolve. From a room full of padlocks to computer-driven challenges with switches and lasers to a room where players wear a VR headset to be transported anywhere to complete various challenges. Typically, they’re branded around popular films or TV shows, leveraging the well-known themes built by cinema and Netflix before it. Game developers have been using this tactic for many years, so naturally, you’d expect TV and Film producers to utilise these popular experiences to promote their next feature or series.

Promoting brands with technology.

Why not capitalise on this trend in an environment where people are already geared up to be thrilled and entertained? One of the big players in this space is The Void. Not only have they delivered an unmatched VR experience, but they’re also partnering up with big studios to create experiences for Star Wars and Ghostbusters.

Like the ‘Netflix era’, the combination of consumer demand and the developments in technology have meant these types of activities are on the rise. The rejuvenation of the Crystal Maze, both the TV show and live experiences, can be attributed to this trend.

Experiential learning in a simulated environment.

How might escape rooms develop in the coming years? I’m a firm believer that its application can go beyond entertainment. These rooms encompass a combination of elements which can be used to deliver effective training within a game-like context; narrative, problem-solving, immersiveness, and teamwork to name a few.

Building an escape room (or a digital replica in VR) to train staff on how to use new machinery or replicate a medical procedure to carry out heart surgery in a busy operating theatre, allows us to create a more immersive and tactile experience to improve learning. There’s an opportunity to harness data from real-world scenarios which can be brought into these simulations to create a more realistic experience and help improve their effectiveness as a training resource.

The red pill or the blue pill?

Ironically, these interactive and game-like elements are being fed back into traditional entertainment to evolve film and television. Netflix launched Bandersnatch late last year, a Black Mirror episode where users are prompted to make choices to influence the story.

This was certainly an interesting concept and suited the Black Mirror franchise, but the sustainability of such a model/format can easily be challenged. The purpose is to deliver a personalised and unique narrative to the user, but this requires films makers to produce content for every permutation of a decision that can be made, which becomes a restriction as to how many branches to the narrative can be developed.

Understandably, experiences with finite variability become dry and predictable to consumers. This is where physical experiences can vastly benefit from digital components, which can be easily updated, personalised, and extended upon. There are several technologies being developed which allow us to separate content into objects, and recomposition them directly on the user's device to create a personalised experience based on their preferences, ultimately overcoming the branching narrative issue.

Imagine if a podcast could be adapted to the length of your journey during your daily commute, shortened to play only the most important content, or you have the option to change the protagonist in a television drama. What if your tablet or television could tap into other devices to deliver content, a message to your phone, or music played on your smart speaker? There are endless possibilities.

How do we embrace these exciting new technologies?

This concept of adapting the narrative can be used beyond entertainment purposes. We’re currently developing a research piece on its application in education, and how we can use personalisation to make training content more relevant to improve its effectiveness. Imagine watching an online course which can be adapted to your learning style or go into more detail in an area you’re struggling with.

As technology evolves, so do consumer expectations, and using technology can help create compelling and memorable experiences. At Big Brand Ideas, we’re constantly exploring new and emerging technologies to can give our clients the edge when promoting their brand and engaging with their customers.

Next, in this ‘evolution of content’ series, we’ll be covering how consumers expect much more relevant content across all channels, the impact of this and how we, as content creators, can deliver.

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By Nate Broadbent

Technology

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